Defining Personal Beauty as our ‘Your Best Self’
Hey, you! … Yes you, beautiful!
As women, we are flooded with messages that we are not beautiful enough just the way we are. We must diet, wax, pluck, dye, nip, tuck, tone, polish, highlight and dress in expensive high fashion couture to be the ideal image of what is “beautiful.”
Well guess what, world? You’ve got it all wrong.
If you’ve ever questioned what true beauty means, try working alongside 50 teenage girls every day. Leading a girl-centered organization has not only taught me a lot about myself as a woman but also a lot about what true beauty actually means. Most teenage girls have struggled with some sort of insecurity. No matter what background you come from, we all have experienced insecurity at some point in our lives. Across our nation, girls are participating in negative activities like self-harm and developing high-risk behaviors and unhealthy eating habits because of low self-esteem and negative self-image.
Low self-esteem is a crisis in our country, and taking action in our community is critical. Too many girls — seven out of 10, according to a national study — believe that they do not measure up in some way, whether it’s their appearance, peer relationships or academic performance. Consequently, these are the girls most likely to participate in harmful behaviors that will leave lasting imprints on their lives.
At PACE Center for Girls Alachua, where I work as executive director, we help girls find their inner beauty through more than just telling them they are beautiful (though we do that, too). We teach self-love by helping the girls discover the best in themselves. PACE is known for getting girls back on track in school and keeping them out of trouble, but it’s also an empowering experience that teaches girls to find and appreciate their unique voice and true beauty.
I will never forget a moment with one of the girls at our first annual PACE Prom last year. The girls were pampered by beauty professionals and wore gorgeous gowns donated by our generous community. “This is the first time I have ever felt beautiful,” one of the girls said to me. “You have always been beautiful,” I responded, as our eyes filled with tears and we hugged, because we both knew the extent of her statement. She meant more than the makeup and hair; it was the growth she experienced and the change in her perception of beauty that finally allowed her to see herself that way.
So, what’s the formula for finding your beautiful you? You can look for it outside yourself, but you will never find it. Your beautiful you comes from deep within. It’s something only you can discover when you realize what true beauty means to you.
To help girls find their voice and discover the beauty within themselves, PACE uses nine guiding principles. I have adopted these principles into my own life, as it has helped me refocus on what’s important when I needed it. This is one of PACE’s best kept secrets, and I am sharing it in the hopes that it helps anyone who may be searching for their beautiful you.