Reclaiming UGLY

I have spent a large portion of the last year working to help others see the beauty that they posses, both inside and out, through poetry, discussions, blog posts, performance art, and so on. (Just look at how many blog posts I have written over the years about being beautiful!)

This mission comes after years and years of struggling with my own demons; in fact, I’ve been fighting to feel pretty and worthwhile for so long that I think, maybe, I have lost sight of the bigger picture. In my quest to help myself & others feel beautiful, I’ve stopped asking questions.

Questions like…

What is beauty, anyway? How can EVERYONE be beautiful?

Why do I even want to be pretty? Why are beauty and self worth so intertwined in our culture?

Why am I working so hard to subvert beauty standards? Wouldn’t it be better to just abandon the quest to be beautiful all together?

Why does it feel more important to be beautiful than nice, or smart, or interesting, or funny… or any of the other awesome traits people have?

Now, I’m not saying that all of the work that I (and so many others) have done is worthless by any means, but at the same time I have to ask…

Just for a few minutes, at least, can we try thinking of something even more radical? Namely, why can’t we just say FUCK YOU to beauty?

Out of all of the things there are to find admirable and valuable in a person, why is it that beauty so often seems to win out over intelligence, strength, compassion, athleticism, creativity, bravery, honesty, and so on? Rarely do we see people wasting countless hours fretting over their lack of compassion for others, or their cowardice. Rarely do we compliment others on their kindness, or their strength… for whatever reason it all seems to come down to beauty, at least it does in my life.

Its funny that until now, I just accepted that unquestioningly, asking myself over and over again how can I feel beautiful? when I should have been asking WHY. Why does everything  come down to being beautiful in the first place?

Let’s think about this logically: what does me or you being beautiful do to improve the lives of others? Nothing, really. Certainly it does not do as much as passion, or kindness, or empathy, or bravery… these are the attributes that change the world… not beauty. And, even better, these are the attributes that have nothing to do with genetics. We can CHOOSE to go out of our way to be kind, to be brave, to passionately chase dreams, to harness our talents to change the world. At any moment, each and every one of us has the power to be a strong, compassionate, brave, and make a difference in the world.

You can’t wake up one morning and just decide to change your appearance to fit whatever mold beautiful takes on in your society (at least, not without a lot of money and pain)… either you fit the mold of beautiful or you don’t. We all know this and yet, we all seem to spend so much more time obsessing over beauty than we do over all of those other wonderful and useful qualities.

So again, I say fuck beauty. Beauty is passive, either you have it naturally or you waste endless amounts of time on primping and preening until you look as beautiful as possible. BEAUTY IS DISEMPOWERING!

Even the concept of “inner beauty”  bothers me to a degree. Why not inner strength? Inner kindness? Inner AWESOMENESS? Why does it always come down to beauty?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am NOT trying to belittle the struggles of those who wrestle with body image issues. How could I be, when I am just as entrenched in this as anyone else? All I am trying to do is shed some light, shake things up, and get us to question just WHY it is that we feel so much pressure to look a certain way; to be beautiful.

Instead of trying to change perceptions of beauty, maybe we should just run with it… embrace the title of ugly and use it to force others to see the value in the rest of us; our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams… because at the end of the day, that’s where the real value lies.

My Ugly Manifesta
(What would yours look like?)

I’d rather be courageous than beautiful. I will not be demure, quiet and pretty… instead I will be loud, friendly, and assertive. I will get into the face of those who try to oppress others and I will confront them. I will be that loud, “ugly” feminist when the situation calls for it.

I’d rather be unique than beautiful. I will wear the clothes that make me feel happiest in whatever manner I desire. I will wear as much or as little makeup as I feel comfortable with each day. I will shave as much or as little as I see fit. If I happen to fit some standard of beauty one day, fine; I will not care one way or another because my confidence does not depend on anyone’s approval but my own.

I’d rather be happy than beautiful. I will not waste a moment of my life worrying about how I look to others. I’d rather spend my time concerned with how I am treating others, and interacting with them!

I’D RATHER BE UGLY THAN BEAUTIFUL. Being ugly means saying fuck you to the beauty norms and embracing the person I am, not the person that the world is trying to tell me to be; being ugly means being totally happy with the person I am and never hiding that girl from the world, no matter what.

Crossposted @ Amplify.

