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Discussions with Damaris

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  • Damaris Chanza

Finding My Beauty

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but your eyes are the only ones that matter.

We all know beauty standards exist, and it's something we can't escape. It's perpetuated in the media as trendy and subconsciously enforced by those closest to us.

As women, we get the brunt of it. Growing up, I remember girls were starving themselves for thigh gaps. Now, big thighs are all the rage. A similar transition happened with eyebrows. They were severely over-plucked in the name of style, then brows on fleek was the way, now its more about brows fitting your face shape. It's all confusing and hard to sustain.

I can't just blame the media for instilling weird rules into women; family does it as well. Growing up, I wasn't allowed to wear red because only whores wore red. Make-up was strictly prohibited because it could get pancaked on, making me look like a clown. I had to have long hair because that's what a woman does. These rules didn't even come from my mom; it was my dad administering his male gaze upon me. After so much disputing over the use of makeup, now, as an adult that I'm learning how to apply it, he'll say things like 'good for you you're finally learning how to put on makeup.' How could I have learned before adulthood if I was prohibited from using it? From the day I cut my hair short, I can't remember a time where he's said I look beautiful. The praise feels arbitrary and unwarranted.

As a female, I spent a lot of time trying to fit whatever standard of beauty was applied to me. When it was cool to be emo in middle school, I tried wearing lots of black. I lived in an urban area, so I tried the graphic tees and ripped jeans look. When I cut my hair, my father's words of looking masculine haunted me, so I tried dressing hyperfeminine. There was a time when everyone was dying their hair, so I did that too. I couldn't change my weight to fit whatever was trendy at the time, so I used clothes to accentuate whatever was in style.

I wasn't happy, but at least it was helping me belong somehow, so it was worth it. I don't think I ever made a conscious decision to make so many changes, but I still made them happen. Then, I realized something.

I didn't have many friends growing up, but my best friend managed to make friends better than I did, so I spent time with them. All her friends were black, beautiful, curvy, and tall. All things that didn't describe me. The Hispanic people I met felt like they fit some stereotypes: long dark hair with an accent, loud and proud with an attitude. Considering they looked like me, I tried to be that, but it didn't feel authentic. On TV, all I saw were white people that I couldn't relate to. I soon realized that it didn't matter how much I tried; I wasn't going to fit any specific beauty standard. It was an unrealistic expectation.

Now, I strive to look the way that makes me feel best. Others may not find me beautiful, but I feel good about how I look. I finally understand what it means to be body positive. I don't need to be a tall, skinny model or have a ridiculously accentuated hourglass figure. I can gain or lose weight and still feel just as beautiful as I do what makes me happy.

I shave half my head because I have too much hair. I keep my hair dark because I think it fits me better. I keep my hair short because it makes me feel beautiful. When I was younger, I would use my long hair to hide my face away when I was nervous, and now, my hair gives me confidence. I wear glasses instead of contacts because it makes me feel unique, like an old-style librarian. I rarely wear black because I love the eccentric way of wearing as many colors as possible without looking like a cartoon. I love wearing flowers and dressing with a mix of preppy and bohemian. I get mani-pedis, thread my eyebrows and upper lip, and shave my legs. Sometimes I get lazy and don't do any of those things, and it's okay because I do it for me, not anyone else.

It took me some time to find my sense of beauty, but I'm glad I finally did.

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