The Concept of Beauty's Pain

Categories: The Alchemist

From the moment women wake up to the moment they close their eyes, they are overwhelmed with information and patterns on how they should behave or look. Perceptions made through gratuitous and mostly superfluous manners help woman garner a certain respect from their peers, leading to a hierarchy of how and who they should be. In the short story “Where are you going, Where have you been?” by Joyce Carol Oakes (1966) contains an egotistical 15 year old girl named Connie who is preoccupied with her appearances in spite of her mother who scolds her to be more like her older sister, June, who seems to set a wonderful example for young women, such as saving money and helping the parents.

June receives admiration from the parents for doing so, meanwhile, Connie daydreams of her life without her family in it, criticizing every move she makes and who she makes them with. During this adolescence stage, young women attempt to please everyone around them by how they appear, act, and execute oneself.

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Women strive to fit this manifestation. Is it better to be accepted as a woman fitting this mold or to stand apart and become who we are, despite social exclusion? Comment by Walker, Elizabeth Kathleen: Removed “s” word shouldn’t be plural. Comment by Walker, Elizabeth Kathleen: Removed “s” word shouldn’t be plural. Comment by Walker, Elizabeth Kathleen: Who is She? June or Connie? Comment by Walker, Elizabeth Kathleen: Remember essay should be in third person.

“Do I look fat?” or its many connotations are asked by women.

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Everyone has experienced this iconic question at one time or another in some way. A friend may have asked it as she was getting ready for a date, muttering these words to herself as she was looking into the mirror just getting ready for school shaking her head in disapproval; this quintessential four-word question implies to a standard of beauty that everyone strives to meet. A standard of beauty that is absolutely tiring and unattainable to meet. The definition of beauty is constantly changing and differs from culture to culture.

Everyone has experienced the moment when seeing a sunset that automatically captures the pure essence in just blink of an eye, hearing a song that just brings joy to one's heart, or admiring a painting that stirs our imagination. As human being's, we are drawn to beauty, but what is it that defines beauty? In today’s society, people idolize the woman who is “skinny, large breasts, tan (but, not too dark), and blonde.” The woman described is who others aspire to be. In “Pain in Beauty” by Frank-M. Staemmler (2013) highlights the pain that beauty brings, by losing our individuality to become a part of today’s society. The physical and physiological pain that women bring to themselves for the acceptance of others takes an insatiable toll that can never be fully paid.  Comment by Walker, Elizabeth Kathleen: This means the health of organs. Do you mean psychological?

Many women partake in cosmetic and body sculpting (such as; the gym and fad diets) to obtain their desired appearance. Other women may even experience the psychological issue known as an eating disorder. It may have started as an attempt to lose weight, whether it may be 5 pounds or 3 ounces. Either way, neither of these actions are healthy for the human body. The amount of stress that is caused to the body is extremely dangerous and may be life threatening. More women are damaged by an eating disorder, more commonly Anorexia, or endured cosmetic surgery. Center for Discovery states, “As many as 20 percent of the people who suffer from anorexia will eventually die from it. And the longer a person suffers from anorexia, the greater their risk of dying becomes.” If people did not feel as compelled to reach a certain level of excellence in order to feel accepted by peers, then the number of people who die from eating disorders or surgeries would lower. How can society help them? We can choose to not engage in these so called day-to-day “rituals”, because at the end of the day, it’s up to the individuals to decide if they’re beautiful.

The absolute all-around question women ask themselves multiple times a day, “Am I good enough?”. Unfortunately, this is what society has come to. There is generally a lot of unnecessary pressure to “pile up” in today’s culture. Feeling as if there’s something wrong, for example, with being single at a certain age, not making enough money as a neighbor, not having a lot of friends, or the inevitable - not looking or acting a certain way while in the midst of others. In this moment, women meticulously look for that confirmation that states that they are in fact, a nobody. No woman, or anyone for that matter, should feel this way.

“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist. Every hour, women give unnecessary suggestions or opinions in regard to other’s lives acting as the judge, even for close personal peers. Meanwhile, when it comes to self-realization, people run the other direction rather than facing the problem at hand. Focusing on another's’ life can provide the satisfaction when looking into their failures in life. People fall back on the demeaning thought of “at least I’m better than that”, but in realization that’s on a good day. It not only fills the body with false pride but also blocks the mind from realizing one’s mistakes and achieving the goals once pursued. A women’s interest in other women is understandable and very, very common but who’s to say it’s right or wrong? It’s merely a human tendency to be curious to know what other people are doing and saying.

Each human on this earth has a unique characteristic that sets them apart from one another. Accepting this characteristic, or otherwise known as “flaw”, brings another level of self-respect to the mind, body and spirit. Knowing it’s something one cannot (or won’t) change, gives the only option to truly love and embrace that particular body. Not having the desire for someone else to do so, because women can’t seem to find the courage to look past the flaw in the mirror just a bit longer to realize that they are, in fact, beautiful. That they are enough.

Helping one woman can help all women. When someone smiles at another, essentially they smile back; when someone is in pain, the body naturally resonates that emotion or physical reaction. Lincoln Tracy's research in Wiley Pyschophysiology, shows that women tend to have a stronger trait for empathy than men. Meaning that the wiring of empathy is so deep for women that just experiencing one's pain can cause a woman to experience distraught emotions, even if its from afar. Instead of supporting the stereotype that all women are judgmental and petty, it’s time for women to start praising each other through achievement and disregarding failures as no more then a bump in the road or a learning point.

It’s about being intentional with the words and feelings, rather than criticizing every move someone makes. A life without self-doubt, judgement and self-loathing drifts by and helps one wake up and stay happier throughout the day. What a healthy life one may have, or perhaps even lead for others to have. In the developed world women forget the meaning and difference that small gestures and compliments make.  The saying everyone grows up with, 'The happiest people in life are the givers, not the takers'. Reaching past the actions of giving time or gifts, the connections people have with one another is what gives everyone more longevity.

Work Cited:

  • Oates, Joyce Carol. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been.” College Composition II,
  • ENG 112, Mr. Lessick. Tidewater Community College. Spring 2019. Reading.
  • STAEMMLER, FRANK-M. “Pain in Beauty” Gestalt Review.
  • 2013, Vol. 17 Issue 3, p245-262. 18p. DOI: 10.5325/gestaltreview.17.3.0245.
  • Ettun, Rachel; Schultz, Michael; Bar-Sela, Gil. “Transforming Pain in Beauty”
  • Evidence-based Complementary & Alternative Medicine (eCAM).2014, Vol. 2014,
  • p1-7. 7p. DOI: 10.1155/2014/789852.
  • Anorexia: The Body Neglected, by Gina Shaw. Retrieved November 18, 2016.
  • Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998. Print.
  • Arcelus, J., Mitchell, A. J., Wales, J., & Nielsen, S. Center for Discovery. (2011).
  • Lincoln M. Tracy, Psychophysiology. Oct2017, Vol. 54 Issue 10, p1549-1558. 10p.
Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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The Concept of Beauty's Pain. (2021, Dec 03). Retrieved from

The Concept of Beauty's Pain essay
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