This semester at college I've been taking a History of Psychology class from Professor Gantt, and we've been learning about the philosophical idea of Naturalism, particularly the viewpoints of Epicurus. Essentially, Naturalism breaks down into two categories: the Metaphysical (the unseen word) and Materialism (the world as we see it). 

In order to explain the differences between the two categories of Naturalism, Professor Gantt asked us a series of question to get our mental wheels turning. 

For example: 
"What is beauty? Is it something eternal, or merely what we perceive to be pleasurable?"

He went on to say: 
"...You could go back and forth between Mozart and Metalica. Arguing back and forth about what is beautiful, really beautiful, and what is simply pleasing a certain time and place in culture. Is there something about a piece of art or music, what have you, that makes it beautiful because it corresponds to some eternal, unchanging ideal of the beautiful. Or is beauty simply in the eye of the beholder? I like this. And that means its beautiful to me, so that's the only kind of beauty there is. Or is there an ideal?"

Knew it. 

This discussion caused me to wonder what I thought beauty to be. After thinking about it for a while, I realized just how much I've been influenced by the preferences of society and those around me. Why is it that we allow ideals and pleasurable perceptions to be our chief indicators of beauty?

During my Junior year of high school, I dieted and starved myself  in order to reach an ideal that I didn't realize to be impossible until it was too late. It probably didn't help that most of my friends cheered me on and told me how much better I looked...especially my guy"friends". (I don't want to seemingly abandon my feminist values by saying this, but I believe that women reflect the men around them.

As soon as I gained the weight back (plus some extra), the compliments, along with the boys, went away. I felt like I had lost a part of myself, a piece of my identity. I wasn't the skinny, cute girl anymore; I was Alyson, the girl who gained weight. Since I no longer fit the ideal, or even my own perception of beauty, I felt worthless. If I didn't like myself, how could anyone else? 

I was so obsessed with how others perceived my appearance that I let those worries shape who I was and ultimately, how I thought about myself.

I guess I confused attraction with beauty. 

I spent too long dwelling on the petty opinions of people who didn't matter, when in reality, the only opinion that mattered was my own...however warped it was.

"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for." -Epicurus

I'm still trying to define what I believe beauty to be, especially when it concerns my own body,
but in the end:

"I like this. And that means it's beautiful to me." 

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