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Beauty Standards: Finding the Balance Between Grooming Myself and Hiding my Heritage

3 min read

In this image-driven world, it’s easy to feel as though real-life ‘must’ look as perfect as the selfies you just saw on social media — certain beauty standards just feel like they’re forced. But what if you feel like you’re crossing some sort of line to achieve that level of perfection? As if by doing so, you’ll be doing a disservice to the culture, heritage, and defining features of your ancestral background? 

As a proud Indian and fully-trained Bharata Natyam dancer, I’ve grown up extremely in touch with my culture. With that in mind, I don’t think I would intentionally and willingly do anything that would work against it. Though, having been in the fashion, beauty, and digital space for almost three years now, I’ve come across several instances where I’ve had to make personal grooming decisions. Generally, I’d go with the motto: “If my grandma wouldn’t recommend it, I’m not doing it.” However, as I grew up, and the demands of my profession meant having to face the screen a lot more, I had to make some personal choices, and this motto slightly shifted. 

[Read Related: Sun Tans and Dark Skin: Unpacking White Privilege]

 

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I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling some level of uncertainty on what the ‘right thing’ is because when it comes to modern beauty standards, there are certain practices that could be called into question. Whether it’s bleaching, face waxing, or any of the several other treatments, I can’t help but ask myself whether these hide the defining features of what it means to be an Indian female.

Growing up, I never really cared so much about the fact that my skin color was a bit darker than others or that I had a little extra fuzz on my face. Even if I didn’t see many people that looked like me in the environment I found myself in (I went to a school that was predominantly Korean, and too, now given the industry I’m in, there is undoubtedly a representation issue), I knew being different was just a result of my genetics and figured there was little I could do to change it. I told myself I might as well learn to embrace it, and I did, for the time being, at least. 

[Read Related: Sahajan Skincare: Grounding Nourishment for South Asian Skin and Beyond]

 

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Although, nowadays, it seems that there’s a solution to every problem, or rather, every insecurity one faces. If the reason you’re looking into a beauty treatment is insecurity induced by your inability to visibly match up to others, then trust me, you’ll continue to find things to fix for the rest of your life, wasting dollar after dollar, trying to look like someone else. It’s an impossible feat, and just isn’t worth it. When the reasoning is such, the truth is, you’re just feeling pressured into trying to fit a certain norm, cater to certain beauty standards. In these cases, it’s worth reconsidering whether the outcome of the procedure is going to fix a deeper issue of your tendency to conform to pressure or just conceal it. 

Generally, when I speak about fashion and beauty, I always talk about how it helps us transform into our highest self. It’s a tool to bring about the best attitude and level of confidence in ourselves. Actually, this sentiment is quite similar to the feeling, say, after I’ve completed a successful Bharata Natyam practice session. When you’re making personal grooming decisions, try approaching it with a similar mindset. So, the next time you’re unsure whether you want to get a keratin hair straightening or a dermal filler, ask yourself if it’s really helping you transform into your best self or just into someone else. 

 

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