When you think of the word “beauty,” what….and who….comes to your mind? How comfortable do you feel applying the word “beautiful” to a new blossom, a piece of art, the ocean – or yourself?
When I went to the dictionary to look up classical definitions, I was surprised by what I found – and then I felt surprised that I was surprised! One popular definition stated that “beauty is the quality that gives pleasure to the mind and senses.” Another lesser-known definition that I liked stated that “beauty is anything that resonates with personal meaning.”
When contemplating these definitions, it becomes difficult to wrap either mind or senses around the reasons why finding, feeling, and expressing our awareness of our own beauty often feels so impossible. However, the culture that surrounds us has a powerful impact on us even when we don’t realize it, and that culture seems to have a very different definition of beauty – one that says that “beauty is whatever we can sell you to break down and then build back up your fragile self-esteem.”
No one knows this better than Jessica Simpson, the hostess for a timely new well-intentioned show named “The Price of Beauty.” The petite blonde singer-turned-actress-turned hostess has had her share of the appearance-related limelight, and sometimes with emotionally devastating results. The opening previews for “The Price of Beauty” shows one clip of Simpson breaking down into tears, and then laying down on stage, right in the middle of one of her concerts.
Interestingly, despite a widespread media-fostered viewpoint that Simpson’s brains went fishing and got lost at sea along with the chicken, er, tuna, she enjoys for lunch, she has stubbornly refused to stay silent on the subject of a woman’s right to feel beautiful regardless of others’ opinions. In fact, Simpson speaks frequently during episodes of “The Price of Beauty” about the pressure and scrutiny she has endured around every aspect of her appearance and the inner strength she has had to cultivate in order to hold her self-esteem intact. In fact, her song “In This Skin,” written in direct response to record company executives who encouraged her to continue to lose weight even when she weighed in at a size zero, she sings that she wants – and has the right to – feel worthy to feel beautiful in her own skin.
“The Price of Beauty” is not going to turn Simpson into a blonde Gandhi by any stretch of the imagination, as she and her two cohorts go gallivanting through the spas of India, Thailand, and Paris, hobnobbing with the highest echelons of fashionable society and occasionally spending a few moments plugging Simpson’s favorite charity, Operation Smile, or eating disorder awareness. But this is media after all, largely controlled by the moguls who make money by hawking low self-esteem and body hatred on every street corner.
This is also exactly why any attempt, no matter how minor, to give real women with real bodies and real choices a voice and a chance to feel beautiful must be watched and celebrated and supported. Over and over Simpson and her friends ask women in each country they visit, “what does beauty mean to you?” In India, she is told that beauty is laughter and honesty and living your life. In Paris she is told that beauty is “joie de vivre” – the joy of living. She shares with viewers that she is struck by how beautiful confidence is, and how inspired and grateful she feels when she meets a woman who exhibits the willingness to confront media-generated low self-esteem with direct action…like when the 5’4” Simpson decides to strut her stuff alongside the supermodels on a Parisian runway…..
…..or host a show like “The Price of Beauty.”
In her song “In This Skin,” Simpson sings, “they see me in a magazine -I’m the one they want to be – Still don’t feel I’m good enough – still don’t feel I’m thin enough – I stand up and I’m pushed back down – and every opinion now – It makes me feel inhuman – givin’ in and givin’ up.”* But far from giving in or giving up, Simpson has once again found a way to push back against those who keep trying to push her and all of us into ever smaller, thinner boxes. With “The Price of Beauty,” however subtly, Simpson is forging ahead in her quest to feel beautiful in her own skin, and offering us the opportunity and the encouragement to do the same.
At Southlake Counseling, our transformative and empowering “Say Yes to Life” wellness program offers you the opportunity to experience your own radiant inside-out beauty through achieving balanced wellness in body, mind, heart, and spirit. In choosing what does not work for us to bring pleasure to mind or senses, we are then free to explore what does allow us to experience personal, vibrant, and radiant meaning and joy within ourselves, in our relationships, and throughout our lives. To learn more about how you can take charge of your own experience of health and beauty in your life, visit us today at www.southlakecounseling.com.
* “In This Skin”, Lyrics & Music by Jessica Simpson, Album “In This Skin”, © 2003