I wanted to begin this series by introducing myself and ultimately the purpose of this blog. My name is Kaitlyn Anderson and I am a licensed clinical professional counselor who practices in Naperville, IL. Over the last three years, I have worked with many different types of populations in a variety of settings and the one thing each population and setting had in common were people with terribly low internal self-value. I say value because it has become incredibly apparent that we as a species do not value ourselves and if we do, it’s not based upon character but rather external qualities, such as physical characteristics, professional success, and material possession. It is my belief that this mindset has developed a new wave of depression, anxiety, perfectionism, and self-doubt that has not been seen before. It is also my belief that this new wave has gravely influenced the suicide epidemic we are seeing as of recent. My hope for this series is that we together tackle the difficult issues people are facing today, from differentiating true beauty from society’s definition, how to capitalize on our strengths and values for the development of purpose, and ways to practice acceptance of self and acceptance of those around us. Now, let’s begin!
Blog 1: Defining True Beauty
What does it mean to be beautiful? Or handsome? What special list do we check off that tells someone they are worthy of those titles? If any of that sounds strange to you. Good. The problem with this mindset is that it breeds a particular type of viewpoint. The viewpoint that there is one standard that everyone in the entire world should meet. Now what is wrong with everyone meeting one particular type of standard, you ask? It is simply not humanly possible for the entire population of the world to do so. People come from such a variety of backgrounds (culturally, socioeconomically, genetically) that people are bound to be born outside of the expectation society has set up for them. This has the impact to lead to guilt, shame, and perfectionism. Dr. Brené Brown who has studied shame for many years has described Shame as “lethal”(Interview with Oprah Winfrey, 2013). In Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection, shame is suggested to breed perfectionism because perfectionism is one’s way of hiding what is causing one to feel shameful. Yet, in reality, to be perfect is an illusion. It is an illusion because no one person has the exact same definition of it. Just like the term of perfect, there is no one definition of beauty. Within perfectionism lies shame, is the concept that there can be a feeling of shame a person can feel about who they are that they continue to strive for what is not attainable; therefore building a life surrounded by low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. A life reliant on what others (society) sees them as and ultimately fear of being rejected for who they truly are. Over the last few years, there have been many celebrity-based and grassroot movements to help address this pressing issue.
The Body Positive Movement as one, promotes the acceptance of all body types and which promotes physical diversity amongst society and media. However, despite the actions these movements have taken, they have only begun to scratch the surface of the issue. Where lies the problem is the priority people place upon physical attributes and not what exists underneath. We as human beings define beauty as external and do not know what it truly means to be internally beautiful. A wise clinician once told me, “in order for one to be truly happy with one’s self, one must live counter-culturally.” To live counter-cultured, one must not seek the approval of others or society in order to tell them who they are, but rather define who one is based upon character and acceptance of who one actually is. To be counter-cultured, is to develop peace and love for who one is, not for what today’s culture tells them to be or what to value. It is to develop a mindset all of your own that assists in the creation of a new definition of beauty. A definition that only you fit because what matters in life is not what others view of you, but rather how you feel about yourself. What does praise from others matter if we do not truly believe it? If we do not feel it on our own. For many, full disregard of physical attributes may seem impossible. To forever not give value based upon external qualities may be very difficult; therefore, let the process begin with balance.
How can we begin to develop a balance between external qualities and internal qualities? Let us first recognize and acknowledge both as qualifiers of value. Let character and personality be a driving force. Let us practice mindful reframing of those statements of judgment and turn toward statements of non-judgement and acceptance of what is. Allow for mindfulness of values-based action and gratitude to fulfill us and point us in a direction of abundance. Let the acceptance of self, spark a light that begins the new wave of change. Acceptance and love begin with the self. To be beautiful is to love one’s self unconditionally just as you are, perfectly imperfect.
Written by Kaitlyn Anderson