Often times, things can be said with the intention of making someone feel better while actually making the person feel worse. One such instance of this that I’ve noticed is the tendency for people to tell larger girls and women that it’s their inner beauty that counts, not outer beauty.
While I agree with the sentiment that inner beauty is important, I have a problem with the suggestion that outer beauty cannot exist in anyone who is anything but thin. The latter example suggests that girls who do not fit in the category of “thin” cannot be beautiful on both the inside AND the outside.
I’ve seen this sentiment reflected in the advice of parents, teachers, and friends, all of whom are saying such things with the intention of being supportive. While I can appreciate the intention of their words, I think it is important to recognize that the intention of the message is not necessarily as important as the message that is being received–at least not in this case.
Throughout the course of my eating disorder I have been both heavier set and thin–and everything in between. As a result, I have witnessed a trend in which people tend to compliment my “inner beauty” more so when I am not “thin” by societal standards. However, as my weight decreases, there is an inverse reaction in terms of the number of compliments I get about my outward appearance. People start to make note of my shrinking waist line as if the number of inches around my hips is directly correlated with my outer beauty.
We are socialized to believe that thin is beautiful in a way that nothing else can be. But don’t you worry, because we can always fall back on inner beauty if we don’t fit into this societal ideal. So, when you put it into perspective, aren’t we still unintentionally placing a higher value on outer beauty? Doesn’t inner beauty seem to be the runner up? Outer beauty is the metaphorical pageant queen while inner beauty is the 2nd place contender that everyone forgets about when placed next to the first place winner.
It seems so messed up. In a world in which nobody can ever feel accepted by a hyper-critical society, wouldn’t we rather be beautiful on the inside? Wouldn’t we rather be kind-hearted, generous, loving, supportive, empathetic, and compassionate? Why does outer beauty always come first?
One of the things that I’ve recently realized that I’ve lost to my eating disorder is my passion and outward expression of love. I feel miserable a lot of the time and I’ve pulled away from the people who care about me. I’ve lost a spark of inner beauty in my pursuit of the ever-elusive outer beauty. I’ve lost self-acceptance in favor of vanity and suffering. I’ve lost self-love in favor of self-hate and self-ridicule. It seems crazy to think that I would sacrifice so much just to achieve outer beauty when I know deep down inside of me that no matter how much weight I lose I will never be beautiful enough for society.
I think it’s time to reclaim the inner beauty that I’ve lost to this disease. I hope one day I can look back on this blog post and congratulate myself on defeating the monster inside of head.