Beauty cannot be defined.

Ever since I was a child, I have been told over and over again, what beauty is, and what steps I should follow to ensure that I become beautiful. And because of this, all through the years that I was growing up, I struggled with my body image and trying to achieve the so-called beauty stereotype.

But as a child, I did not understand what the fuss was all about. Why would my grandmother instruct my mom to keep me from playing in the sun for too long, or why should she control the amount of food that I eat? Why would my mother scold me for talking in a loud voice, or laughing loudly? When I did not understand still, they had to tell me what beauty is (sweet voice, fair skin, petite frame) and what beauty isn’t (tall, dark skin, loud voice, fat).

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The women in my life hated certain parts of their body. I was confused. Beauty, for me, was unspecified. My grandmother, with her wrinkles and her dainty pearls; my mom, and the lines that formed beneath her green eyes and outlined her mouth when she smiled; and my aunt, with her long and pointy ears that so resembled mine, were beautiful. What they thought were flaws, were beautiful to me. In the eyes of a child, beauty is boundless and effortless.

Honestly, I did not care that the sun would make my skin more tan than it already was, or that the food I eat would give me spots on my skin, or how loud I’d sound when I laughed. I was just a child, and children will be children. I did not know that having a darker skin color was shameful, or having a natural deep voice was a bad thing. I thought I was beautiful, too, with all my crooked teeth and my tan skin and my loud voice. I did not, for one second, think that I was not beautiful.

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With my mom’s youngest sister. I must be 6 or younger.

Everything changed when I started growing up. Since I used to play in the sun a lot, I got tan. More tan, than I already was. My skin color was prominent than ever because my mother, siblings, and all of my cousins were fair-skinned. They were milk, and I was chocolate milk. That did not bother me. But everyone in my family acted as if it was the most horrendous thing ever happen to me. As I started my teens, their behavior got worse. My grandmother would concoct home remedies to lighten my skin color, and my mom and aunt forced me bleach my face. Being told that the color of my skin is not beauty, was shattering. And since then, I stopped looking in the mirror.

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My siblings were as white as snow, and I was as dark as coal. My best friend was fair, and I was not. My grandmother had whiter skin than me. I got so self-conscious that I stopped appearing in photographs altogether. I hated it when my picture got taken, because my cruel aunt and cousins would make fun of my color and my then crooked teeth.

My dad’s sister, while we were going through old family pictures one day, told me that when I was born and she saw me for the first time, she shrieked because I had really brown skin. She even said that she asked God what her poor brother had done to deserve such a daughter. Those were her exact words, but in Urdu.

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With grandparents. I was 10 here.

My skin color was an embarrassment, I was starting to feel embarrassed about myself. I stopped smiling. I stopped loving myself. 

Pakistani, and Indian people alike, have a strong beauty standard that concerns the skin color of girls. The common misconception and belief in my society is, that if a girl has dark skin, she will have trouble getting a great marriage proposal because nobody desires a dark-skinned wife and daughter-in-law (sadly, this is 10000000% true).

For them, beauty is fair skin. And that’s probably because of the British rule over us for many years. The British were fair-skinned, white, and pale, considering the climate and weather of the place where they lived. And the people of Subcontinent (Pakistan and India) lived in opposite conditions, and thus, had brown skin as compared to the British.

Despite of their distressing rule over the Subcontinent, I believe that the people were quite mesmerized by their white skin. They probably thought it was the epitome of beauty. And that has stuck since and has become the stereotype of beauty in my society. Hence, the huge production, demand and sale of fairness and bleach face creams in India and Pakistan:

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I let these things affect me every day for a number of years. I let myself be haunted by this… depressed by this, night after night. I was crying all the time, hating the world. I wanted white skin because I thought that would make me beautiful. Turns out I was wrong. And I have realized this now. I’ve decided I won’t let myself be exploited by some twisted logic. I do not agree with society’s portrayal of beauty. It’s superficial and fake. Yes, beautiful people exist. But just like you can’t compare apples with oranges, or two classic movies, you can’t also just compare beauty. And it’s better to love yourself and not live with a dark cloud hovering above your head all the time. You need to be happy to have a healthy mind.

