I’ve found myself using the term competitive beauty of late. I don’t know if I heard it somewhere or not, but it seems to capture more specifically the narrow kind of beauty we talk about in reference to modern fitness and gym training.
You might have heard that the secret to beauty lies in imperfection. But of course, if it’s what makes you beautiful… it isn’t an imperfection. And in this, we can see how askew the whole standard has become. It’s not the things between us that are the same, that make us unique.
And for my money, beauty lies in character, not in sameness.
Modern fitness culture would have you believe that beauty is fragile and temporal, that it is not resistant to age, that it decays, that it does not persevere across weight fluctuations, that we fight an inevitable decline – but to my mind, beauty transforms – it does not diminish. It changes as you age, it matures with you, and it transforms as your weight shifts in one way or another. But it can also surprise you.
I heard one time that the story of our lives is written upon our faces. You can’t rush that, or emphasize it by living harder. Yes, you live. But do you live hard?
Competitive beauty, however, believes in absolutes and hierarchy. It does not acknowledge that beauty may be timeless, ageless, that it exists in softness and vulnerability, as well as in strength and resilience, that it crosses ages and continents and sexes. Beauty can and does exist in relation only to itself, without relying on other things being more ugly, and it may not be dependent upon effort, work, or others having achieved less, or being less.
Because we all possess character, and your character is not dependent on some arbitrary, standardized hierarchy. More often than not, it is comprised of the things you cannot change, that you take for granted or don’t even realise exist.
What’s scary is this: if beauty exists naturally in you as you are, what is there that you can play into? How do you make people like you more, if you don’t know what to do, what to work at, to make yourself more beautiful? What can you accentuate, what body parts can you train? What if beauty does exist, but it does so in spite of your efforts, and it is not under your control?