I read the sad but true story about Apryl who paid a very high price to have her figure changed. Growing up, Apryl was frequently teased by friends and family about her ‘pancake’ backside.
It resulted in deep-seated feelings of insecurity. Apryl made a promise to herself that when she had the means to do so, she would buy herself a better rear end so to speak.
When someone told her about cheap “silicone butt injection’ treatments, she saw herself with the ‘apple curves’ she had been obsessed with for so long.
However, instead of getting what she wanted, Apryl was left with an infection that eventually resulted in the amputation of both hands and feet. Ironically, much of her buttocks had to be cut off as well to save her life.
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Now Apryl goes around sharing her story to save others from a similar predicament befalling them. Is there a message in her story for all of us?
Reading about Apryl’s story (Essence magazine) got me thinking about the lengths we are willing to go to obtain ‘beauty’.
I remember the first time I had my eyebrows waxed. Imagine hot wax plus body hair being ripped. The pain was intense and unpleasant. I wondered why on earth I was putting myself through this.
“Will I do it again”? I asked myself then. “No way”. That was then. But the memory of the pain has a way of diminishing over time and after all, all you care about is the look.
In the quest for beauty, we do everything imaginable to change the less desirable features and enhance the desirable ones. We bleach, whiten, pluck, straighten, cut, shave and curl.
We spend far too long gazing back at that person in the mirror, scrutinising, worrying, and wishing.
If only our nose was smaller, if our forehead could just be a little bit flatter, arms more toned and if only skin colour was different.
To some extent, the desire to enhance ourselves is in our make-up; the use of cosmetics and various skin creams, to dress up, to have our hair done, to spend a little extra time in the bathroom.
We all want to look good, women and yes, men too. Oh yes they do! Everyone wants to look good. If not, why do you spend that extra time looking at yourself again in the mirror? Why that extra effort to shave or pull out that facial hair? We all have something about ourselves we wish was a little different.
The good news for women is that we can cover up any blemishes and highlight our good features with makeup, hair extensions, add some nails, eyelashes and bravo you have a transformation.
But if you’re a guy, you are stuck with what you’ve got. Well, pretty much.
There are so many things that can be done for the sake of beauty (whose definition anyway?), but are they all good for us? Am I saying there is anything wrong with trying to improve your appearance? Definitely not.
What I am saying is that too often we get caught up in ideals of what ‘beauty’ should look like. So we try to conform and end up doing things with far reaching consequences than bargained for.
If there is anything I know about beauty, I know it is subjective. Having travelled around the world quite a bit, I have come to see that the elements of beauty are unique to each culture.
In one country, having curves and being bountifully endowed is an asset. Cross over to another country on this same planet we call earth, and suddenly the description changes. Bountiful is re-described as obesity. ‘Pancake’ becomes more desirable than ‘Apple’ or ‘Pear’. What seems like an asset in one country is seen as a liability in another. So what do you do? What is beauty?
Let’s look at the dictionary definition of beauty? Beauty is ‘a characteristic of a person, place, animal, object or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure or satisfaction’. Which means that what will give one person pleasure might not necessarily evoke the same kind of feeling in another person.
Beauty comes in different forms for every person. What makes someone attractive to another is based on their personal definition. And so because beauty is subjective, we can’t let others decide for us. When we allow other people to define what is beautiful, we fail to express and accept our own individuality.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the desire to look good. What I want to dispel is this notion that you have to fit into someone’s definition and approval of what beauty is.
What is beautiful to you? Take your definition and make it your own. Natural, artificial, whatever. Define it yourself, and if that is what beauty means to you, then that is what you are.
Weigh the consequences of every decision you make and consider if it is worth it. What will be the effects on your health? Is it worth it to bleach your skin?
There is a price to pay for everything but should it be at the cost of your health and wellbeing? That, my friend, I think is too high a price to pay.
By Barbara Sai Djangmah/The Mirror / Ghana
The writer is a lifestyle coach and author of ‘The Seduction of Food’.