Finite Beauty & the Principle of Ruination

We live in a world of finite beauty. You can only be attractive within a certain range of sizes. Beauty only exists between certain numbers on the scale. You can’t be pretty past a certain age.

We’re conditioned from childhood to believe the myth of Finite Beauty, but it’s worse when we start to create new rules within this system that further strip away what is rightfully ours.

As I stand on the precipice of my 40th year, I’ve been hyper aware of the finite beauty messages that inundate us as we get older. Whether it’s friends or the media, I’ve heard dozens of warnings that prove how much we invest in the concept of finite beauty. It’s gotten so loud, as the years have passed by, that I have to consciously check myself, sometimes on a daily basis. Do I really want to plug in to the idea that I’m going to get fat after forty and never be able to lose the weight again? Do I really want to invest in the concept that at some point, I will no longer have any worth as a sexual/romantic partner?

Again and again, I have reminded myself that I need to lay these beliefs down and keep walking. There’s no use in carrying them, allowing my beauty or worth to be defined by fear-based beliefs handed down to me by my culture.

Recently, however, I realized that I’ve already been investing in the concept of Finite Beauty, without even realizing it. Somehow, I made up a rule a long time ago that has been like a choke chain around my neck. I call it The Principle of Ruination.

It started with the breakouts I struggled with for 20 years. When my skin finally healed, I was left with badly scarred skin. It was a great disappointment to me to finally experience clear skin, but to end up with all those unattractive scars. I often struggle to look in mirrors and have often felt like my skin was forever ruined.

As I’ve become more familiar with this feeling of having “ruined” skin, I realized I’ve felt this way about other parts of my body – the stretch marks and cellulite that cover my hips and thighs, for instance. It can’t be fixed,  so in my mind, it was just a “ruined” part of my body that I’d have to find ways to compensate for by highlighting other areas that were more attractive.

But there’s no such thing as being ruined! My hips and thighs aren’t ruined. They hold me up, walk me around this world, allow me to sit and stretch and move. The stretch marks and cellulite are no different than the permanent birthmark on my thigh – I just perceive them differently because our culture tells me stretch marks and cellulite are ugly.

And my skin isn’t ruined. It breathes, it sweats and it protects my body. It’s healthy and it glows, scars or not. There’s nothing “ruined” about it.

To say that any part of our body is ruined is a huge disservice to the miracle of this flesh and bone. And what a waste of possibility to invest energy into such a limiting belief.

Having said all this, however, I must admit that I still struggle greatly with my self-image when it comes to my skin. I may have made some pretty amazing leaps forward by daring to add jeggings to my wardrobe. But I still cringe when I see my skin in photographs – the photos I took for the jeggings post, included.

The jeggings give me hope, though, silly as that may sound. If I have made it so far that I can wrap these thighs in form-fitting stretch pants, then surely it won’t be long now when I can look upon this skin with radical self-acceptance.

What kind of Finite Beauty beliefs do you have?