Standards of beauty have always existed and it’s a fact that they change across the years.
For example, based on the Venus of Willendorf, historians suggest that around 28 thousand years ago the biotype of the most coveted women of the time would now be considered practically obese. Likewise, at the beginning of modern-age Europe, having a stout physique was a sign of beauty, fertility and abundance.
I remember that in my adolescence having small breasts was good. Soon, what was good was having gigantic silicone implants. Tattoos were once symbols connected to criminals, nowadays they’re a form of self-expression. Straight hair was boring, later on, it was the curly hair that was bad. Tanned skin was a sign of health when I was a child, and now I can’t leave my house without sunscreen!
Very well, the world evolved and we gained access to more information, and so, it’s expected that there are standards of beauty and that they’ll change across the years. So far, perfect!
The problem is when these standards are unattainable in a natural or healthy way. I truly believe everyone should have the right to try and be what they want for their best. But results that are only possible through plastic surgery cannot be considered normal, let alone standards. Or we will end up with a generation of look-alike dolls.
With the popularisation of digital media, a new alternative has emerged for those who can’t (yet) resort to surgical intervention. All of a sudden, we have been transformed into avatars!
We use filters to change our skin colours, correctors that make our pores disappear, we make our noses, thighs and waists smaller, we make our lips and eyes bigger, we cover up scars, and search for impossible angles and … suddenly we are not ourselves!
Honestly, I can’t understand the advantage of considering beautiful something that doesn’t exist. And yes, it’s tempting! I want to look beautiful in a picture as well. But it’s necessary to understand the difference between the real and the virtual world. And supposedly, at some point the person who saw you in that picture will see you in real life. Or is the idea to never meet people ever again?
I believe I am lucky to be an adult these days. I can play with my image without confusing or frustrating myself. But I keep imagining very young people in the process of forming a personality, still searching for acceptance, seeing these impossible standards and believing that these “avatars” really exist. There’s a whole generation looking in the mirror, comparing themselves and feeling inadequate. And that has serious consequences.
Finally, I’ve started seeing a responsible reaction against this absurd movement. I see advertisements reinforcing different biotypes, magazines featuring models that represent greater diversity and even photographers rescuing images that better correspond to reality.
Great, because I’ve had enough of seeing fake people!
And, I reiterate, there’s no problem with people who undergo plastic surgery, or those who touch up their pictures, but it’s essential to do so consciously and responsibly. We need to understand the difference between the real world and the digital one. And, mostly, let every one of us be able to respect our own individuality.
I will tell you a personal experience that I believe fits in with this context. There’s an
expression in Spanish, which is my favourite: “es lo que hay”. It can be roughly translated to “that’s what we have”. But more than the simple translation, I like the way it is used, es lo que hay is definite! It doesn’t leave doubt, it doesn’t leave any room for discussion. It’s neither better nor worse, like it or not, it’s the only possibility that exists.
Lately, ageing has been a reoccurring theme in my thoughts. Maybe it’s a worry that will grow from here on, I don’t know. I won’t deny it, the experience hasn’t exactly been a delight. I began to feel at odds with my appearance. It’s possible that, even without noticing, I felt the pressure of said beauty standards that insist on keeping us young.
A long time ago, I no longer felt like appearing in pictures or go out to buy new clothes. Many times, I looked at my image on the mirror or in pictures and did not recognise myself. I thought that I was overweight, the angle of the picture was unfavourable, I was dissatisfied. I seemed to see somebody else. It was hard to understand that the problem was that my brain still imagined myself young or different. I didn’t notice or didn’t want to see what I’d become. I think I was still expecting to go back the way I used to be and fit into a certain standard. Does that mean I didn’t accept growing old? No, it means I couldn’t understand that I was already older. I had changed and I hadn’t realised. Perhaps I was so used to filters or retouched pictures that natural pictures made me feel strange.
