In conjunction with National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Project HEAL's #WhatMakesMeBeautiful campaign strives to change the conversation surrounding what beauty means. A non-profit organization providing financial and emotional support for those battling eating disorders, Project HEAL is launching this thought-provoking project with the hope that it will act as a catalyst for reframing the definition of beauty and the purpose it serves. And, you guys, that really is a beautiful thing.
As women, we are constantly inundated with conflicting notions of what makes a woman beautiful. We're often the target demographic of initiatives built purely around physical parameters. With every passing year, it seems a new standard is set and another unachievable paradigm is exalted. As Project HEAL co-founder Liana Rosenman tells Bustle via email, "Every day, people are confronted with images of the 'perfect' body that just don't reflect the diverse society we live in. These unrealistic images set an impossible standard, potentially damaging self-esteem and crushing confidence. We need to challenge this culture of conformity and widen the definition of beauty to include all ages, shapes, sizes and ethnicities. We need to help people recognize that their values goes beyond just their physical appearance."
And how true, right? So many of the things we're told comprise beauty are entirely subjective. What a strange thing to think beauty can be quantified in any one way or another! When you consider the countless nuances inherent with being a woman, it is readily apparent that beauty is limitless in its mutability, like the changing of the tides. "Beauty comes from within. People are more than their physical appearance: We are our thoughts, our passions, and our personalities," says Rosenman to Bustle. "I don't think there's anything more beautiful than a person who is confident of herself or himself and who is comfortable with who they are. Neither beauty, nor health, are a size. These things exist on a spectrum, wherein one's worth is not determined by where she falls on that spectrum. A woman is just as 'real' curvy as she is thin, as well as anything in between or beyond those labels.One's physical attributes do not determine a woman's realness, or her beauty."
That's the premise behind Project HEAL's important initiative — to exemplify that beauty is not this or that. It's any number of things, and can change with every breath we take. It means different things to different people and cultures and societies. There's a lot of merit to the idiom, "The beauty is in the eye of the beholder." The #WhatMakesMeBeautiful campaign seeks to reinforce the narrative of inclusive beauty, while negating widely perpetuated perspectives of exclusivity. To bring this conversation to life, Project HEAL tapped a diverse group of women to ask what makes them beautiful. The campaign features supermodel Emme; style and beauty expert, Mary Alice Stephenson; French model Clementine Desseaux; style blogger Dylana Suarez; and Project HEAL founders Liana Rosenman and Kristina Saffran, among others.
And you know what? Not one of the women featured in the campaign mentioned something purely physical. "I think this goes to show that beauty, whether aesthetically or the kind that radiates from the inside, exists on a long, colorful, broad spectrum. Real beauty is not a size or a shape or a color. It can't be labeled; it can only be felt," emphasized Project HEAL in a statement released to Bustle.
In fostering that sense of inclusivity through the campaign, says Rosenman, the solidarity they experienced with the women around them was palpable. "It was truly a powerful experience coming together and encouraging one another to embrace our real and unique beauty," she shares with Bustle. "There is a quote that goes something along the lines of, 'It takes an army to move a mountain.' From creating and participating in the campaign, I learned that when we stand together and empower each other as women, we can become the best versions of ourselves."
When I personally think of what makes me beautiful, I think back to the best compliment I've ever been given — that I have a beautiful heart. For me, that is essentially the core of what I consider to be my beauty: My spirit. My passion. My unadulterated love for life and for others. Such is the beauty of, well, beauty. It is often intangible. Sometimes, it's that thing you can't quite put your finger on, yet is entirely undeniable. It's the way you make people feel. It's the way you empower yourself. Explains Rosenman, "By acknowledging beautiful and unique qualities about yourself or getting lost in something you're passionate about, you can truly feel amazing — and you begin to feel gratitude for what you do have. Once you can love yourself well you can love others well, because when you see the beauty in yourself, you can really see the beauty in others. And that makes all the difference."
All of these intrinsic elements of beauty and more come shining through Project HEAL's #WhatMakesMeBeautiful campaign photos shot by renowned fashion photographer Arthur Belebeau. So go on ... join the conversation! Jump on social media and share your beauty using the hashtag #WhatMakesMeBeautiful.
Images: Courtesy of Project HEAL