This is the Definition of Beauty (This is the Definition of Pain)

The following poem centres around the idea of body image. It also focusses on an individual’s personal definition of beauty. It explores the struggles young women often go through–though this is an issue that affects both males and females–when it comes to trying to attain the beauty standards that have been laid out before them. Whether these standards come from the influence of peers, the media, or one’s own perception of self, pain often accompanies the desire to be beautiful. That’s what this piece is about.

I’ve been wanting to write a piece about beauty and body image for a long time, but I’d been struggling to find the right words. It wasn’t until a few days ago, actually, as I was skimming through one of my journals, that I found a source of inspiration. It was a one-liner that read, “Sixth grade: the year I learned to hate myself.” I’d written this a couple of months ago in my creative writing class when we were told to write from the perspective of our past selves. This line was written in response to this prompt and was inspired by my junior high, sixth-grade self–a version of me that really struggled with her body image. Thus, a poem was born. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

-The Girl with the Purple Soul

When I was eleven,

the Popular Girls in my class told me

that if I wanted to get a boy to like me,

I had to be pretty.

So I traded my sweatpants in

for a pair of  jeans and a mini skirt,

wore my hair down

instead of up in a ponytail,

brushed my lids with

dark blue eyeshadow–

all in an attempt to be Beautiful.

I was in the Sixth Grade then.

I should have been playing with dolls

and jumping rope.

Because that’s what little girls

are supposed to do.

Because little girls aren’t supposed

to play with flat irons

or read Teen Vogue 

for the latest Beauty Hacks

when they’re in the Sixth Grade.

Sixth Grade.

It’s a year I’ll never forget.

Because that was the year I started caring about appearances.

That was the year I learned to hate myself.


I spend an hour and a half on my makeup

every morning,

a tedious routine of

Moisturize, Foundation, Powder

to cover up the acne on my forehead

and the dark circles under my eyes.

But no–we’re not done yet because there’s still

Blush, Gloss, Liner

to bring colour

to this blank complexion.

And once I’ve put my face on,

well, hey, I don’t look so bad.

I look OK,

maybe even decent.

But then I get to school

and they’ve ruined it because

“You have lipstick on your teeth.”


“Your mascara is clumpy.”


But the next day I try harder.

So hard that I

burn my hand on the curling wand

when I go to do my hair.

So hard that I

subject myself to the torture of wearing

high-heels that nip at my ankles

and blister my heels.

But I remind myself that

 five-foot-three means I’m below average

 and below average isn’t Beauty.

And I guess it’s true what they say,

that Beauty is Pain.

But there seems to be a

little bit too much ouch!

and not enough pretty

I am not Beautiful.



I do not know what I am.

All I know is that I

can’t bear looking at myself.

Not in mirror, and I

avoid cameras at all costs–

the camera adds ten pounds,

doesn’t it?


But only when you’re


Because the other girls look just fine,

(Better than Fine),

in their Instagram selfies.

With their plump lips,

porcelain skin

and petite noses.

I’ve never liked my nose,

how it’s always seemed

too big for my face.

But maybe I’ve never really

liked anything about myself.

My parents tell me I’m delusional,

and my friends think I’m ridiculous

for believing this.

“You’re beautiful.

Stop putting yourself down.”

But I can’t help but think

that they are all lying to me

because sometimes you have to lie

to spare someone the heartache.

Because they wouldn’t be very good people

if they admitted it, if they said,

“You’re right, you’re not Beautiful.”

I am not Beautiful. 

These are the thoughts

that tear me apart,

pounding my self-esteem into

dust, into non-existence.

But did it ever exist in the first place?

I try to remember

when this all started.

I  count in my head.

Five years.  

Five years…

Five years later, and I’m

still trying to be Beautiful.

I’ve given my

blood and sweat.

I’ve given my tears,

tears that make

the mascara run down my cheeks.


because I hate feeling like this.

I hate feeling so…



When I was eleven,

I was determined to be Beautiful.

Because that was the only way

to get a boy to like me,

They told me.