Then, there was a day, as I was getting ready to leave home, I couldn’t find clothes that pleased me.Typically, feminine! One made me feel fat, the pants made dents on my body, the mascara wasn’t symmetrical… I think I don’t want to go out anymore!
Until, in front of the mirror, I had this biblical revelation. No, the clothes don’t make me fat, I’ve put on weight! My body has changed! The pants don’t create dents where they don’t exist! The human face isn’t symmetrical, and my eyelid truly is drooping! That’s just how I am now.
Damn, that’s how I am!
I won’t say I was radiant, I continued having many things in body I wanted to improve, but what would I do, hide forever? Curiously and against all my expectations, the only phrase that came to mind was a resounding one; es lo que hay!
I didn’t think anymore, it was solved!
And that was one of the best sensations of relief in my life! A guttural fuck off. I went out with the clothing that made me fat, the pants that made a dent on my body and the imperfect makeup. Frankly, do you know how many people I believe noticed these enormous problems? None! I myself forgot it the moment I passed the door.
It took me a very long time to look at myself in the mirror, see that I have things that I’d like to change, accept them for what they are and decide that, honestly, I have more important things to worry about. Es lo que hay!
And that kind of feeling you only really understand, in your gut, when you age – there’s no other way because you need experience. Your perspective on what’s important changes. I really wish I’d realized this when I was younger and I hope that someone who doesn’t understand it can simply believe me. For example, I don’t want to go on a radical diet, not because I can’t. I simply don’t want to lose one moment of pleasure because I know they are rare and may end tomorrow. It’s no longer a remote possibility, I truly feel like it could all end tomorrow!
I’ve been married for years! It’s not feasible that there could still be any “imperfection” in me that he has not noticed or seen in 32 different angles! If this hasn’t been a serious problem so far, why should it be now? Without any demagogy, is an inch-less waist worth it in exchange for a delicious gastronomic evening?
I don’t advocate for negligence, I don’t like people that seemed to have given in, let themselves go, and given up. I believe we should do our best to take care of ourselves. Not to only look good, but to really feel good and be well. All I can tell you, with all honesty, is that I finally look at myself in the mirror calmly, whether I’m in shape or not according to somebody else’s standards. This day has finally come! And that’s a relief.
Believe it or not, since then I started to lose a bit of weight. My fitness has improved a lot. At least, by the standards I myself consider important today. I started being able to exercise, four or five times a week, which I consider a true miracle. What changed? I stopped thinking that I exercised in order to lose weight, I set targets based on my health and my own capacity, targets that weren’t comparative. I don’t know how it will be from here on, but it’s a good start.
And starting anything at this stage in life is a privilege that I learned to value. I need to be able to breathe, to have a greater cardiovascular capacity, strong bones, correct posture, and so many other things that will make my life better and less painful. If the package comes with beautiful calves and a harder butt, that’s wonderful, but I know well what I will miss most in the coming years and so, my priorities are clear.
I wish I’d had felt this way earlier, I wish I’d accepted myself earlier, but so what? I needed this time. It’s funny to look at older pictures and find everything that I didn’t like in myself when, frankly, I looked great! Why was there always something that I wasn’t satisfied with? What really was the big issue with my hair, my legs or my ears? If I’m lucky, in the future, I’ll look at recent pictures, those that I don’t like much today, and I’ll wish to have the same energy, the same skin.
What’s more likely is that at the bottom of it all, I’ll wish I had the same dear people around me, healthy, alive. I need to spend less time choosing clothes, not for the lack of vanity, but because each moment we will have less and less time and so it’s better to know they will pay more attention to my smile. And that does not cost me to offer, and I hope it never costs me to give!
Sometimes, life can be really tough, but not always. Life can also be fun, or at least, fair. It is what is it, so obviously. And if we accept what we have and try to improve what’s possible, we’ll enjoy the best of it. After all, es lo que hay!
And that feeling of being at peace with what we really are is freeing. Being natural is