Beauty. Like many others, mostly women, I have been on a journey regarding this concept and how I personally relate to it.
As a woman, I am the main target of all kinds of ads regarding beauty – skincare products, hair care products, nail care products, cosmetic procedures, fad diets, fashion trends, makeup trends, among others. And as a woman of color, I don’t fit the standards of western beauty in so many ways. This makes me the perfect consumer.
I started using a maroon crayon as a lipstick at age eight. My mother asked me to take it off. My family started teasing me about my body at age ten when I started to gain some weight. Immediately afterwards I decided to go on a “diet”, which of course meant starving myself and drinking lots of water during mealtime. Nobody noticed. On the other hand, I started having my period at age 11 and drastically lost weight. I got so thin that people said I looked ugly and sick. They didn’t have any advice on what I can do since my eating habits were normal and I was apparently a healthy young woman.
When it comes to my hair, I have had my hair curled up, straightened and dyed so many times. I thought I looked prettier in light brown hair color and that I looked more professional in straight hair (I have naturally black, thick and wavy hair as a Southeast Asian woman). On top of that, many people didn’t hold back their opinions on my skin color. Filipinos are obsessed with having fair skin and so many Filipinos thought that there’s something wrong with me for loving my brown skin. They almost flipped when I would sunbathe to go even darker.
I had to go through all sorts of procedures to “cure” my hormonal acne when it “broke out” together with my period at age 11. My mother and I, together with my brother who’s only two years younger than me, went from one dermatologist to another. We’ve undergone one painful facial procedure after the other, too and tried all sorts of products from topical to oral.
I tried intravenous glutathione sometime in my late teens, it worked in clearing out my skin but it was expensive and I hated injections so I wasn’t able to sustain it. I went through a long period in my early twenties when I couldn’t get out of the house not wearing foundation – not even to go the store a block away from our house. There were moments when I felt so low not only because of how acne made my face look like but also because of how they felt like. They were painful and itchy. I hated my face. I would go from two extremes – from being too focused on my face and too preoccupied with dolling myself up with makeup to not wanting to look at my face at all, not wanting to do anything to take care of it at all.
Recently, I discovered this pixel laser resurfacing procedure which could help clear my acne marks, including the deeper scars. I thought about it for weeks before I decided to do it. During this time, I would go through my different, and often contrasting beliefs about myself, who I was, what I deserved, beauty’s role in my life, why I wanted to do what I wanted and what’s holding me back. I discovered that there were deeper issues I haven’t resolved yet, wounds I haven’t healed yet.
I didn’t expect, but my personal journey has led me to realize that I actually liked myself, that I actually liked how I look like – with or without acne.
I’ve realized, too, that my limiting beliefs were holding me back from not only doing the procedure but from looking at myself, to begin with, not despite but because of all the things I would see.
If I had to go through all those procedures just to wake up to this truth, then I am so grateful that I did.
Indeed, each of us has a unique self-love story and a unique journey to get there. For some people, it means dropping all means to alter or enhance their features, for others, it means utilizing all resources by which they can do it, from using topical products and availing temporary treatments to going under the knife for something more drastic and permanent. Then, of course, there are those that fall in between.
All these approaches require a certain level of self-awareness and courage to do what feels the most loving for us at each phase of our life.
Both require us to take a good look at ourselves, to have a strong vision of oneself and to have the kind of confidence to express that, regardless of other people’s opinions.
I don’t regret any of the things I’ve done in the name of beauty, because I understand that underneath our longing to be beautiful is the longing to be loved in our wholeness. This journey has enabled me to learn more about myself, our society, our humanity, and our essence as Spirit.
Spirit will take whatever means is effective for us to wake up and do the work on integrating all facets of ourselves, especially those we don’t prefer, so we can arrive at this state of wholeness we’ve all been longing for. Beauty is just one of those means, yes, but beauty is one of those means. It could be shallow or profound depending on who’s looking, and what we want to see. It could be a tool to express love or a weapon to cause pain to oneself and others. It depends on who’s using, and what the intention is.