Robin Rice’s "The Problem With Beauty"

Sometimes there is no need to re-create the wheel.  In this circumstance Robin completely got it RIGHT!   As we ask you to take this week to “look in the mirror”…we are given an opportunity to hear from Robin Rice and the lessons she learned while looking in the mirror…

The Problem With Beauty
Houston, we have a problem.  Miami, you too. Hollywood, it’s big. London, Paris, Dublin, you’re included. Podunk, Littletown, and No place Special—don’t think you’re exempt. It’s everywhere. Invasive and pervasive. Beauty has gotten out of hand.  Not real beauty, of course. Not the kind of beauty that emerges, even erupts, like a wildflower in the wilderness, in response to what we love. No, I mean the kind that we are trying to buy, wear, and posses in order to get love. Or prestige. Or even a better “in” with the hottest new spiritual guru. The kind we are sold a long side everything from diamonds to dog food. The version we are told via every magazine ad and television commercial that we will absolutely need if we are to have any hope of being happy in this life.  It’s not pretty. And it’s not new. In fact, it’s so old-news, so accepted, so normal, most of us no longer really notice the tactics that steal the soul of beauty. It’s just how things are these days. Even the costs, so obvious in the modern life, are chalked up to “the way of the world.”  So while we might say it’s a shame that there is an outrageous number of young women (and men) are starving themselves to death because they think they are “fat”, it’s not really news. And though it might make us gasp to hear of a 5’6”woman checking into a hospital at 94 pounds and feeling terrified to eat, unless it is our own daughter, or sister, or best friend, the conversation quickly sails on.  Likewise, we might groan at the truth that women spend billions of dollars every year on beauty products, not to mention diet foods, pills and programs. But we’ve seen enough infomercials and strip mall diet club storefronts, and we have spent enough of our own money at the cosmetics counter, that no real alarm sounds.  In fact, while we might all agree that the way food is grown, processed, modified and marketed is actually creating less beauty, not more, given the growing obesity epidemic that kills millions in one way or another every year, most of us don’t feel that’s really any of our business. It’s a matter of personal choice, isn’t it? People do what they want to do, right?  Even our very own insecurities, the ones that show up as criticism in the mirror every day—often many times a day—seem normal. The negative self-talk (“Look at those thunder thighs…those puny, sagging breasts…the wrinkles…and that gray!”) is so accepted, so expected, it’s viewed as nothing more than the annoying drone of a radio, the standard-issue background noise of a woman’s mind. The idea that there is something wrong with the message, not the woman, seems almost radical. Maybe even unpatriotic.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against physical beauty. Even the striking, wow-ser kind. I don’t think unattractive is better than attractive, or that we all ought to ugly ourselves up to make a point. I love to see the standardized beauty out there. There is a reason we all respond to a form that is easily recognized as lovely, and it is not only conditioning. Yet I also happen to get a rush from non-standardized beauty—the cracked and edgy, the burnt shadows, the otherwise overlooked. No, it is the idea of selling my soul for society’s current version of beauty, and only that version, at the same time as watching our young daughters sell their souls at younger and younger ages, that gets to me.  It’s Global, But It’s Also Personal.  I remember the exact day I sold my soul for beauty. I was just home from high school, all of fifteen years old. I don’t recall what happened to bring me to the bathroom mirror. But there I was, sitting on the vanity, my feet in the sink, crying. What do they see that I don’t see? I kept asking the young woman staring back at me. I’m ugly, unacceptable, substandard. Or so they say.  I, myself, didn’t feel that way. Sure, I knew I wasn’t going to win any beauty contests. But ugly? Unacceptable? Substandard? Bad enough to be rejected and ridiculed, day after day, like a game with a pre-designated looser? I might have been able to argue the validity of my own opinion to myself, if it weren’t for the fact that there were so many of them. So many standing against me, and only little old me standing for me. It was beyond what I, at that terribly vulnerable age, could pull off. I recall nodding to my image, eye to eye, tear to tear. It was a matter of majority rule, I told myself. They must be right. Not only must I be unattractive and unlovable, I decided, I must not be able to see any kind of beauty clearly. My judgment was obviously as distorted as my body. “Don’t trust your own opinion from here on out,” I said aloud, already becoming angry at myself for not seeing flaws that were so obvious to everyone else.  Yes, I would listen to them. I would side with society. I would ignore my own opinions, and I would learn the ways of the world. I would become beautiful, by the world’s standards, whatever it took. I walked away from that mirror a different young woman, and it would be twenty years before I went back to reconsider my true opinion of myself.  Twenty years, two children, two plastic surgeries, a wide array of diets, a divorce, and a spiritual awakening had to occur before I would tell myself I had been wrong that day. Twenty years before I realized that they—no matter how great their numbers—had no more right to decide what was beautiful than I did. Twenty years before I realized that virtually every woman I knew had sold out to play the game right along with me.  Twenty years, but I did go back. I sat on the vanity, put my feet back in the sink, and stared at the older, wiser woman in the mirror. I asked her, and my younger self, to forgive me. I told them both that I had made a mistake. I really was beautiful, not only before that day at age fifteen, but in all the twenty years between. I also told my younger self I’d make it up to her. I’m doing that here, now, with my reader as witness.

Robin Rice is a personal mentor to women leaders. Her award-winning, internationally published novels offer personal growth and healing These books offer genuine entertainment through well-woven tales of personal growth in a real world setting. They engage the harsh realities of being human while pointing us all toward a more rewarding and soulful existence.

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