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Expanding our concept of beauty

Society has set some rules of what beauty is....

Society has set some tacit rules regarding what beauty is. Advertisements featuring slim models with clean and hairless skin, big lips and a lot of makeup are contributing to set these social norms. Men who desire women with these qualities are also participating in this. Even women are participating in this, as is written in the magazine Speilvendt which inspired me to write this post:

“It seems as though the modern woman is caught in an endless struggle to not get behind in the struggle to look good enough. For every new weapon women use in the war against bodily defects, they are not only raising the bar for themselves, but for other women as well. That which was meant to help one woman climb on the socio-competitive list ends up forcing other women to compete to do the same. The result is contrary to their wish, that none is in the lead… if all are beautiful, everyone is average”

Our Gurus told us to keep our hair. It’s a way to accept what God has given us and shift our attention from the outer look to our inner qualities and values. They wanted us to focus on becoming better human beings and not use all our time to try to look more attractive. Today this is a very difficult task for women. Society has set some rules and defined what beauty is and how the bodies of women should be, and remaining in our natural state is becoming more difficult. I know this, because I have been through such experiences myself, so I know from experience that it’s hard. Still I am facing situations where I must choose between what I want (which is to keep my hair and be fearless and proud of it) and what society wants (to conform to the beauty concept society has defined). I have always wanted to learn to swim properly, but the few times I have been in a swimming pool I have been too conscious about that I am different from how society defines a woman. The most difficult thing for me has been to walk to the swimming pool and knowing that I am different. And yes, till now I have been following what society wants, as I have been choosing to avoid the swimming pool or my wish to learn to swim properly. Isn’t it a sad thing to sacrifice your own desires because society wants something else? Moreover, if someone does talk behind your back because you look different, is that more important, or is it more important to do what you really want to do? Why do we let the norm that society has set for us control us and have the power to decide our actions or how we should look?

Our Gurus taught us to stand against injustice. Isn’t it an injustice that society has the power to decide what beauty is? If women are participating in raising the threshold of what beauty is and is not, then together, we can participate in giving a resistance to this movement. If we can hold on to our values, if we can be fearless and hold our hair and our bodies the way we want, then we can fight this injustice.

Yes, not cutting your hair, and not succumbing to social pressures, is tough. However, we should think that we are not doing this for ourselves only – we are doing this for the whole society. We are participating in expanding the concept of beauty that society holds. We are participating in raising the self-confidence of those women who feel they are not good enough.

If we look at it this way, then we understand that we are actually doing a sewa – a unselfish act. We are showing society what humanity is through our actions. Not cutting your hair is not just your project – it’s so much bigger than that. Your actions have an impact on your near ones, which again influences your community and has an impact on the whole society.

Be the change. Be brave. Be what you want to be. Let’s expand the beauty-concept together.

So, I went swimming some time ago, keeping this thought in mind while walking to the swimming pool. That I am doing this not just for myself, but for society as a whole. Just this thought gave me a whole different experience than I ever had before. I was more confident, I didn’t think about what others might be thinking, and I began to learn to swim with a friend of mine.

My request to you today is to ask yourself, honestly, are your actions because of what society wants you to do or are they based on what YOU want? What do you want to do the rest of your life? Follow what society wants or what you want? Give it a thought.

As I think about it, perhaps I should start to go swimming more. Not just because I want to swim, but because I want to participate in expanding the concept of beauty. For the sake of all those women who conform to society’s norms because they allow society to force them to do it, not because they want to do it.

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Harveen Kaur

Harveen Kaur

I am a clinical psychology student - have one year left before I am graduated and will be working as a psychologist. I am also active in the children's sikh group here in Norway, where I am the leader of the initiative "miljøsikh" which works with the environment.

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