“Beauty is a form of Genius— it is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in dark waters of the silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned.” — Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey, 1890.
We can believe we’re not superficial, that we’re above judging people for their looks but we do that by human nature. Oscar Wilde would argue that beauty is more important than ‘genius’ as beauty can be taken in at a first glance. Beauty doesn’t require conversation, wit or humor. Beauty is checking out the tall, dark haired guy at the bar with your friends, no name, no introduction, but instant attraction.
It’s no wonder that just like in 1890, more than a hundred years later, we’re just as obsessed with beauty. Our standards of beauty, now enhanced by mass media and made positively more unattainable.
“Am I thin enough? Is my skin clear enough? I need to fix my hair, lose some weight, do my nails…” What can I do to become that girl who’s beautiful at first glance?
Maybe Oscar Wilde was onto something but maybe he wasn’t? Of course, those with external beauty instantly catch the eye of those around them but unfortunately, first impressions don’t last beyond a few seconds. It’s when you talk to someone that you can figure out who they actually are. You can discover their actual ‘genius’ and this impression is worth a thousand more than the first one.
Your body, your external vessel is designed to get older and wither with time. You collect experiences and wisdom, and expand your brain with the promise that your body has a timer on it.
Why is it more common for New Year’s resolutions to be things like “I want to lose 20 pounds” and not “I want to read a book a week”, Why has it become so much more common to set personal goals to enhance your appearance rather than your mind? Let’s say you reach your goals, it’s a Saturday night, you’re all dolled up and a cute guy approaches you. That’s how long your external beauty lasts you unless the only objective is sex. If you want to make genuine, human connection, it’s all up to your mind and who you are on the inside.
‘Of course, you’re saying this, you’re pretty enough and don’t seem to have an insecurity in the world.’ This is a thing I’ve heard in several different ways from friends, sober and drunk, alike. My words dismissed because I seem to be immune to the pressures of society. That, too, is a facade.
Here’s the truth:
I often don’t like my hair, it’s curly and frizzy and messy in the wrong places. I feel I can’t ever look truly put together with hair this untamable. Countless boys have complimented my straight hair, my Instagram photos with straight hair get the most likes and it’s the closest I come to resembling anyone on television with the exception of a few rad characters, like the queen Carrie Bradshaw.Another thing I don’t like is my stomach but I guess many girls don’t. I always felt it didn’t quite fit with the rest of my body, size zero in pants but yet I still felt a pouch. Size zero pants was of course another insecurity, that was just a way of saying I didn’t have an ass and could never resemble those on social media with beautiful curves.
And I never liked my smile, it always felt too wide, my teeth crooked. I have a distinct memory of someone close to me, just last year, telling me that my smile wasn’t pretty, it was simply goofy. I didn’t start smiling with teeth in pictures until this past year.
I want to take this time to say I fucking love myself now. I’m at a point in my life where I love my hair, my stomach, my thin legs and even my smile. I’m tired of being embarrassed of things that are a part of who I am. They make me, me.
Obviously, I’m human and have days where I don’t like every part of myself but I’ve genuinely learned to have a great appreciation for me. I don’t know why it’s shameful to be confident because being content with who you are has to be one of the hardest things to do in a society that pushes you to be dissatisfied.
It’s become shameful to be confident.
Saying “I love myself” comes off as conceited. You’re expected to cower to society’s unattainable standards of beauty and wish for prettier eyes or thinner thighs, at the end of the day, it’s one big lie.
Our dissatisfaction with our bodies sells makeup and fit-teas. Our dissatisfaction puts money in the pockets of cosmetic surgeons and lets makeup companies become as large as they are.
Being satisfied with yourself is one of the most rebellious acts you could do in our world.
Look in the mirror and tell yourself you’re beautiful, you’ll believe it soon enough. I always thought being ‘pretty’ was more attitude than anything else. One day, I just chose to believe I was pretty and then I was. I may not look like a Victoria’s Secret model but I look like myself and I’m my favorite. Every day I discover something new about myself to love, whether it’s my off-key humor or another new hobby.
If you think I’m pretty, thank you. If you think I’m not, that’s okay too. I feel I’m pretty but most importantly, I feel I’m intelligent. I want people to see me as more than a pretty face or a good body, I want people to see the inside of my mind. I want to have conversations about art and history and politics. I couldn’t have any of those things if I was nothing but a beautiful external vessel.
I remember one time in grade school, my cousin asked me if I’d rather be ‘pretty and dumb’ or ‘ugly and smart’? A common question, I’m sure many of us remember being asked. I don’t remember what I answered at the time but I can’t ever imagine answering anything but “ugly and smart” now.
Why is it that out of ten women, nine report being dissatisfied in their bodies? What’s the hype with being so pretty? Unless you’re becoming a model or an actor where part of your job is to sell your appearance, where will this attention on your outer beauty get you?
If it’s to find love, do you really think someone will fall in love with you purely because of your external appearance? Could you imagine doing the same? If it’s just because you want people to believe you’re attractive, let’s get down to why.
Why does it fucking matter?
If Karen thinks you’re pretty, so what? Being pretty doesn’t get you genuine friends, being a genuine person does. Even if everyone in the world thought you were pretty, this would not ensure they’d all like you or want to be friends with you.
Why do we blow thousands of dollars so we can attempt to fit into an unrealistic mold of what beautiful is?
It’s all for a sense of validation with no real purpose.
I’m tired of the effects this obsession with external beauty has on people everywhere. From skin bleaching cream darker girls use in Pakistan to tanning beds loaded with carcinogens, we put our own health at risk to appease strangers.
As it does come down to strangers. Your true friends and your family aren’t there to judge your appearance, they want to know the inner you, your brain and your personality. Why do we bend over backwards to impress strangers and people that really don’t matter?
At the end of your life, you’re not gonna remember if Sharon thought you were pretty or if Kenny thought you were hot, you’re gonna remember the genuine connections you made with people that were beyond surface level. You’re gonna want to see family and friends and people that saw you, the real you.
I’m so sorry Oscar Wilde, I think you’re wrong. Surface level beauty will only get you surface level results. Real genius is dismissing the idea of beauty and learning to live for no one but yourself.