In The Forest Scout’s “Human Advocate” column, our staff writers seek to analyze and interpret deep questions that arise during the transformative years of their life. Many of these young writers are deeply entrenched in the curriculum of Humanities, a senior English elective at Lake Forest High School.
Beauty is defined as “a combination, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.” When dissecting that sentence, it becomes very apparent that that is, in fact, a very accurate definition of how we often–albeit misguidedly–categorize something as beautiful. This definition seems to be talking about objects or scenery that is beautiful, but rather unfortunately, this is actually how we define a person as beautiful as well.
Think about it: we use a combination of shape, color, and form of a person to decide if we find them attractive or not right after our first glance at them. It’s sad, really, that our first judgement of someone is based on something they can’t control. It’s natural, and whether we like it or not, the physical appeal of someone will always play a role in our judgement of them. But in time we find that there’s a lot more to a person that is beautiful besides what presents itself on the exterior.
The definition of “beauty” refers to the pleasing the aesthetic senses–the sight mainly. Thus, it makes sense to call someone beautiful based off of how they look. The thing that doesn’t make sense is the fact that someone’s beauty outweighs the overall value of their character. Because of the way our society today thrives based off of beauty, wealth and other materialistic things, our brains are trained to connect the title of a beautiful person to a person that looks beautiful from the outside. Over time, however, when we get to know a person we find them beautiful for the other qualities that don’t relate to their looks. Still, though, because of our materialistic society, we can miss out on the opportunity to get to know a really amazing person just because we had mistakenly and ignorantly judged them based off of how they look.
Is society to blame for this problem, or is it human nature?
I wholeheartedly believe that this question could be argued both ways, and that the answer is truly a mix of both influences. The problem started with the human nature of attraction. I mean, you can’t really blame someone for being more attracted to people that they find physically attractive, that’s normal. But, society worsened the issue by making beauty something we idolize. By advertising celebrities and marketing them wholly because of their beauty, we have created impossible standards for people to expect of themselves (with the help of photoshop and photo editing of course). All of this has proceeded to come rippling down to create a society where we both idolize and judge people based on something they have no control over: their looks.
Take Marilyn Monroe, for example. A transcendent beauty icon in the 1940’s and 50’s, Marilyn Monroe is a name that everyone knows, just because she was beautiful. Monroe is just one example of many, but she was the start of an age where we constantly strive to look like the fashion models we see emblazoned on our television screens and magazine covers. It’s a bizarre concept when you think about it. We, quite literally, idolize these people based off of pictures of them that aren’t even real, but are created by a photo editor. Basically, we all strive to look like something that isn’t real.
So you’ve probably heard this all before and don’t really see the point in all of this, and I get it It’s something we gloss over as a society. It is how our society functions and doesn’t seem to be a big deal when considering the larger issues that plague our country or world, but I was inspired to bring this to people’s attention from my own firsthand experience. Being a teenage girl in our society today it is so easy to get caught up in looks. Let’s be real here: we all wish we could look like the famous people and models that we see advertised everywhere. Still, though, we need to make it clear that we are being held to an impossible standard. Realistically, not everyone is born 5’8” with perfect skin and a fast metabolism–that’s just not how life works and it isn’t something that we should feel bad about. I have watched so many people in my life go through phases of feeling not good enough because of the unrealistic standards that we hold ourselves to. Instead of focusing so much on how we look, we should all make a conscious effort to spend more time focusing on the things we can control about ourselves, like who we are as a person.
So the next time you start analyzing the things you don’t like about your physical appearance, focus on what you can control: being positive, caring, genuine, welcoming, or making people smile or laugh. All of those qualities and who you are as a person are things you can change. When getting to know someone beneath the surface, those qualities are what makes someone beautiful in the end. Sure, it is nice to feel confident in how you look, but at the end of the day we will always choose to spend our time with the genuine person who is fun to be around.