But looking back now,

maybe it was about more than

just a boy.

Because to be Beautiful was

 (is) to matter.

I wanted to matter.

So I decided that I needed

to change.

And that’s what I did.

Changed my clothes,

and my hair.

My face…

That’s why I played

with flat irons instead of dolls,

why I read Teen Vogue 

instead of jumping rope.

 Because I thought these things

would help make me Beautiful.

But they say that Beauty always

comes with a price, doesn’t it?

And my price?

My price was my childhood.

Because I never gave myself the

chance to be a little girl,

never gave myself the chance

to be a sixth-grader.

The Sixth Grade…

It’s a year I’ll never forget.

Because that was the year I started caring about appearances.

That was the year I learned to hate myself.

A haunting exploration of body image, this is the song I often listened to while working on this piece.  All the images incorporated into this post are also related to the singer herself–Melanie Martinez.

Image sources:

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Beauty Visits Once A Year

Image result for girl in front of mirror tumblr


“Beauty! Beauty! I’m so glad you are finally here! Come in, come in! You need to help me get ready.”

“What do you need, my dear?”

“Oh, how I need you! I haven’t seen you in over a year and I’m afraid I’m losing my sense of perfection. Help me get ready, there is a man I must have for my own.”

“A man!?”

“Oh yes! You see, there is this insolent girl who keeps talking and obsessing over him, I swear! I believe it’s his sister? No matter! With you beauty, he will be mine.”

“…I think I know why I only come once a year.”

“Beauty! What do you tell me?”

“Your body holds enough beauty as it is, my dear… Too much perhaps! It is getting to your head – look at the facts and change your act for beauty starts from within.”


Photo Creds:


My body is the sanctuary of my lineage,

the safe that holds an inheritance too great

for me to apologise it away,

for me to denounce the differences in my complexion

simply because of their colour.

Identity is encoded into my body

like needlepoint spots of every hue

weaving paintings from the shades of my bruises.

The pigments of my skin

fit the whole range of the spectrum,

yet somehow, I am only ever seen

as a dusky shade darker than white.

It began when prejudice crawled into

the cardboard corners of my crayon-box

and tried to make me understand

that I was less of a human being

simply because I didn’t fit

onto the lightest, brightest section

of the colour wheel.

I’ve met the cold, grey eyes

who believe in uncoloured sterility,

but my eyes are kaleidoscopes

with stained glass irises, seeing

that somewhere in their achromatic psyche,

they confused prejudice for purification

and bleached away their humanity.

I want to spill every colour from my body,

make them realise that the canvas of my skin

isn’t dark because there is dirt embedded in it;

it is dark because it is a fusion of every colour,

because it is a prismatic collection

of everything undefinable by a single shade.

I will not decolourise the parts of me

that are too bold to be monochromatic,

too complex to be folded into a label;

my skin is painted from a thousand points of colour,

like a picture made of pixels.

Don’t ascribe a hue to me

when you haven’t seen me living in rainbows,

and don’t understand how

there is no one colour to tint

the human spirit.

My skin has been painted

with the bruises of every ancestor

who fought to claim their colour.

Now I claim my own pallet:

I draw variegations onto my bones

with the raw spectrum of my crayon box,

finger-paint marbled streaks

into the ridges of my face,

tattoo onto my heart the pride I hold

for being arcipluvian.

This poem is an expression of what it means to be ‘coloured’. From the beginning of my life, I was taught how to be a coloured child; I was spoon-fed labels to remind me that my classification as a person was dictated by the shade of my skin, and it never ceased to amaze me that people could define themselves and define others with a single hue. I believe that as human beings, we are multi-coloured. It is those who seek to separate people into sections on the colour wheel who have a lesser understanding of humanity. As people, we are complex beings who I do not believe should be constrained by labels, especially when it comes to race and other significant factors such as religion and sexual orientation.

