When will you stop letting other people tell you what beauty is?
In high school, a guy who I thought was cute told a mutual acquaintance I would be cute if I didn’t have a double chin. This from a guy with bugged-out eyes and a Leif Garrett haircut even Leif Garrett stopped sporting. But my taste in boys as a high school junior was sadly questionable, not surprising as I was surrounded by horny peers with equally bad taste. Even so, his words still bored into me like a tick boring into your skin.
Without any real guidance from the adults in my life on how to value myself as a person with real thoughts and feelings, I was damned to walk the earth a nebulous, unformed thing with an outer shell that reflected back my confusion and self-doubt.
And if you don’t know it already, self-doubt will sabotage you for as long as you let it. Sometimes it feels as if you don’t have any control over it, and my being a chubby kid who took way too much comfort in potato chips and Ring Dings didn’t help my body image. And then there was the added value of being the only Korean kid in my class and in my neighborhood. Seriously, being the only whatever it is in your school or neighborhood is ass. No one needs that kind of hassle.
Feelings of being an ugly duckling don’t go away unless you analyze them and work out the source of these feelings so you can put them into context where they are less apt to take over your life. Think about those teenage girls and young women who fit the “pretty” profile yet surgically alter themselves because they are taught to believe they would look better or be happier with bigger boobs, a smaller nose or lighter skin.
You can’t let people put those ideas into your head. You have to decide for yourself what counts as beautiful. And once we expand our ideas and understanding of what beauty is and can be, we will be a society that does not subject our kids and each other to such brutally superficial and inhumane standards and codes of what beauty is. Because when we allow our looks to overshadow aspects of our true selves, whether it be our math ability, sports potential or artistic talent, whereby sex becomes the bottom line, that is a crime.
In Korea, from the time of the Goryeo Dynasty (935-1394), the young girls and women of the kisaeng class exemplified beauty and artistic talent. They studied poetry, song, art, and dance until they were expert enough to perform for the royal court, visiting dignitaries and local governments. Kisaeng from different regions of Korea were renowned for their particular skills e.g. Jeju kisaeng were expert equestrians while kisaeng in Jinju were famous for their sword dance. Although some kisaeng were put into situations of sexual relations, that was not their raison d’être. They were determined to be more than just pretty faces, putting their learned skills to good use across Korea. I guess you could say they lived for their art because that’s really all they had.
See related post: Your Eyes are Your Glasses (제눈에 안경이다)