I have spent most of my short life thinking about beauty.

Trying to define it.

Or at least understand it.

As a little girl, I was obsessed with Barbie. I loved her long hair and legs and pink everything. And I used to spend hours  watching my mother get dressed up for a night out. To me, the way she was able to make her hair longer, shinier, her lips more vibrant and her skin sparkle, was pure magic.She would walk with confidence and grace and in my mind lights flickered when she smiled, I genuinely thought she was a princess.

I spent my younger teenage years half shaving my legs so they were patchy and smudging my nail polish because I wasn’t bothered to wait for it to dry. I found myself comparing myself to every other girl my age. With their long hair and clear skin and slim, bronzed bodies. Next to them, I felt like a white, spotty, pudge. It was never about how I looked, at least not at the start. When they laughed, boys would turn their heads and I always ended up doing something embarrassing like snorting. I didn’t seem to have the “aura” that every other girl had.  It didn’t help of course, that I hadn’t yet discovered the magic of facial hair removal cream so I still I had a slight moustache. Looking back at that time makes me very sad, as with most people. Because I can’t recall a single memory where I felt comfortable, never mind beautiful.

Over the years, I explored fashion and became passionate about wearing interesting clothes that excited me, instead of what everyone else was wearing and showed off my stomach in a way that I didn’t like. I figured out how to do my make up in a way that suited my face. I became more confident, learned how to flirt and joke with boys. But one thing about myself that never changed, was my incessant need for everything to be aesthetically pleasing. I would not drink out of a water bottle that I didn’t think looked pretty, wouldn’t leave the house if I had a spot, wouldn’t eat in restaurants that I couldn’t take nice pictures in. I blamed this on my creative side, telling people that it was my obsession with beauty that made me a writer. Creating beautiful poems and seeing everything through rose tinted glasses was important so I wouldn’t lose my passion for describing the world.

I truly believed that everything had to perfect to be worth writing about, to be worth loving. Which is why I still couldn’t manage to love myself.

Of course, that’s a childish, black and white way of seeing things. But it’s a view that many people have, I was not alone in my opinion of beauty. But life has a funny way of shaking up everything you believed to be true. I lost friends because they told me I was “too perfect” and I wouldn’t show my flaws. I saw my mother cry in her pyjamas, snot all over her face  and suddenly she stopped being a princess and became a human. The world went on fire and baby animals died.

I became disillusioned and wondered what was the point of beauty anyway? Why should we care about how anything looks when it will just crumble anyway? And through this exploration, I came to the conclusion that once we lose motivation to appreciate, we lose the ability to love. One of the most exciting parts of my life was when I started to redefine beauty. I began to explore what I thought was “ugly” and challenge it, try to make it beautiful. I would wear ridiculously big hoodies and do my make up using green and bright pink eyeshadow. I would write poems about period blood. Take Instagram pictures of myself crying at sad movies.

And so this is where I am at now, I think that feeling like you are surrounded by beauty is a deeply human desire. And something we should all work to achieve. But each person sees beauty in a different way and that is what makes the world so interesting. During quarantine I am seeing people become more creative than ever. They are creating art for the sake of creating. So I still think about beauty a lot. I like to look at people I consider beautiful and wonder what it is about them that I see as lovely. Usually, it is their strength (although I’m still a sucker for brown eyes, sue me). I love to appreciate art and things like dirt or concrete and try to figure out the difference between the two.

It is through this openness that every single thing has the potential to be beautiful because beauty and art is as fluid as water, that I have learned to consider myself as beautiful. Not just because I can create poetry or because I can paint my lips crimson, it is because I am a human who has the ability to love and be loved. And that, my friend, is the greatest beauty of them all.

Libby x

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