Our bodies and our personalities are uniquely important and are an expression of our heritage. I do not believe that anyone should ever have to be ashamed of who they are, and this poem explores how individuals should not have to tie back their multi-faceted selves with the restraints of labels. Especially regarding race-related prejudice, the main message of this poem is that skin colour cannot ever account for the entire complexity of humanity and that individuals should not have to be suppressed by those who are short-sighted enough to value one skin colour over another.


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My Sky

I used to sit and fix my gaze upwards… and I would wonder who I was meant to be.

My sky was meant to be painted in the raw spectrum of the rainbow, where every color jumped in vibrant exclamations of wanting to be great. Every hue in my sky was meant to be lurid and glaring, flaming in its brilliance, thriving in the pulse of its unlovely but spectacular color.

But instead, the sky is pale and pretty, painted from a pallet of clear, fresh tints and sketched from delicate pencils. Soft shades and sweet hues blend in loveliness… but I don’t want the sky to be lovely.

My sky was meant to bleed reds and greens, blues and oranges, yellows and purples, and every single shade of gray. It was meant to catch fire from the force of its unrestrained passion and daring fervency.

But instead, the sky falls apart like the petals of a rose, perpetually dropping in silence and taping itself back together with lines from forgotten melodies.

My sky was meant to be woven from drops of heaven sliding down the horizon like fallen stars. I was meant to hold a needle and thread so I could sew the curve of the sun into a seamless circle that ends where I begin…

…but instead, the muted hush of reality has hemmed itself into the lining of the sky.

my-sky-1My sky was meant to breathe in my ardor and breathe out a freedom that I could take and pin to my spirit to make it wilder. It was meant to curve so that it could fit the splendid arches of the rainbow. It was supposed to unite the strokes of sunrise at the horizon with the arms of trees reaching upwards to stroke the dawn. In its effervescent fearlessness, my sky was supposed to meet the demands of the world with a smirk written in the stars. It was meant to pull vermilion clouds into middle-finger taunts for those who overstep their grace – unashamed and strong. Bold and beautiful, it would be transcendent of expectations and limitations.

But instead, the sky is lined with tentative slips of mist that shyly offer themselves to others, too pleasant to consider brushing away the covers of cordiality.

My sky was meant to be a dome to cover every raindrop of my inexpressible sadness. It was supposed to guard the billowing winds of my panicked terror and stand strong against the depressive iron-bleak, snow-stilled winters. Against the wild rains and slashing sleets of my ire, my sky would hold together. It was supposed to fortify the scope of my emotions like a snow-globe that captures the essence of who I was meant to be.

But instead, the sky is gentle and carries only a trace of the emotion suppressed beneath remote breezes. The sky only just hints at traces of sentiment laced in the acquiescent spread of

My sky was meant to be a liquid mirror patchwork of everything I’ve ever felt, it was meant to bind the ranges of my rainbow to the steadiness of blue. It would reflect my lights and reflect my darks, it would safeguard the malignancies of shadows lurking between my heartstrings, and it would magnify the brilliance of moonlight playing among strands of my soul. To balance my wretchedness and my cheer in the steadiness of midday, my sky was supposed to blend the sunrise and the sunset in the swirl of daylight.

But instead, the sky hides its darkness behind the demure serenity of phantom peace and still nights that are perpetually holding their breath.

My sky was meant to bind my turbulent emotions to the ghosts of my tears, to take clotheslines of the words I will never say and braid them into the tresses of willow trees.

my-sky-3But instead, the sky is complacent. It’s satisfied with the sweetness of pale pastels. The sunrises are dusted with watered-down versions of rose and peach. The sky is simple and sleepy and the sun shines placidly. The sky is wistful, a quiet reminder of everything I could have been.

My sky was meant to be beautiful, daring, a quilt of everything I’ve ever felt, a patchwork of everything I want to be.

But instead, the sky is polite and pretty, pleasant and passive… predictable. It’s suffocatingly silent, shallow in its stagnant stillness. And it’s not enough.

My sky was meant to be dauntless and striking – I was meant to be dauntless and striking.

But I am not. I was meant to be so much more than this. But I am not.

Nowadays, I sit and fix my gaze upwards… and I wonder who I am.






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