'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder' is such a well known phrase that few of us stops to think about it. Does the saying suggest that defining ourselves as beautiful is out of our hands, for an external 'beholder' to judge? Or can we each look at ourselves afresh and find beauty in what we see? Most interpret the phrase to mean that there is no 'universal standard' of beauty; we all find different things and different people beautiful.
It is certainly cliched to say that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' but that does not necessarily make it any less true. We do all perceive beauty differently and are attracted to different things or individuals. Some people think that having red hair is the greatest misfortune to befall a person, others think it is incredibly sexy. Some love being outdoors and think nature is stunning, others see only mud and take much more pleasure in architecture. Personal tastes vary hugely and there is certainly no 'bench mark' of beauty.
However, I think it would be foolish to deny that there are trends. We still live in a racist society where being white, or having wide eyes and straight hair is valued. We are going through a phase in fashion where being stick thin is all the rage. We still live in an ableist society, that equates 'disability' with being unattractive. This is wrong and most people know it is shallow, but, for many of us, those prejudices are deeply ingrained. No one wants to admit being racist, but we have to confront our stereotypes in order to tackle the problem.
It may be true to say that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder', but very often the eyes are seeing with years of indoctrination about what 'beauty' means. We have ideals of beauty shown us in every advert, pouring out of the papers, and glaring from our TV screens. Regardless of personal inclination, if you're told over and over that being skinny means being beautiful then you will start to believe it.
The good news is: we can start to undo that. By acknowledging our stereotypes of beauty, and where they come from, we can start to see more clearly. Most of us know that 'fat shaming' is wrong but still sometimes fall into the trap, both towards ourselves and others. Catch yourself doing it!
The first impression is often the one society has managed to implant on your brain. The second is yours. The feeling of guilt that should follow fat shaming or slut shaming or any other kind of shaming means you're starting to turn the tide.
Start by looking at yourself a little differently. Free your mind from the indoctrination we grow up with, and start to use your own eyes to behold your beauty for what it is: unique. Broaden that out to friends, to family, to colleagues, to people you pass on the street, to those deemed 'ugly' in films, to those on the other side of the world... Stop judging by the standards none of us can meet.
If 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' then lets try and clear our own eyes, before beholding beauty beyond the labels.