Beauty Standards

“A rose by any other name, would smell as sweet.” 

This famous quote from William Shakespeare’s play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ eloquently describes my thoughts on what beauty is, and also why I feel it’s such a controversial topic. 

I believe the way we understand beauty is both intrinsic and unique, and often ultimately undefinable for many of us. We just ‘know’ what we like and what we don’t, often finding ourselves inherently drawn towards certain aesthetics without fully knowing why. So when there’s room for such a variety of ideas on the subject of what is beautiful, this is bound to create some controversy. The idea of personal beauty is born from individual perspective, a visual parallel of our subconscious beliefs around pleasure and identity. That’s the philosophical side of things in my mind, but to put the ultimate question in plain terms - what is beauty, and why? I explored a little of this subject in an earlier Facebook Vlog which you can watch here. I believe that beauty is connected to personal style, and developing your identity. I share more on how to develop your personal style here. 

Below, are two images that show how I have crafted my appearance, and the skill that goes into creating yourself the way you wish to be seen. I chose a before and after during a recent 'Makeup Monday' with a super glam festival look because it's dramatic! This sort of creativity is what inspires me with makeup, and it's also what stimulates fiery discussion around our use of makeup and whether beauty is innate or attainable... Follow me to see next week's makeup look on my Instagram here.

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In this article though, I want to take this concept a step further and explore the question of what beauty standards are, and whether they still exist to define a universal sense of what is beautiful. For me, I believe that beauty now is a celebration of women exploring our own view, and that the voices who still exist claiming we are under some sort of invisible societal pressure, are in fact just too insecure, and unsure to claim their own sense of self and create it of their own volition.

Beauty is an art, and a skill. It’s not a gift.

I can sympathise though, because that used to be me. Beauty is an art and a skill, not a gift. Like any skill, it’s certainly not easy to learn especially when part of that process is learning about yourself. 

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I felt passionate about exploring this subject here because of my journey with makeup to date. I have discovered that my relationship with a skill has a direct correlation to how I feel about the subject of interest. The best example is the one area of life I have absolutely no skill in. This is any kind of physical sport. I am clumsy at best, uncoordinated at worst. I have always struggled to find any kind of success with sports especially as a child. As a result, I rejected sports in general and have an extreme disinterest, often bordering on dislike for everything under this umbrella. I believe that this parallel is common among many of us, and that other skills are the same. 

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A year ago, I had next to no experience or skill in applying makeup and hair styling, and as a result I had a conflicting and mostly negative view toward people and media where ‘too much makeup’ was promoted. I had a critical view of other women who were skilled in this area, dismissing their skill as excessive superficiality. Fast forward to now and much learning I have had, especially from other makeup artists and professionals in the industry. I have learned a large amount from others who share their knowledge, and found there is much joy in crafting your appearance to represent how you want others to see you; an accurate presentation of self.

I had a critical view of other women who were skilled in this area, dismissing their skill as excessive superficiality.

Mastering not only this sense of control in and of the skill itself, but also the joy in using these skills as a creative expression of what I define to be beautiful, is extremely rewarding. I have found a sense of freedom in defining myself, and although this may sound paradoxical, it is fascinating to reflect on. I pride myself on being honest here about all things creative on this blog, as a means of creating conversation on the topic and perhaps this will inspire you to reflect on your opinion of what makeup is, and why you think the way you do. What are the things you enjoy the most? What are the things you are the best at doing? Is there a connection for you?

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Beauty standards are generally seen as a term to define the invisible pressure put forward by the ‘media’ [whoever that is] and society as a whole. Apparently we are a hive mind, and with this theory we also cannot think for ourselves. I don’t believe these claims have any weight. My thoughts around beauty and makeup extend to what I believe is a false perception of pressure, on us as women to look a certain way.

Makeup is just another way to express yourself, learn about yourself, to discover who you are and who you want to be.

In my view, those who claim this are focused too much on their view of others to claim their own sense of identity and create that for themselves. They are trapped in their assumptions that those who wear varying amounts of makeup, [including a lack of] do so because they are misled. The general false assumption as I interpret it is along the lines of: Those who wear ’too much’ makeup do so out of insecurity, and those who don’t wear makeup don’t care about their appearance. Both couldn’t be further from the truth. Rather, I can say from personal experience that when I chose to not wear makeup, it was more out of a desire to keep what I believed to be the ‘real’ me, or an ‘accurate’ representation of myself. I didn’t want makeup to distort that, and truthfully because I was afraid of my own inability to use it. What I didn’t realise was that makeup is just another way to express yourself, to learn about yourself, discover who you are and who you want to be. There is, no right or wrong. That, is where the magic is because like everyone I am still learning, and still discovering myself. As an artist, as a person and as a woman. 

Makeup is not a cage, it’s not an expression of the ‘patriarchy’, or a sign of lack of self worth. Makeup is just a tool, and you can choose to use it or choose to not. Both are valid, both are acceptable, and neither is right. In my mind, beauty will always be in the eye of the beholder…

 

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THE UNDEFINED PHOTOGRAPHY

www.theundefined.co.nz

Photographer. Creator. Dreamer ♥