Concepts of Beauty | Stoic Beauty
We’ve all seen beauty trends come and go. We’ve seen the outfits, the perms, the thin and thick eyebrows. Where do these trends go and who is deciding what standard we are supposed to hold ourselves to? There’s a lot to say about beauty. Is it conceptual or actual? Is it a physical attribute? An industrial complex? A state of mind? A way of being?
How has beauty been defined through the ages – and does it matter?
There’s a lot of mixed messaging when it comes to beauty (aaand pressure!). So, let’s talk about it. There’s a new standard to compare ourselves to every hour. A new ingredient every day, a new influencer, a new endorsement. It’s a lot to navigate and a lot to consume. I found it so overwhelming I ignored my skin for years. I thought I could remain impervious if I refused to buy a fancy moisturizer or figure out my skin type. (It was a strategy that left me with dry patches and the occasional allergic reaction – I would not recommend.) It’s time to get in the driver’s seat of our own practices and concepts of beauty.
So, how are we defining our beauty?
Within the beauty industry today there are two paths one can take to define (and market) their brand of beauty: “filtered” and “un-filtered”. This in and of itself says a lot of where and how today’s concepts of beauty are being defined. Hello social media. You know, I only think of beauty as something I do or don’t have - that I’m doing right or doing wrong - when I’m comparing myself to someone else. And in the age of social media, that can become something I’m busy doing all day long.
So, let’s challenge this idea of beauty as one thing or another. As natural or toxic. As attractive or ugly, as something you have or have not. Let’s introduce some fluidity into our concepts of beauty. Let’s discover something that is strong in its temperament yet gentle in its demands.
Resilient beauty. Experienced beauty. Ceremonious Beauty. Intimate Beauty.
The Stoics aren’t known for their rhetoric on beauty. In fact, it seems obvious that the philosophy of Stoicism - with its encouragement to overcome emotion and apply reason and calm to the challenges of life - would consider beauty a frivolous distraction. Yet – that’s not the case. Within Stoic philosophy, beauty is a way to live. A way to enjoy life and your place within it.
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars and see yourself running with them.”
— Marcus Aurelius
Beauty is a wholistic concept within Stoicism. One where you hold the greatest, intrinsic value. It is interconnected with your morality, body, and thoughts. Beauty is the greatest expression of everything that you are.
“Beauty does not consist in the elements of the body (in themselves) but in the harmonious proportion of the parts. The proportion of one finger to another, of all fingers to the rest of the hand, of the rest of the hand to the wrist, and of these to the forearm, and of the forearm to the whole arm, and in short, everything to everything else…a summetria of parts with each other and with a whole.”
For the Stoics, beauty was to be discussed as any other effect of human consciousness. It is an opportunity to make choices that build character and embody ethics.
“You are not your body and hair-style, but your capacity for choosing well. If your choices are beautiful, so too will you be.”
What choices do you make to take care of yourself? To care for you thoughts, your space, your body? Where can you incorporate compassion and rituals that build you up?
What I am suggesting is that we loosen our grip on what we think beauty should be – especially for ourselves- and make beauty what we want it to be. Scroll less, laugh more.
So, what does this all mean? Why are we talking about Instagram and Stoicism? Well, because its 2021 and beauty is here to greet us with all of its baggage and wisdom. What do these dead white men and the Kardashians have to tell us? To ignore them and claim beauty for ourselves.
“It is folly to say, ‘What I have said must remain fixed.’ There is no disgrace in having our opinions change with the circumstances.”
To me, beauty is enjoying the days getting longer. It’s looking in the mirror and thinking something nice about myself. It’s enjoying the way oil feels magically slippery yet also nourishing on my skin. It’s taking care of myself, the way I want to.
How about you?