Defining Beauty

According to the dictionary, the word beauty is defined as a "quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations, a meaningful design or pattern, or something else." If this is the definition of beauty, why is it that we all categorize beauty as only being based on the outer appearance rather than the inner or overall picture of an individual? It is no wonder that only 2% of women describe themselves as beautiful when we live in a society where the outer and physical appearance of an individual can make or break them.

My name is Katherine Schwarzenegger, and I'm the author of the soon to be released book Rock What You've Got: Secrets to Loving Your Inner and Outer Beauty, From Someone Who's Been There and Back. I've always had an interest in the concept of beauty and how it can mean so many different things to different people. In my book, I specifically discuss body image, self-esteem, and the pressures of the media on women, especially on young girls, to be thin. Whether it is media images in magazines, billboards, or advertisements, photoshopping and airbrushing have reached an extreme. When did our ideal change from natural beauty to overly retouched and impossibly perfect images? In today's society, it seems like everyone is on the move to be at their most perfect, but what for? So you can look like the woman you saw on a Sunset Boulevard billboard? Or the cover of a magazine you saw in your doctor's office? If so, we need to know that those images are far from real. Day after day, we stress ourselves out because of the incredible pressure we feel to look and be perfect all day every day. This is not an age specific issue, this is one that unfortunately hits girls as young as 8 years old. When we grow up in a society that bombards us with images of flawless perfection, it is no wonder that our anxiety level is at such a high.

Young girls today are at the greatest risk, because they have the hardest time deciphering what is real from what isn't. They look at images and assume they're what they should be aspiring to: flawless skin, shiny hair, an emaciated stick thin figure, perfect makeup, and impossibly expensive clothing.

This summer I have had the privilege to work with the ABC Family show Huge, which discusses upfront the pressure to be thin and having low self-esteem in a world where everyone seems to have one as high as a skyscraper. I have a series called "Ask Katherine" where every week I answer a few questions sent in from girls and mothers from all across America. The questions I've received have been nothing short of honest, tear-jerking, moving, and real. The stress and anxiety that girls put themselves through to be thin and perfect is unbelievable. When I read these questions from girls about their wish to be thin, and their temptations to do something drastic to ensure that it happens, I am heartbroken. I can't help but get frustrated with our society and where we have allowed it to go. The fear that mothers express about how to "save" or "help" their daughters is devastating.

It is time that we all come together and realize that yes, it is fun to do our hair and put on makeup, and great to work out and eat healthy, but that it is perfectly okay to be yourself and to be beautiful at any shape or size.

Over the course of the next few weeks I will be discussing the topics that came up the most when I was asked questions by young girls about body image. From building one's self-esteem, to dealing with being compared to siblings and friends, to the pressure from the media to be perfect, I will cover it all -- so stay tuned!