Life Outside Social Media

Beauty: A Dishonorable Privilege 

     Society puts so much emphasis on the concept of beauty as if it equates to happiness or a sense of worthiness. I’ve certainly been guilty of this mentality because I grew up with what is called “pretty privilege.” I place that in quotes because in no way have I always seen myself as pretty nor believed every “you’re beautiful” remark from a stranger, but I can’t deny that from personal experience, I’ve received quite a bit of special treatment because of the way I look. People are always nicer and more welcoming to me, I get things handed to me at no cost, I’ve been given opportunities that should’ve gone to someone far more deserving for their merit, and I constantly receive more attention than I ever seek.

     I’ve had “pretty privilege” since I was a little girl in the Philippines, where my light skin was glorified for meeting my culture’s ideals of beauty. In the U.S., I’ve often been deemed “exotic” for my ethnically ambiguous appearance – a kind of guessing game that people like to play when they meet me at first sight. For someone relatively timid and unapproachable, I don’t struggle as much to seek potential dates because there’s always someone who notices me walking along the street and asks for my number. It’s ridiculously unfair that being “beautiful” is an actual privilege – but surely not an honorable privilege to me. 

     Keep in mind that I have never taken for granted all the genuine remarks about my exterior. I’m always grateful for people who go out of their way to tell me that they think I’m pretty, but it has come to a point where compliments of this nature have left me utterly desensitized with nothing more than a fleeting sense of false confidence. After years of equating my self-worth to the amount of occasions I’ve been called beautiful, it has conditioned me to believe that it’s all I’ll ever be… and that is quite possibly the most disempowering thought to occupy a woman’s mind. Saying “you’re pretty,” no matter how much I want to hear it during my moments of plummeting self-esteem, no longer leaves a significant impact on my sense of value because acknowledging this incredibly overrated advantage says nothing about who I am as a person, what my mind is capable of, how I treat others, or what I do for people I love. I want to be powerful for the right reasons and exude the kind of influence that empowers others instead of taking something away from those who are clearly more worthy of the chances, opportunities, and acceptance that I’ve been showered with. 

    The next time you want to make a woman feel truly beautiful, don’t tell her she has pretty eyes but rather that you like the way her eyes smile because it radiates warmth. Don’t say you like her outfit – talk about her one-of-a-kind style that brings out her unique, creative nature. Don’t compliment her soft, delicate voice but rather the brilliant ideas that come out of her lips. Say something more than a mere observation of her exterior – tell her instead how her outward qualities make you feel. Because elevating the significance of beauty takes away the powerful impact of words that heal, actions that spark a difference, ideas that cultivate change, and feelings that bare vulnerability, all of which are far more valuable than something you never had to work for.

And now I leave you with an inspiring prose of an exceptionally strong and independent woman: 

i want to apologize to all the women 
i have called pretty 
before i’ve called them intelligent or brave 
i am sorry i made it sound as though 
something as simple as what you’re born with 
is the most you have to be proud of when 
your spirit has crushed mountains with your wit 
from now on i will say things like 
you are resilient, or you are extraordinary 
not because i don’t think you’re pretty 
but because you are so much more than that 

-rupi kaur

Wednesday, June 28, 2017