Op Ed: Don’t Tell Me I’m Beautiful

It was 9 am on a Wednesday morning when I saw a bubblegum post-it note on a campus mirror with a sentence carefully lettered in perfect, square handwriting:

“You are beautiful”

The sentiment was sweet, a hidden stranger complimenting me in the early, dreary morning. I looked in the mirror at my reflection. My hair was pulled back into a hasty, slightly crooked ponytail that was falling apart. My face looked tired, poorly blended concealer echoing the paper I pulled an all-nighter to finish. Looking at myself, I couldn’t help smiling. I did not look beautiful.

And I don’t need to.

There are so many things that matter more than beauty; things that can be cultivated and things that will last longer: intelligence, creativity, passion. Tell me you find my mind engaging, my writing enthralling, my conversation unbearable to turn away from. Praise my thoughts, encourage the improvements of my hobbies, but no matter how much you may believe it or how much it may be true, do not tell me I’m beautiful.

Beauty, like many things that incorrectly refer to a woman’s worth, is a social construct. That’s why different societies find different things beautiful. A unibrow is considered beautiful in certain parts of the world, and avoided at all costs in others. This is also why beauty standards are continuously changing and evolving and we aren’t dressed in corsets and hoop skirts anymore. Western standards of beauty are impossible. No one spends every waking day looking amazing, and that’s okay.

Is it nice to feel beautiful? Yes. But should it be necessary for self-esteem? No. Every woman is so much more than just “beautiful”. A recent focus of mass media has been calling everything “beautiful” when what is really needed is acknowledgement, acceptance, and movement from the issue of aesthetic beauty to more pertinent issues.

The women who put their kind messages on the bathroom mirror no doubt meant to uplift spirits. This is in no way a critique of them, but on the societal notions that beauty equates self-worth. Beauty shouldn’t be the defining feature of a woman.

Next time I’m staring into a mirror, I don’t want to see  “everyone is beautiful,” I want to be told, “beauty doesn’t matter.”