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.”

and

“Your mascara is clumpy.”

Defeat.

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

I…

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?

Yes…

But only when you’re

fat.

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.

Tears–

because I hate feeling like this.

I hate feeling so…

Ugly.

***

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: https://67.media.tumblr.com/bf269f78d1f088aeed702c5d9011eb88/tumblr_o4yk03hQIw1vq2zy7o1_540

https://images.rapgenius.com/a83bc156d2a4abd78f8843a0a8767de1.534x532x1

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/ba/58/7c/ba587c3453199e64419a9b0bf08ffa58

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Insomnia (5:55 AM)

This piece is dedicated to all the nervous, sleepless nights I have endured. We’ve all been there. Sleep is an escape from all of life’s anxieties.  So tell, me what is one to do when they are unable to sleep? Thank God someone invented sleeping pills, huh?


Liquid-Blue-Lullaby,

sing me to sleep,

or else I won’t rest.

Counting sheep doesn’t work

anymore;

this mind’s been too

busy to count,

these thoughts are too

chaotic for order.

These lids are heavy,

but they refuse to shut,

and every time I begin to fall,

I am jolted awake by the sound

of my heart palpitating

against my ribs.

I accept that fact that

I will be up before

my alarm clock goes off

at six AM.

It is already 5:55.

It’s been 32 hours since I last slept.

 

Swollen eyes stare up at the ceiling,

defeated.

I think I’ll call in sick

tomorrow.

Skull pounding, legs shaking,

I tiptoe to the kitchen,

open the medicine cabinet,

 and reach out–

mama always keeps

the good stuff on the top shelf.

I pop the lid,

lay you in my palm.

I stare down

at you, liquid-blue.

And I can hear

you humming.


Image source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/124200902201176918/