Sunday, and Beauty Standards

From the cover of In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney
The cover of In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney

I call my house “the cozy jungle.”

I have everything from a massive banana plant, monstera
deliciosa, ceiling-high areca palm, tall snake plant, and multiple hanging pothos to little monsteras, roses, daisies, and succulents everywhere. You can’t go anywhere in my house without the overhang of leaves offering their love to you.

My house is over 100 years old and oddly designed. When I first moved in, I decided to split my sectional into two halves on opposite sides of my living room; that’s the only way it’d fit. I’m nestled in the left corner of it now.

Sipping lavender kombucha, I’m sifting through In The Company of Women, as I usually do when I’m feeling inspiration-less or feeling like I want to be held by the words of the fierce, entrepreneurial artists in these pages. This beautiful, glossy, hardcover book has colourful sticky notes all over it, marking all of the excerpts I’ve found to be most unusual, unexpected, motivational, or creative. The women in this book are trailblazers, idols, and risk takers, and — best of all — they know themselves. There’s nothing like a woman who knows herself.

I flip through the pages with a thick, brass ring on my right hand and a big, oval, turquoise ring on my left. My hands have always looked a little older than the rest of me, like I inherited them from an older — hopefully wiser — woman with more lines, veins, and character. I used to hate them. Now I call them my sage hands. As I look down at my hands, I notice that my skin is tanned from many days at the beach lately. It’s beach season.

Speaking of the beach, I saw beautiful women today. A lot of them. The kind of women who possibly haven’t let themselves have chocolate in over a decade, or only have a square of chocolate every third full moon, or something. The kind of women whose soft skin makes me wonder why mine has to be so blemished. The kind of women who can wear any sleeveless top and feel strong. The kind of women who’ve got just the right booty genetics. The kind of women I’ve been programmed to compare myself to.

I wonder when these comparison games and insecurities will tire themselves out; hopefully before it’s too late, before I look back and realize how pretty I was in my prime, that ungrateful little thing. Before I realize how dumb it all was that I allowed myself to be ruled so strongly by patriarchal beauty standards for so long. How anti-feminist of me. Cringe.

As I sit here, nestled with my colourfully-Post-it-noted book, old sage hands, and lavender kombucha, enveloped by the flowers and plants that feel like family, I’m wondering if this is the real definition of beauty. If this house, this life I’ve built for myself, and the realness and all-ness of what I am, is beauty.

I cover the scars on my face as best I can. After my fiancé died suddenly almost four years ago, I started getting terrible acne — my nervous system imploded and expressed itself with horrendously painful cysts on my face for three whole years. Now that they’re gone, I’m left with scars all along my jawline, my skin’s hangover. I’ve become masterful at editing them out of photos. But maybe they’re beautiful, too. Maybe they symbolize my resilience or something.

What I do know is beautiful is the women in the pages of this book in my lap — the women who know themselves. These women come in all shapes and sizes. They’re all photographed in their workspace; whether it’s a paint-splattered studio, a textile workshop, a home office, a couch, or a kitchen table, these women are photographed in the place they know themselves the best. Each woman is in her element, in knowingness, and beauty.

So here’s what I’m going to do and what I’m not going to do:

I’m going to practice knowing myself — believing that beauty is all of what I’ve created.

I’m not going to assume my insecurities will leave overnight.

I’m going to be patient with this inquiry.

I’m not going to shame myself for having insecurities.

I’m going to give up comparison in the moment.

I’m not going to beat myself up when I notice I’m comparing.

Maybe next time I write, I’ll have reached beauty enlightenment and feel totally peaceful and confident. Maybe I’ll be exactly where I am now, in the practice. I think I’m good with either.

If there’s anything I want you to leave this article with, it’s to look around your life and notice what you’ve created that is beautiful. Notice what your life is made of, in all its intricacies and simplicities, and take in the sweetness of it. Notice what you’ve deemed beautiful and what you’ve deemed “must edit,” and consider leaving the edits raw.

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Leighann Amanda

Leighann Amanda

Your partner in evolving humanity and relationships. Always exploring the fullest expression of the human spirit.