When Beauty Is a Beast

How we allow society to determine our standards

I'm one of those wacky women who viewed turning 30 as an achievement. This was my coming-of-age as an adult. I was wiser, mentally stronger, and surer of myself.

But my celebrated adulthood also brought unfortunate "side effects." Wiry stray grays invaded my chestnut mane. Worse, that mane started thinning. And still worse, my waist, stomach, and thighs began thickening. My mid-30s are bringing more symptoms of aging: under-eye circles and forehead wrinkles.

Of course, I see every line on my face as if my eyes were microscopes. But my perception isn't entirely accurate: Everything looks a little saggier, sloppier, and more flawed than it actually is. Apparently this warped view is a worldwide problem among women. In a 2004 global study on beauty commissioned by Dove, only 2 percent of surveyed women selected beautiful from a list of words to describe themselves. The study also found that most women are uncomfortable calling themselves beautiful.

Why don't we refer to ourselves as beautiful? After all, God made each of us unique and in his own image. Most likely our self-esteem suffers because we buy into the culture's definition of beauty.

How Our View Develops
"I didn't feel beautiful growing up," says Jennifer Ficke, 37. "I was born with unruly, thick, wavy hair. I was self-conscious about my oily skin and acne. My family didn't have much money for clothes, so I got lots of hand-me-downs. I never felt I fit in with other girls."

Trisha Welstad, 30, also felt awkward about her looks as a teenager. "I felt boyish. I was tall and flat-chested. I had big feet and a low voice. Even though I'd put on makeup and try to feel grown up and girly, I never felt beautiful."

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Holly Vicente Robaina
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May 25

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