Beauty is perhaps one of the most controversial topics dating back to the beginnings of time, as it can be perceived as many different things by many different people. The most appropriate thought to describe this theory is the proverb “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. This adage was first seen between 300 and 201 BC in Greek writing, and it means exactly what it stated above. The dictionary defines having beauty as “…possessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, think about…” These qualities differ, depending on whether you’re talking to a man or woman, adult or child, etc. The contrasting perceptions of beauty can emerge due to many different factors. The first is age, as how old someone is makes a difference in what they consider to be beautiful. The next explanation for this variation could be the way they have been raised, as a person’s environment significantly affects their way of thinking. Another cause along those lines could be culture, as it directly influences and directs a person’s beliefs, along with religion. However, it could just as easily stem from an individual person’s mind and way of thinking, especially if they happen to be insecure and see lowly of themselves. Media, especially pop culture and social media, is also a major factor that is changing how young people perceive beauty. But on top of all this, it is crucial to remember that it does not matter what we look like. We were all made from the same clay by the same God.
Children, however may not be as aware of this fact as adults are, so age is a large factor in what someone sees as beauty. Most adults base their standards of beauty on what they see on television or magazines, or by how celebrities look like nowadays. Most children, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about these celebrities. What they see as beautiful is based on their own colorful imagination. That little girl you see wearing a giant purple tutu may look crazy, but in her eyes, that outfit is gorgeous, no matter what you say.
It is human nature to judge others by the way they look. The environment in which a person is raised is an important factor in determining what a person views beauty to be. The people surrounding you are what help shape you. For example, if you are raised by close-minded people who do not take kindly to those different from them or see them as ugly, you likely will not by very fond of them either. This difference may be anything from skin color to clothing style.
The next explanation for why a person recognizes specific things as beauty as is the state of their mind. A healthy person who is happy with the way they look sees beauty differently than someone who is not. The self-confident individual has accepted his or her looks and sees him/herself as beautiful, and although they may see many other people as beautiful as well, they won’t see everyone that way. This person may have had a supportive family, or has overcome an obstacle. On the contrary, the insecure individual does not think highly as of themselves. The insecurities could be caused by bullying, rejection, or even the pressure to be beautiful. Whatever the reason, this person sees others as more appealing than him/herself, but it is not necessarily positive. It may well be, but it could also be a form of jealousy or envy.
The next leading factor is the media. Pop culture and social media display famous celebrities that teens, especially girls, look up to. These seemingly-perfect celebrities are quickly becoming models for what they see as beauty. The girls strive to achieve the flawless hair of their favorite Instagram models or the curvy figures of their favorite reality stars. Oftentimes, the model in the picture is covered with filters and altered to look better. In cases like these, the perfection is just an illusion. When young girls try and fail to reach this nonexistent perfection, it can take a hit on their self-esteem, affecting their view of beauty on themselves and others, as mentioned above.
The final, and possibly the most major, influencing factor as to how someone perceives beauty is their culture. Different cultures around the world have their own interpretations of what is considered alluring. Depending on where they are and what they believe in, what one group of people may see as admirable may seem ridiculous to another. For instance, women of the Kayan tribe in Thailand wear brass rings around their necks to elongate them and make themselves look more appealing to others in the tribe. Most of the outside world views this as absurd, and hundreds of tourists have flocked to eastern Burma to see these “giraffe women” for themselves. Another example is based in the West African country of Mauritania. Mauritanian women often fatten themselves up to look more appealing, as the larger size is seen as a higher status symbol, and therefore more desirable. Most American women, on the other hand, desire thinner figures. Some girls even develop eating disorders in which they starve themselves in pursuit of this skinnier appearance. With all these variations in cultures and groups, it is impossible to call something pretty and not have someone disagree with you.
All of these explanations and theories as to why we see each other as beautiful or ugly are all valid answers. However, we have to remember that on the Day of Judgement we will not be judged by how bright our eyes are or how white our teeth look. We will be judged by our actions. Allah (SWT) says in the holy Quran, “Who perfected everything which He created and began the creation of man from clay.” (The Qur’an, As-Sajdah 32.7) Everyone, no matter what they look like, was made from the same clay by the same God. We are all beautiful, as we are all creations of Allah (SWT), Al-Musawwir, the Shaper of Beauty. It is incredibly easy to forget this and become caught up in trying to achieve perfection.
In summary, beauty is a contentious concept. With so many different views and perceptions, there is no single picture of beauty. There are various factors that can affect what a person sees as appealing or desirable. The first is differences in age. An adult’s definition of beauty may be longer hair or more muscle, meanwhile a child’s is most likely a toy store. One of them is the environment in which they have been raised, particularly the people who surrounded them. Being raised by open-minded an accepting people shapes you differently than being raised by people who do not accept others different from them. Another is their state of mind, which refers to how comfortable they are in their own skin, or self-security. A self-secure person has a more positive outlook on the world than an insecure being. Another factor is pop culture. Social media stars and celebrities become models for young girls who strive to look like them. When they can’t reach the beauty they see on those models, their self-esteem takes a hit. This then goes back to what is mentioned above, that their view of themselves and the beauty of others is altered. The biggest influencer is culture. Identifying with a specific culture means you share the same beliefs and background as that group. Your culture’s take on beauty may contrast greatly from your neighbor’s. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that we were all made from the same clay, by the same God. On the Day of Judgement, you will not be judged by your physical beauty. The only beauty you are judged on is the beauty of your actions.
This essay represents my individuality because it was written in my own style of writing and was influenced by my own experiences. All of the main points on the topic of the proverb “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” were from my own observations, especially on the topic of culture. Attending a primarily white high school and coming home to an Arab/Hispanic household allows me to see many different traditions and conflicting standards of beauty. After observing this, I decided to write about these aspects in my essay on a larger scale, comparing Mauritanians to Americans. As for subtleties, I do not believe there are any in my piece. I explained all of the main points I wanted the audience to see and understand. I feel I conveyed the theme relatively well in my piece. The theme of “The Challenge of Beauty: Striving for Perfection in an Imperfect World” can be explained as many different things. I chose to zoom in several things, such as “striving for perfection”, talking about young girls striving for the perfection they see in pop culture, and people of different cultures struggling to meet their people’s beauty standards.