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Beauty: Traditional View vs. Self-Image Essay

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Updated: Sep 2nd, 2021


Different people have different views as to what exactly the phrase, ‘being beautiful’ means, this has led to the coining of different sayings to refer to the above. My favorite saying when it comes to beauty is, “One man’s poison is another man’s meat”, implying that what one man might view in disdain and contempt another might find quite pleasing and essential. My theory is that people come up with different defense mechanisms to safeguard their ego, and this leads to everyone feeling that they are beautiful, with failure to do so normally leading to low self-esteem and lack of confidence.

Three stories in thematic writings, a collection of different writings that details different great works that have been collected over time have served to capture these varying opinions as to what exactly is beauty. Particularly of interest this time around, are the following three stories of young women with different views and perspectives on what beauty is:

  1. Beauty when the other dancer is the self
  2. The clan of one-breasted women
  3. Being a cripple.

Beauty when the other dancer is the Self

The main character believes in the beauty of the inner self and the beauty shown from within due to the spirit, this we pick from her passage, on the first time she was singing in front of a church congregation, at a time when she was about 6 years old. Unfortunately, the main character is then involved in an accident, in which she is blinded.

Surprisingly at this age, she does not find being blind as terrifying as the fact that her looks have taken a dip for the worse, she is then not able to stare at anyone let alone raise her head.

Later, after growing into a young woman, she asks her mother and sister whether she had changed a question they find a bit awkward to respond to, and pretend that they do not understand and eventually tell her that she has not changed, this makes her feel like they are trying to insulate her from the real world the cruel world. Her view is that they treat her in such a way because she is disabled.

After she is involved in an accident with the pellet guns, she grows up to be bitter and loses her self esteem, this is especially seen in the way she reacts to the journalist who comes to interviews her concerning her book, in which she claims she only hears the “whatever” as opposed to the “glamorous”, these insecurities about her looks are so severe she even tries to avoid taking a photograph and tries to avoid making eye contact with her daughter, this makes one get a good feeling of just how much her insecurities have grown since she was six years old and “Sassy”.

Though it is this aspect that she fears of facing her daughter that ends up freeing her by making her realize that indeed the only other “dancer” setting the standards as to what beauty is. She then realizes as her daughter had told her, that she has a world in her eye, which has taught her quite a lot about pain, inner vision, and love, enabling her to reconcile and reunite with her old self.

The Clan of the One Breasted Women

This is a story of a woman who suffers the hands of breast cancer, as she observes the death of her mother and her aunts, this then leads her to reason that they belong to a special clan which she calls the clan of one-breasted women who have undergone mastectomy.

The picture depicted by this story is of a character that doesn’t have time to focus on cosmetic issues like beauty or does not care. The fact that the cause of her pain in the desert atomic bomb trials have not been acknowledged as a cause of cancer and abolished does not help matters leading her to take matters into her own hands thus ending up being arrested. She says she suffered nursing beautiful women from their state of beauty to a pathetic state, in which they lost their hair among other attributes, which she believes make one beautiful. According to her beauty is defined by physical attributes

Being a Cripple

This story talks of a woman who is without both limbs and therefore is disabled but prefers to be called by the not-so-subtle name, a cripple. She wants to be seen as a tough customer who likes situations told like they are, and that certain truths do not obey dictates of language.

This crippled mother is however very proud of herself and believes in her own identity and not in any that is created for her, she comes through as an individual who does not like being treated specially for being disabled, an issue she finds quite annoying. This, however, does not mean she has been without her doubts, she says that, although she used to feel insecure, with time she has learned to cope with her situation and accept herself, for what she is, and not what others make of her. This then leads us to the conclusion that she has her definition of beauty which does not follow any prescribed criteria except her own; we also see that she is a very proud person.

In summary, these three scenarios help us capture three different definitions of beauty or at least self-perception which arise from the individual’s different views on the important things in life. The first case is very sensitive and aware of her surroundings and how other people view her, this leads her to have a very superficial definition of beauty. The second instance has not even the time to refer to beauty even 0nce implying she does not care that much about beauty but you get the feeling that her physical attributes do determine how beautiful one is. Finally, the final character in the last story the cripple comes through as a strong-minded individual who is capable of withstanding huge amounts of stress and only lets herself and no one else dictate3 to her what to do. This then leads us to conclude that to her beauty is what she defines it as.


Thematic readings: An Anthology, “beauty: when the other dancer is the self”, “the clan of the one-breasted women”, “being a cripple”.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Beauty: Traditional View vs. Self-Image'. 2 September.

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