1. for the first quarter century of my life, beauty was something foreign to me. I would not have described myself as beautiful, and no other people had ever referred to me as beautiful. Therefore I lived from the assumption that beauty was something other people had, not even something I could aspire to attain. therefore I dedicated my life to other aspects of my life, like art, philosophy, spirituality, my people and my work.

2. then suddenly I saw myself surrounded by people who were willing to say that I was beautiful. Not merely beautiful, not merely pretty, but "hot", "sexy", and even "intimidating." I never saw myself as having any kind of power based on how I looked, then suddenly I was very aware of the fact that I had this power on me, and that this power had defined many of my interactions in my life without me even knowing it.

3. my first instinct was to desire to understand that beauty. This led me to exploring my body through dance, selfies, performing and sexual experimentation. my newly found success, achieved through "capitalizing" on my beauty, made me desire to take things even further. however, my experiences trying to turn my beauty into a tool —professional, social and otherwise— just led me on a path of negative experiences, both from the investment needed to nurture and maintain my beauty, but also people taking advantage of my eagerness to share my beauty with people.

4. what I soon realized is that a) I didn't enjoy the work that goes into being a beautiful subject of someone else's art b) that I was very confused about whether my beauty was real, and if it was, where could this beauty belong to? and c) a) not everyone found me beautiful, and on some level i much prefered that. I had two years of spiritual turmoil dealing with these issues, and what i generally felt was a complete disconnect between who i was and how i was perceived; what i hated about myself and what other people loved in me; what i thought i should want and what i truly wanted. suddenly the idea of beauty felt more like a burden than an acquired power.

5. and here came a time where my beauty led mostly to suffering. people would use my beauty against me, either by overemphasizing it so they could get on my side, or by downplaying it to try to push me down. i soon realized that too many of my present interactions were defined more by the aesthetic, sexual components of my identity than any other aspect—i.e. the aspects of my life i worked hard to obtain and build. this made me feel entirely isolated, because i could see i was merely a subject of desire and appreciation, and not a three-dimensional person people wanted to engage with on a human or artistic level. and that's ignoring the sexual harassment, the hostility i've felt from other women, and the new anxieties i felt from feeling i had a duty to protect this beauty even though i was not enjoying having it.

6. the first lesson: i didn't choose to be pretty, i never expected to be pretty, and i don't define myself as pretty first and foremost. however, i can't ignore the fact that, as long as people perceive me as a beautiful woman, i have to be aware that all my interactions can be influenced by this, positively and negatively. i could refuse beauty altogether, but i don't wanna define myself from a reaction to how i'm treated. i could embrace beauty, but i just don't have the interest or the time required to do anything about my beauty. i have come to accept that my looks are part of my nature, and that the nature of things can be acknowledged without leading to an action. that is, i don't have to do anything about my beauty but accept that it's a part of me.

7. the second lesson: there are two forms of subjectivity regarding female beauty, and they are entirely different phenomena. knowing that every person has a different definition of beauty, while true, is entirely trivial to my perception of my own beauty. if half the people find me beautiful, and half the world finds me ugly, that doesn't make me half-ugly or half-pretty. "beauty" is not a variable with a given value that can be calculated by collecting opinions and reactions. to understand how beautiful something or someone is, we must first define beauty itself, not from the opinions of other people, but from understanding the self in such a way that the beauty one seeks is a reflection of the values and nature of our own soul. that's the form of subjectivity that is more worth exploring to understand your own beauty. my goal therefore became to understand the beauty of other people, in their own nature, and see how their looks would relate to their own identity.

8. one of the most wonderful tools to explore human beauty is Instagram, because you can see many types of people expressing themselves aesthetically using their own bodies — not only celebrities and instagram models, but also regular folk and people in my own life. i could write an entire essay on my discoveries there, but to sum it up in a couple sentences: what i discovered i liked the most was genuinity. women take selfies either to be liked or because they like themselves. my heroines, the Sara Calixtos of the world, seem to enjoy their own bodies as much as they seem to welcome other people enjoying them. i understand that some men enjoy seeing insecurity in women, that "deer in headlights" look, but for me, i feel my empathy makes their perceived lack of comfort as something very real and offputting. therefore, if i ever wanted to reclaim my own body, i had to foremost learn to enjoy my body first, and let the world follow from there.

9. but what is my type? a part of me wishes to be a muscular amazon, another a sexy instagram model-type babe, and yet another to be a tiny cute artsy girl. which of these could be my type, if at all? i'm too soft, not fit enough and not small enough to be any of these to a full extent, and yet i can be as fierce, as sexy, and as cute, depending on the context. these are my modes, which i have access to from wherever i'm standing today. should i radicalize any of those modes into my ultimate form? would i start lifting weights to become more muscular? start exercising daily and get all sorts of surgeries? could i even achieve a smaller body and a more cute attitude? what i realized is that this center, even if it's more difficult to define it as a simple type or mode, is more comfortable to me than deciding to follow any of these paths. my ability to half-be all these different sexual personæ is more important to me than to achieve perfection in any of them. maybe i wanna be a kaleidoscope of different types of femininity and never settle, as long as i enjoy exploring these identities. this is my freedom.

10. so can i define my beauty without having a type? well, it was time to face the real, and accept what i am rather than choose what i can be. the third lesson: my beauty is not a linguistical phenomenon. it's a real, tangible, observable thing that is too complex to encapsule in a list of features or attributes. it's the sum of all its parts, and yet also the beauty of each and every part on its own. beauty is experiencial, and so it can only be understood by experiencing it. what helped me the most to avoid falling into the traps of my body dysmorphia, and finally be able to mentally process my own image, has been to explore my body, observe and study my face and all its features, with low light and one-on-one conversation with my own reflection. seeing my face talk, move and react rather than see it as just a plain blank reflection has resulted in a weird but enjoyable kind of disassociation that has helped me reconnect with my body and understand it as my own. for the first time in my life i was able to go beyond knowing i'm pretty to feeling that i'm pretty, and that simple change of paradigm has recontextualized my beauty entirely.

11. last update (2019/07): where am i at right now? i have decided that whatever beauty i have is the beauty i need. i'm too ill to dedicate much time to improve or maintain it with constant work, but casual exercise and reasonable dietary choices are enough to let me be comfortable. expressing myself through my body in my work and by taking selfies is not a priority for me anymore, and so i'm just allowing myself to only express myself in those ways according to my own whims. i'm aware my social media presence has faltered because of this, but i have already decided i want my accounts to grow organically from the things i do, rather than from me trying to force myself into creating content for them.

my beauty still leads to odd behavior, like hostility from other women, and men stopping me in the street, and people trying to pay their way into having access to my body, and i'm dealing with these situations with as much humanity, empathy and honesty as i can. i wanna live from the assumption that the right people will see beyond my beauty into the actually kinda goofy, nerdy, passionate person i actually am, rather than the stacy and becky cartoons they project upon me. protecting my innocence is my primary goal at this moment in my life, and so i must not let negative experiences make me cynical, nor let positive experiences feed ambitions that don't fit the person i wanna be. most importantly, i refuse to ever treat another woman as my competition, or a man as one of my "orbiters", because of my beauty. i'm not here to be envied or idolized, but to be loved as a human being.