Society has to change. Beauty cannot be defined. All over the world, people are crying themselves to sleep, starving, cutting, loathing their bodies, and undergoing multiple surgeries to change the way they look. Beauty comes in all shapes, colors and sizes. We say that a lot of times, but we need to believe it, too. Believe that you are beautiful, believe that you are enough.

My inspiration behind this blog post:

Great! Another Thing to Hate About Ourselves by Jennifer Weiner

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22 thoughts on “Beauty cannot be defined.

  1. God created us in is in his own image or so it is called . To define human beauty we do need a man like Ghalib but still a certain personification of feminine beauty (slim ,white ,tall , obedient Nokrani )is prevalent in our society. You are right that is has to do a lot with our colonial past .
    The Urdu word Aurat literally translates into a ” a thing to hide ” . As a patriarchal society we do have a misogynist stereotypes .The thing that i hate most about our culture is the GENDER HYPOCRISY .
    Yesterday my brother was telling me a sms joke that the requirement for Paki Boy for a wife is quite simple he needs a Super Model wearing Hijab and saying LABAIK on his every command. And if a man says Labaik he is called Zun Mureed , Joroo ka gulam and is not considered as Mard ka Bacha by his friends or family .What a hypocrisy ……

    Liked by 1 person

    • I absolutely agree! Hypocrisy at it’s worst… It’s extremely sad. Seems like our society still needs time to evolve- to get rid of these gender roles/stereotypes completely. The world is moving forward, and yet, Pakistani society acts illiterate and is still trying to clutch the past.

      Thanks for the comment! The obedient nokrani part cracked me up. Haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beauty isn’t measured in lbs or with fairness tone! 😀 It’s one of the psychology that has lasted in the sub-continent. For the older generation the word beautiful has a lot to mean with being skinny. But I think it’s no longer there in the minds of the new generation (80’s and on).
    I still say beauty comes in all shapes and sizes when my eyes glare at some yummy food. 😛
    For me beauty means to have a beautiful mind with a lovely heart. 🙂
    I read a definition of beautiful on the first page of a book stating, ‘ A person who is reading this.’ 😉
    Thanks for posting Mahrukh. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You are absolutely beautiful the way you are! This blog post is so incredible, and dripping with raw truth. Society needs to shape up. I don’t think this mindset is only for the desi people, it is also among the Arabs, even the English and westerners. Blonde hair and blue eyed is considered more beautiful than black skin and black hair, lighter Arabs are considered more beautiful than darker ones. It is grotesque. People don’t realize that true beauty comes from within, and sadly, with the way I observe society is progressing, I don’t think they will. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this post! You’re absolutely right. This idea of associating fair skin with beauty is so embedded in us and our culture that even if we’re educated we still find ourselves criticising others based on how they look and measuring their beauty by how fair they are. We’re all creations of God and unique in our own way and we’d be insulting God if we criticise his creations based on how they look. When I find myself comparing my skin colour with someone who is fairer, or if I do end up finding fair-skinned girls to be beautiful, I just stop myself for a moment, remind myself how shallow that is, and then i force myself to look beneath people’s exteriors. Because honestly just because someone has fairer skin does not guarantee that they’re beautiful beneath their exteriors. And it would do the world much good, if we stopped judging people by their skin colours. People are not their skin colour. Personally mahrukh, I think you’re beautiful. You’ve got a lovely smile and lovely features as well. And I’m not just saying this to make you feel better. I actually mean it. Ignore people if they tell you otherwise. Once you love yourself for the way you are, you’ll care for little else 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh My God…. I am speechless. Okay. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time out to read my post… And thank you so much for your kind words. You just made me feel 100 times happier… Thank you.

      I absolutely agree with you. People are not their skin color. However, this will take a long time to fade away from Pakistani culture. But it’s up to people like us to take a stand against this stereotype, and change this perception. Thank you so much for your comment. It means a lot. 🙂

      God bless! xx

      Like

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