Beauty exists in several forms. Human beauty is an integral part of the broader universe of nature and the wonders it carries. Beauty has served an evolutionary purpose too where the process of natural selection relies on this criterion and the species choose their breeding partners. This continues to affect individuals in living societies. However, some societies are tightly knit where making comments on each other and being more conscious of appearance is common because one perceives their beauty through the lens of the other. While individuals in other societies are more confident and satisfied with their appearance because beauty standards are not culturally defined but vary from person to person.
Given the culture of Pakistan, the concept of beauty is socially constructed. If others approve of your dress, accessories, makeup, and body color, you have fulfilled the beauty benchmark, and the compliments like “pretty”, “beautiful”, “piyari”, are not unusual. However, if you are obese, underweight, have a dark color, or avoid makeup, you are frowned upon and sarcastic comments such as “you seem to be getting healthy”, “time to start some dieting”, and “apply some fairness creams otherwise how you will get married?” or “work on self-grooming”, are frequently passed. The compliments that are given to women fulfilling beauty standards turn into sarcastic comments that women on the other hand encounter at social events or even with family members at home.
In addition to that, the image social media and the fashion industry have created depicting flawless bodies and skins is leading to unhealthy beauty expectations from women. Not only women set that as par for them, but even “rishta aunties” and men looking to get married want women who fulfill domestic roles as well as live up to these beauty standards. The idea of beauty shown in dramas and movies is far different from real life as these actresses do not have to bear domestic responsibilities that a common woman in Pakistan is required to fulfill daily. As a result, women’s married life and mental health are severely affected when they are unable to satisfy the beauty expectations similar to the screen.
This emphasizes the role of personal boundaries in our lives. When there is no sense of understanding and respect for boundaries in a society, one’s self-esteem is constantly crushed by the loved ones because hearing remarks related to body and appearance can make a woman feel worthless, ugly, flawed, and unacceptable. It is when others rule over their bodies and shape women according to their own needs and desires. When a woman doesn’t have agency and control even in choosing how to appear, what to wear, and what to eat because that impacts her beauty, the restrictions can turn into inferiority complex or anxiety issues which can eventually lead to rebellious behaviors as well.
It is indeed a time when setting and believing in your own definition of beauty is crucial. Feeling comfortable in your skin should be the priority and choosing to wear what makes you “you”, irrespective of what others think and speak. If a woman thinks she looks beautiful in a certain way she carries herself then that is her truth and reality, and nobody gets to change that. What people say reflects their own life experiences which they project onto others to validate their thoughts and beliefs. But dear beautiful women, you do not have to fall into that trap!
When the concept of beauty comes from within you, what the world says would not matter. You are enough and whole and shouldn’t need to change yourself according to what others demand from you. Those who truly love you will accept you and find you beautiful just in the way you are. Your worth does not depend on your body. What makes you beautiful is not your outward appearance, but your inner satisfaction with your identity. When you start seeing yourself from your eyes, you will see how beautiful God has made you which is matchless. Your self-worth should be beyond other people’s compliments or sarcastic comments because at the end of the day, you and your feelings matter, not the remarks of others crossing your path for a few seconds who will just get busier with their lives after that moment. Beauty is, therefore, how you define it, without letting others take over the show.
Amna Sheikh is an in-house writer at Perspective. She is currently pursuing her graduate studies in Psychology at the National University of Sciences & Technology. She not only has a strong passion to contribute to mental health initiatives in Pakistan but also writes reflectively on social issues to understand life from a deeper and holistic perspective.