When Miss Teen USA, Miss America, Miss USA, Miss Universe and Miss World were crowned to black women the same year, it felt like real social progress. FINALLY black women are recognized for their beauty! FINALLY they're portrayed as dignified, honorable and beautiful!
I remember sharing this excitement with my fiancé, only to be met with apathy. He simply asked “ what does this change?”
I quickly dismissed his response as cynical, but as 2020 rolled around, police brutality raged, protests and marches for Black lives grew in masses, I thought back to his earlier question and wondered if we really had made progress?
And then a series of disturbing questions flooded me:
Are black women starved for acceptance? Are they so used to being rejected they’ll happily accept whatever crumbs are thrown their way? Do white women feel a pressure to compete or to maintain whatever standards are in their favor? Or do all women feel the burden to live up to beauty standards that are hard to reach?
In my previous article here, I discussed how and why I believe White Women are still the standard of beauty in American culture. We see a societal push for acceptance through movements like #BodyPositivity, but what is or is not considered conventionally beautiful is still based upon a Eurocentric matrix.
But race aside, many women struggle with their appearance no matter who they are or what there ethnicity is. Psychological studies suggest that an intense focus on body image leads to personal dissatisfaction, low self esteem and unhealthy behaviors.
Even supermodels mentally crack under the pressure of needing to appear perfect.
Supermodel Bella Hadid opened up about her struggle with depression despite her incredible life.
An article by People magazine focused on anxiety among various models like Kendall Jenner who battles high levels of psychological distress.
Psychology Today examined the stunning rate of mental disorders models experience due to pressure and frequent exploitation.
So, if even the prettiest women in society aren't achieving happiness through their outward beauty and the lavish lifestyle it affords, why would anyone think they could do the same?
Why live under the pressure of measuring up to an allusion that never produces longterm happiness?
IT'S ALL MEANINGLESS
One of my favorite experts comes from an ancient passage in the Book of Ecclesiastes:
Meaningless, Meaningless, says the teacher, everything is meaningless.
What do people gain for all of the labor at which they labor under the sun?...No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.
This passage reminds me that most things we value and stress about in society don't really lead to satisfaction.
It doesn't have the ability to produce or positively affect a persons state of being.
I am the least content when I focus on competing with others, measuring up to unspoken expectations or comparing myself with someone else.
I am the most at peace when I remember how meaningless these things are--and focus on a power greater than myself.
It was not until I encountered God through the power of Christ that I started to recognize that my spiritual life holds much more value and power than anything I might seek in society.
As spiritual beings, we are the most content when we are nourishing, building and living out our inner life, not when our bodies define who we are.
And while I am still guilty of looking in the mirror a little longer than needed, I recognize that my appearance will never make me happy with myself or give me psychological peace.
Yes--as a woman I am judged by appearance and I don't expect society to change anytime soon.
I also believe maintaining your health, keeping an active lifestyle and dressing in clothes you enjoy have value--to a point.
But again, none of these things ensure a person's happiness or provide internal stability.
The God who created me is the only One who truly has the capability of defining and establishing my intrinsic value and identity as a women.
Each human being is made unique--on purpose! But society is hellbent on forcing people into molds they don't fit.
The pressure to conform or fit into boxes is so great it's almost suffocating, but life with God through a relationship with Christ gives a person the freedom and the ability to live out their true life, freely and peacefully.
I am no where near the point of mastering self acceptance, but each day provides me the opportunity to disconnect from all allusions and reconnect with peace through a spiritual connection with God.
The more I am able to make this transition the more I experience a peace that is far beyond the high of a couple thousand Instagram likes.
And I am convinced that finding contentment through God is the smarter and happier choice.
Do you feel the pressure do succumb to unrealistic beauty standards? What ways do you coupe or try to overcome your struggle? Leave your comments below and follow me on social media to join the conversation!