Welcome to the "Why Beyond Beauty?" blog series, where I explain further my need to write an entire series largely dedicated to taking the focus off of the value of external beauty. I know this is kind of a strong start, but, interestingly enough, anger is very much a driving force behind this thought process. It's kind of new territory for me, since I'm not someone who gets angry very easily. But, I can tell you with certainty that the fixation on outward appearance definitely does it.
Let me explain exactly what I'm angry about. I don't take any issue with the idea of beauty. I like beautiful things. I love to make art, which is all about making beautiful things. I have grown my hair to fairy tale princess lengths, and I very much appreciate the beauty of crafting braids or all sorts of complicated hairstyles with it. I think that seeking beauty in ourselves or other things is a very human quality, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that. The issue comes when surface level beauty becomes the focus or goal of individuals and culture. When we look at this aspect, this is where I'm angry... angry for two main reasons: what this mindset does to me, and what it does to our children.
I have clearly dedicated a lot of time to thinking about the concept of outward beauty and training myself to focus more on what really matters. I cannot even tell you how much thought and energy has been devoted to working on my self-esteem, to focusing on joy when I see myself in the mirror or pictures. And yet that feeling keeps coming. Those habits that draw your eyes to your faults and flaws in every picture. That hesitation when you get dressed in the morning. That lingering in front of the mirror because something doesn't look perfect and how could we possibly leave the house if everything about our appearance hasn't been carefully manufactured so that everyone thinks we're, at the very least, pretty. And, again, there is nothing wrong with taking some time on our outward appearance or finding some happiness in feeling pretty. But I am furious with how much of my time has been wasted chasing after some arbitrary standard of external beauty. I am angry that more of my energy has been devoted to my appearance than to so many of the other qualities I want to pursue.
And then I see the same habits and tendencies forming in kids. I am not a parent myself, but I do pour an absurd amount of energy and love into fourth graders as I teach them. And when I see my fourth graders pick apart their school pictures because they don't like the way they look or comment negatively on someone's appearance, that anger is kindled again. Because they are ten years old. Barely double-digits, and already worrying about looking physically attractive to others. It makes me wonder how early I started doing that. And what I say or do that perpetuates the same mindset. And how much damage this seemingly unavoidable fixation on looking "good" is doing to their self-worth and confidence. It makes me wonder when the idea of "fearfully and wonderfully made" got lost underneath generations of not being thin or pretty or perfect enough.
So I focus on the idea of "Beyond Beauty" because I am angry, and passively thinking about changing this fixation isn't enough. Just doing things to change my own habits and perspective, while beneficial to my personal growth, isn't doing enough to sate my frustration. So instead of stewing in my anger, I am writing a book series that screams for me. A series of stories where beauty isn't the focus. A series of fairy tales where the magic is driven by kindness and love, instead of a character who just so happens to be a pretty princess. A series that shows that life is full of joy and adventure that appears when we take the focus off of ourselves and trivial insecurities. So I guess I'm just writing these stories in the hope that there are some people out there who are also angry, who can find themselves in these characters, and who, through stories, can learn to live beyond beauty.