THE PURSUIT OF PRETTY:
I definitely felt the least confident in my teenage years. During your preteens and teenage years, beauty starts to become the sole, defining trait that determines the value and worth of a woman. We’re socialized to believe that if you’re not pretty, you’re nothing. Of all the admirable traits in the world, women must strive to be singularly pretty!
Early on I recognized I wasn’t stereotypically “pretty” in a Western sense. All my idols looked like Hillary Duff. Meanwhile I looked the farther thing from it. Pretty was the last word I’d use to describe myself but one thing was for sure, I wanted to be pretty. I wanted to feel pretty. It was the ultimate goal for a young girl like me.
In high school, the pursuit of pretty became my goal. Although I wanted lots of friends and good grades, I ultimately wanted to be pretty. Because of poor self esteem from early childhood and a brown skin inferiority complex, I was extremely insecure. Fashion became my outlet for expressing myself and also for hiding my insecurities. I genuinely felt that I was unattractive. In order to feel even remotely noticeable, I started experimenting with fashion. Without that, I was just another boring face in the crowd. Fashion and makeup made me feel different, unique and confident. But deep down, if I was asked to strip bare, and expose my body and face, as it was, I felt so lacklustre.
THE BEAUTY MYTH:
My biggest struggle was always skin colour, and my inability to be white passing.
I remember growing up and being told, “You’ll never be pretty because of your dark skin, so be smart. Guys want to marry a pretty girl, but if they can’t find one, they’ll marry a smart one too.” I kept that with me for years, knowing I would never be beautiful because of my features and colour of my dark skin, so I should strive for intelligence. Maybe then people would value me on one characteristic at least.
During the early years of my life, all I was to anyone was smart. I would hear comments like, “Look at so and so, she’s so beautiful! And Pooja, she’s smart.” I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be both. Smart and beautiful. That’s the beauty myth. That you can only be one. But true beauty comes from within, transcends the surface, calls for depth of character. Beauty is beyond the surface. Today I face the exact opposite comments. People see a girl who looks good, and they assume, she mustn’t be very smart. Then they hear about my academic credentials and honours and they gasp in disbelief. Today is makes me happy to know I’ve conquered beauty and brains when everyone told me I could only be one. I feel like I’ve smashed the beauty myth that’s pushed onto young women, and I just want other girls to experience the same. That they never have to choose one, they don’t have to be held by the confines of just pretty, by the confines of feminine characteristics. They can strive to be pretty smart, pretty strong, pretty brave, pretty funny, pretty anything. They can be anything and everything at once.
Pooja Patel is a Psychology student, content creator and fashion enthusiast. You can follow her work on IG and Twitter @thepoojaproject or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org