We women are taught to crave beauty from a very early age. I still have my childhood doll—a perfect china-faced beauty with rich blond curly hair, long lovely lashes, luscious red lips, manicured nails, and a flawless body. I grew up in the Marilyn Monroe era. Then, as now, actresses were icons of style, elegance and beauty and would never allow themselves to be seen in public in anything but pure glamor. In addition, 1950s moms (like my mother) had no shortages of images of women doing housework or cooking duties with beautiful dresses covered in spotless aprons and perfectly coiffed hair. The importance of beauty is ingrained—reinforced repeatedly, even more so in a society where it’s impossible to escape visual images. They are everywhere.
With all this emphasis on “looking nice,” what can a person do when they don’t feel beautiful? What does a person do when the image staring back at them in the mirror has had an appearance alteration (such as me with hair loss), which is not reflected by any of the bazillion faces on magazines, TV, Internet, social media—you name it. Ah—look within?
Yes, my hair loss has forced me to reassess my preconceived notions of what defines beauty. Alopecia has helped me realize that when it comes down to it, the only person I really need to satisfy is myself. Easy? NO. Feeling beautiful when you don’t feel beautiful is no easy task. Believing people when they tell you that “you look beautiful” is a learned behavior. So exactly what are people trying to tell me? I’m gradually realizing that the words can encompass much more than physical appearance.
“Beauty” can and should include being a good friend, wife, daughter, mother, grandmother. Looking beautiful can refer to your moral character, your personality, your smile, your sense of humor, your caring way, your ability to make someone else feel good, your generosity—your inner self. Yes, I may be bald on top but I am not bald on the inside. When someone tells me I look beautiful, I will try hard not to analyze what part of my physical appearance they are referring to and believe they are seeing me as a whole person.