6 thoughts on “Reclaiming UGLY

  1. I agree with you!
    Since I’ve started this blog thing I was really worried because I wanted new definitions of beauty, beauty that comes from real life rather photoshoped, ultra thin, etc…
    I was trying to find my own beauty too.
    But, a couple of months ago I had an insight: ok, this is a noble intention, to make the idea of beauty more democratic, but I was still focused on Beauty as the main subject.
    And then I realized that this made me suffer, that, beautiful or not I wanted to be happy with who I was as a whole, not only skin deep. I want to be happy, more than I want to be beautiful and they are not the same thing.
    Focusing on feeling beautiful didn’t help me to have any fun, because I was always worried about how I looked in every situation, and it makes me anxious and unconfortable.
    So, I realized that I don’t HAVE to be beautiful. Some people will think I am, some will think not, some days I’ll feel pretty, another days I won’t.
    I guess I was commited to a kind of idea that, since I’m plus size I HAD to be beautiful and healthy just to prove a point that beauty and health comes in every size.
    But I think these “obligations” were also a perfecctionist strategy to be “the best” and I realized that I just want to be who I am and that’s ok.
    After that, my goal changed from feeling beautiful and the healthiest one to accept myself when I feel fabulous and when I feel like crap.
    I have some health issues, but they don’t make me “unhealthy” as a whole, they are some limitations that I can work with and they don’t make me less healthy; the same goes for beauty.
    I know that I can feel beautiful sometimes, and that I have really great parts and others that can be considered ugly. And I know that I have so much more beautiful aspects inside of me that even If I feel ugly, I’m still worth it.
    I’m a valuable person, even if I’m not the most beautiful plus size chick ever, I’m still a great person, a person that deserves love and respect.
    That’s why I changed my goals to self acceptance and self love instead of trying to feel beautiful in my own skin and only then being able to love myself.
    This exchange was really positive for me, because if I think that in a particular day I’m ugly, it doesn’t matter anymore because I’ll do the things that I love anyway. Beauty is not my master anymore, because I’m no longer obliged to feel beautiful to feel good.

  2. I like that you included a picture of medusa with this post. This past Halloween, instead of playing the “what sexy random object/character can I be?” game, I went as medusa, all uglied up. I made a long, bulky, sweeping black gown that felt wonderful to move around in and disguised my body. I really wanted to make myself smell bad too, but didn’t get that aspect together in time. It was so freeing to remove myself from the typical who-can-show-the-most-skin Halloween competition among young women. At the party I attended I saw a girl in a huge bulky astronaut costume complete with a giant helmet and I was like YES.

  3. “Rarely do we see people wasting countless hours fretting over their lack of compassion for others”

    Imagine what kind of world that would be! I love this post. I can understand not wanting to feel ugly. It seems like part of human nature to want to be beautiful in some way. But I also don’t think ugly and beautiful are the only options.
    For me it’s like what the first commenter said, “So, I realized that I don’t HAVE to be beautiful. Some people will think I am, some will think not, some days I’ll feel pretty, another days I won’t.”

    If I feel like I don’t look horrible and look professional, that’s a good day for me. Some days I feel prettier than others and that’s fine.

    I don’t know if it’s even possible to abandon the quest to be beautiful altogether but it would be nice if beauty were valued more to the extent intelligence, compassion, kindness etc. are.

  4. You are absolutely right. I have a “beautiful” friend, but some people don’t find her attractive. Others say she is gorgeous, so what’s the verdict? the verdict is that even if you are widely considered gorgeous, at least one or two people will disagree otherwise. Therefore, the outside does not really matter as much as the inside.

  5. I love the sentiment of this, and your passion, and I do get what you’re saying and agree wholeheartedly. However, I think you collapse beauty into a one-dimensional trait, which I’d argue it isn’t. I’d say fuck self-obsessed beauty, but beauty as a whole is as intrinsic and deep as any other quality you mentioned– and even if taken at a physical, face-value level, psychological studies show (and I notice this time and time again in my life) that the more you love and respect someone, the more physically beautiful they appear to you. There’s such a complex relationship between society, personal qualities, and beauty, that it seems unfair to collapse it all into a single demonizing label.

    To me, Beauty is not passive, nor is it superficial; it’s an active, radiating, inner energy that encompasses so many qualities into one strongly positive and empowering sentiment about a person’s being. It is deeper. I only use the word beautiful to describe people I love, respect, and can see that they are beautiful in so many ways.

    Although, we are designed to think certain things are beautiful, and society has geared us to act in certain ways on that (i.e. trying to fit some beautiful physical “ideal” through obsessive and superficial means), and THAT I agree is disempowering. However, the counter to that I say is not rejection of beauty, but a reclamation of it. I love the part on the image that says “Beauty must be defined as who we are.” I think that’s the secret.

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