When a baby girl is born, the first and highest compliment she is given by other people is to say, “Oh, she’s beautiful.” Being “beautiful” remains many women’s highest aspiration.

Yes, we want a killer career, respect in the workplace, financial independence, to meet someone and fall in love, maybe start a family…and to be beautiful. Many of us subconsciously believe that being ‘beautiful’ will help us achieve our other aims and becomes the central preoccupation.  We end up believing that beauty is a prerequisite for happiness, when in fact it robs us of the time and energy required to focus on the very things that will make us happy.

Furthermore, if we can’t find the work or the man or the life we so desperately want, we misplace the blame assuming that it’s simply because we’re not ‘beautiful enough’. Beauty is both a goal and a prison many women are trapped in their entire lives.

I’ve certainly had times in my life when I didn’t feel “beautiful enough’ to go for the job or the guy I wanted. I’ve delayed reaching for my dreams until I thought my external appearance was good enough to be deserving of my internal goals.

When we look at the gulf between women’s and men’s pay and the number of female and male CEO’s, I believe that one of the overlooked reasons women don’t “lean in” as far as they could and claim what is rightfully theirs is because they are being held back by an added pressure men simply do not feel. The pressure to look perfect, to be beautiful.

Kerry Washington, an actress known for playing the flawlessly groomed Olivia Pope recently admitted to Allure magazine that even she can’t live up to her character’s impossibly high standards of beauty; 

“There’s someone who follows me around all day long on the set. Like, literally follows me to make sure there’s not a single hair out of place. This is somebody’s full-time job. Then someone follows me around to add powder so that I never look shinier than I’m supposed to…. Friday night’s concealer is very different than Tuesday afternoon’s concealer. They get thicker as the week goes on and you get more exhausted.”

If even Washington, an actress blessed with intimidating beauty needs numerous full time people to maintain these unrealistic expectations, perhaps it’s time to do away with these limiting standards that non of us possibly reach. Along with the pressure and self doubt that accompanies it. Perhaps in order to break free pf the beauty prison we need to change what “beauty” means to us.

Could beauty mean resilience?

Could beauty mean intelligence?

Could beauty mean health?

Could beauty mean kindness?

Could beauty mean a deeper confidence that comes from not letting anything , especially beauty, stop you from going after what you want?

As you go into your day, as you look yourself in the mirror, as you decide how far out of your comfort zone you’re willing to venture to get the life you want, I challenge you can keep these deeper notions of beauty in your heart.  So that the persuit of being a beautiful woman drives you forward instead of holding you back.

After all, who needs five different concealers if you’ve got nothing to hide.

Cover image courtesy of Allure magazine.

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