A History of Reaching for Beauty
WOMEN HAVE INDULGED in forms of beauty modification for thousands of years, walking the same paths even as their methods improved. These beauty modifications range from (but are not limited to) intricately designed tattoos, scarification for beauty, teeth filing, and intentional weight gain (in cultures where the most beautiful woman is the fattest) or conversely, starving oneself to achieve the slimness and low weight idealized in Western cultures. Each of these ancient (and not-so-ancient) seemingly primitive ways of reaching for beauty has its parallel in modern times. It continues even today, with improvements and technological advancements geared toward obtaining the same results desired in centuries past. In fact, many ancient cultures would gasp at our modern advances in methods of attaining beauty. They might even find these new methods barbaric in comparison to their simpler approaches.
I hope to bridge the gap and find a commonality among all cultures in their quests for beauty. It’s most important to understand how we, as women, as beings, are alike, rather than focusing on our differences. If we are to suspend the sorts of judgments that limit us, then it’s pivotal to focus on the similarities that bind us. The very act of reaching for beauty itself is natural, and the nature of the pursuit and methods used should not minimize your value as a being of natural beauty. Reaching enlightenment on the issue of natural beauty is about suspending judgment and recognizing the beauty within all beings. I think that a woman shouldn’t feel plastic if she has undergone plastic surgery. Let’s all suspend judgment, please, including self-judgment.
It’s a waste of time to stand on a metaphorical high horse and judge others, to claim that with modern advancements women are seeking a fake, or artificial, standard of beauty. So long as no one is harmed by her methods, then there is little difference between the modern beauty seeker and her long line of predecessors on the path. The only harm possible in this scenario comes from the judgment of others. The one who is harmed is the one who wastes time judging others. It’s always best to love someone as they are, even if that means overcoming a personal difficulty in suspending judgment. It’s an opportunity for growth in your own soul. People will become who they are organically. It’s the natural way of the evolving self. It’s the existential concept that we are always in a state of becoming, always realizing new aspects of our potential selves.
Beauty enhances the quality of life, for humans and animals alike. Animals instinctively reach for beauty in their own naturalistic way. Bowerbirds, for example, reach for beauty in their nests, which they take weeks to create. These incredible birds create an enticing nest filled with colorful berries and unique and aesthetically pleasing leaves, nuts, flowers, and fungi to represent themselves as a beautiful and suitable mate. It’s quite sweet, actually; the care that these industrious winged lovers put into their romantic encounter is heartwarming. There are countless, fascinating ways that animals reach for beauty. This example from the animal kingdom indicates that the desire for beauty extends beyond humans and is truly an inherent aspect of life itself. The bowerbirds find beauty through the inclusion of natural elements in the same way that the natural ingredients in these beauty recipes will for you.
Throughout history, this deep-seated need has played a huge role in humanity’s development and the shape of our societies. Everything from cultural expression and religious ideals (as with the ancient Egyptians) to social class and status (as with the bourgeoisie of pre-Revolutionary France) has revolved around becoming the best person you can be, around becoming beautiful.
To reach for beauty is to reach for personal growth; to enhance one’s beauty is to enhance one’s sense of self. And because humans, more so than any other creature on Earth, strive to improve themselves and their world, it’s no surprise that our tradition of improving ourselves, of increasing our beauty is ancient, storied, varied, and constant.