Every day, our culture presents us with beauty standards that seem unattainable, except by the assistance of some sort of enhancement. Want to lose weight quickly? Liposuction. Looking to retain your youthfulness? Botox. Need more volume in the right places? Implants. Society has made big business of our tendency to compare ourselves to one another. But in order to arrive at Botox or implants, we must first ignore healthier, more sustainable ways to improve our body image from the inside rather than the outside. After all, healthy habits like meditation, proper diet, and exercise, improve our health and well-being just as much as they improve the way we look. What causes us to look past these and run straight for the shortcuts?
Alicia Keys vs The World
Superstar Alicia Keys has been addressing this question for some time. According to Keys, it begins with something as simple and universally accepted as putting on makeup. Keys has been making public appearances for years without makeup, and it’s not because she’s allergic to the stuff. Several years ago, Keys noticed that she felt anxiety over being seen without makeup every time she left the house. This spiraled into feeling unworthy of her public status. Keys describes her struggle in her song "When a Girl Can't Be Herself.” In its verses, she wonders if her insistence on using makeup is impairing her ability to develop healthy self-esteem. Then, in an article she wrote for Lenny Letter, Keys went into detail about the song’s origins. “[T]he truth is … I was really starting to feel like that — that, as I am, I was not good enough for the world to see … This started manifesting on many levels, and it was not healthy.”
As a way to recognize and cope with these insecurities, Keys turned inward. “I found my way to meditation, and I started focusing on clarity and a deeper knowing of myself. I focused on cultivating strength and conviction and put a practice in place to learn more about the real me.” She set her intention on breaking the spell that superstardom had cast on her: a false belief that she was not pretty enough to be seen unless she modified her natural beauty in some way. A belief, she explains, that grew from her constantly comparing herself to others. Hearing her speak so candidly on this issue, it becomes easier to understand how little insecurities snowball into bigger ones. We might put on makeup because everyone who’s considered “beautiful” is doing it. Then, when we see these same people getting implants and injections, we feel compelled to do the same to keep up.
But Keys made a bold choice to fight against this impulse when she decided to let herself be photographed one day as she was leaving the gym. She was wearing a sweatshirt and no makeup and felt exposed, but decided to do the shoot anyway. In confronting and overcoming her insecurities, she felt more beautiful than ever before. That’s how her #nomakeup movement began. Since then, she has tirelessly encouraged us to accept our own natural beauty, without even the slightest enhancement. Granted, Keys isn’t anti-makeup; she’s pro self-esteem and strives to communicate the difference. She went on the TODAY show to say that her make-up free movement is about helping women feel comfortable in their own skin, not discouraging makeup use. “It’s about how you feel, it’s about who you are, it’s about just being who you are and not letting anybody tell you who you should be.”
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