Insecurities and Beauty Standards

Growing up, I was raised by my mother and grandmother who had two different views of beauty. My mother, who had fully embraced what was beautiful in America and my grams, who held on tightly to the reigns of culture and past.

Despite these two having discussions of what looks good, I’ve always admired the both of them and cherished what they both taught me. I remember this feeling of amazement and awe as I stared at my mother’s overflowing makeup box. She kept it atop the closet ledge so I wouldn’t be able to get my hands on it. Back then makeup boxes weren’t as fancy as the ones found in Sephora or say, Target or Walmart. It was a modest caboodle, now considered a vintage item these days. But in my youth, it was filled to the brim with lipsticks, foundations that were either too light (in the 90’s making your face lighter was all the rage), an array of lip liners, mascaras that gave you that cool chunky, spider legs look, eye shadows of every color, the occasional stray nail polish, and the infamous and once intimidating….eye lash curler. I was never allowed to wear any because there was always the notion that wearing makeup at an early age would attribute to wrinkles, unclear skin, and-to my grams, it was simply age-inappropriate. Still I remember my mom letting me play with her makeup from time to time, and it was fun smearing lipstick all over my face, thinking I was the queen of the world at such a young age. Because that’s what the power of makeup does to you. It makes you feel empowered and the feeling of empowerment makes you think you’re wearing a crown.

I honestly didn’t think at the time that not being allowed to wear makeup or even think about beauty while I was child effected me much, but looking back I did have a hard time grasping on to beauty trends outside of my home life. In middle school it was normal for girls to start shaving their legs, plucking their eyebrows to the thinnest degree, putting on lip smackers, painting glitter over their eyes, and brushing their lashes with the freshest bottle of Maybelline’s Great Lash, or color their hair into these chunky highlights. For me the thought of shaving my legs scared me. Matter of fact at the time, I liked them hairy. They kept me warm during the winter months and middle school boys never caught interest me so I never worried about looking nice. I never quite fit in with the girls throughout my school years. I think it was because I was hairy and didn’t care to wear the latest clothes, and I ate whatever the heck I wanted too. I don’t regret any of it.

I’m grateful for both women who taught me two different styles of beauty. My grams let me enjoy my youth and helped me embrace natural beauty during my teen years. I even started my own skin care routine at 17 and realized the importance of taking care of it. She taught me that there was a lot more to life than boys and being in love, which helped more focus more on making friends, having fun, and my education- not worrying about what I looked like. And of course, my mother taught me that a little bit of makeup can go a long way. Trying out new looks, finding the latest products, and enhancing your beauty is fun and a real confidence booster.

Still there are some insecurities that I carry with me till this day. Big lips is not a desired feature in Asia. In fact lip reduction surgeries are becoming popular in countries like Thailand because many see it as a nuisance. The stitches look very scary, so I won’t post them on here, but you should see it for yourself if you’re curious. This is a stark contrast from America, where big lips are the exception. Growing up, other than my mother, I was the only child in the family that had big lips and I used to hate them. I used to never wear anything at all on my lips because I would be scared of the comments and the looks I get from people. I remember heading to school one day while wearing lipstick and a classmate commented that they looked fake. I don’t know what it is about now, maybe it’s because we now live in the era of Kylie lip kits, but I’ve learned to ignore the comments and paint my lips in beautiful bold and neutral colors. I started to put lipstick on about two years ago, and I’m still learning to put it on nicely.

Opalescent, porcelain pale skin is the norm in Asia and being born and raised under the California sun did not help me with this. Women in China, Japan, and Korea often wear SPF as a part of their skincare arsenal. It is sold everywhere, even in convenience stores. I remember visiting Japan one summer and checked out their skincare products at a random seven eleven (almost like a gas station/convenience store in America) and I was at a loss for words. It’s no wonder Asian skincare brands have blasted in popularity over the last year because even their simplest product is amazing. Asian women take it one step further by employing special hats and even full face covers because they are that afraid of the sun damaging their skin. Now I wear SPF religiously but for some reason I grew up a golden child. My grams would usually chastise me for running outside without a hat on and my mom wouldn’t let me go swimming because I would be a few shades darker after a trip back from the local water park. I’ve definitely had to learn to embrace my skin color because most of my family members were pale in comparison.

Thin physiques and toned bodies are prized in both cultures, and you guessed it, I’ve always been insecure about that as well. But being the grown up that I am, I’ve learned to realize that a lot of women are in my shoes. No matter what their size, they always have some part of their body that they don’t like. It’s definitely hard to achieve confidence and self love when you have all these images floating around the internet about the “perfect body,” or the “perfect look.” Being a descendent from two different cultures makes it extra hard because you don’t know what is considered perfect, and if you, yourself can even reach this level of perfection. But as the grown adult that I am, I’ve come to think…who even sets these standards for beauty in any culture? And why do we feel inadequate when we do not reach them? Maybe it’s our deep human need to be a part of something because I know that a lot of people whether they admit it or not, are afraid to be and feel different. Naturally we all want to fit in, we all want to look a certain way, and when we don’t, we feel bad about ourselves no matter what culture we are born into.

I am probably never going to reach either standards in America or Asia, and that’s just fine with me. It’s taken me some time to realize this and the key was self acceptance and fostering confidence by knowing that I am enough. I am thankful for my life lessons that I learned through both my mom and grams. Sometimes I wonder if I were to have gotten into makeup at an earlier age, I’d probably be spectacular at makeup by this time. Or if I were to be more self conscious of my body and change it to fit the standards of either beauty, I wonder if I’d be happier that I am now because I fit in? It’s hard to measure happiness because it varies for so many people. I think despite standards, rules, and societal beliefs-even though it does sound very cliche… you should do what makes you happiest. And if being in your own skin makes you happy, like it does me, then by all means ignore the standards, and continue to live your life to the fullest.

Always be brave,bold, and beautiful,

Love,

V