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Beyonce is known for being a feminist. Not only does she represent the incredible heights a woman can soar to but she promotes messages of female empowerment at the same time.

I have listened to the song “Pretty Hurts” multiple times, in many different types of situations, around all sorts of type of people and the line “it’s the soul that needs the surgery” always jumps out at me and stays on my mind. As a woman, and human rights advocate, the line speaks to me on multiple levels. But upon listening to the song for quite possibly the 200th time, this time in the comfort of my home, I find there are very strong messages for the female community that are worth exploring.

I have selected 5 lines from the song for interpretation. Ladies, this article is aimed at you, but men if you want insight into the mind of many of your female counterparts I’d encourage you to read on.

1. “Perfection is a disease of a nation”

This line speaks to the essence of what is wrong with Western culture. Many of us are chasing after this ideal that is perpetuated in the media, and when it comes to women, this perfection is often sought after in the realm of physical appearance. All over the media you see images of women that are either exceptionally thin or blessed with curves in exactly the right locations. Plastic surgery makes the Barbie doll image that much more attainable and many women tie their happiness with the results that they see in the mirror or on a scale. Perfection is quite literally a disease of the mind, and there are no signs that these impossible standards of beauty splashed all over billboards and magazines are going away any time soon. Models like Winnie Harlow, and Erica Schenk challenge contemporary standards of beauty with Harlow’s rare skin disorder and Schenk’s fuller figure, but they are still amongst the minority in the fashion industry. Girls need to learn to embrace and love their bodies but with the image of perfection that is drilled into our minds, it’s no wonder that so many end up with eating disorders or an unhappiness that unfortunately cannot be fixed by transforming what you see in the mirror.

2. “We try to fix something but you can’t fix what you can’t see.”

Women are trying to fill a hole within themselves by improving what is on the outside, when the problem is truly on the inside. Because…

3. “It’s the soul that needs the surgery”

Case and point. It’s the soul that needs the surgery. It’s the soul that needs the work, and most people don’t know how to work on that. But Queen B hits the problem of our society on the head with a red Louboutin heel with this line. It’s both our individual souls and communal soul that need the surgery. Surgery is a physical act that is designed to treat an issue, so let’s think about it like that for a second. How to fix the soul of our capitalistic global community that promotes impossible ideals of beauty? Seems like an impossible task, right? It takes more songs like Pretty Hurts to shine a light over the issue, so that people recognize the problem, and discourse is definitely required before things can change, but they can. The beauty industry is exactly that, an industry, and beautiful people, with airbrushed body parts, make-up teams and stylists dominate visuals on a daily basis. At this point in history, it would seem that the initiative to surgically fix our souls rests as in the hands of the individual. As women, it is all of our responsibilities to truly recognize that beauty is not what size jeans you are, or what shade of lipstick you wear, but who you are on the inside.

4. “The pain’s inside and nobody frees you from your body”

This is why personal happiness is so important: because you are confined to your body. For the rest of our lives, for better or worse, we are restricted to experience life from within the boundaries of the human body. Life is a journey, and when we are at war with ourselves, and trying to fix that destructive force solely by improving our appearances we’re lost. The pain that you experience cannot be fixed with mascara, but by working on yourself. One thing that I think most women experience is a sense of doubt that is instilled in us from childhood. We are taught to doubt ourselves especially since such an emphasis is put on our outward beauty and not on developing our inner person. Some women walk around feeling like they’re the shit because they look right, but they are essentially a carcass, an empty soul. And they feel pain. Girls starve themselves and end up hospitalized on heart monitors because of it, I’ve seen it. Girls throw up after meals and compromise their mental health to try and keep the wrong man by trying to look good. I’ve see that too. Women need to recognize the incredible power that they have inside of themselves, and that they are every bit as capable of achieving their goals as their male counterparts. Ladies, as B says, the pain is inside, not out, and you are in your body for life, learn to love your body as God created it. Chances are your looks will change over time, but embrace those changes and learn to cast away the self doubt.

5. “Plastic smiles and denial can only take you so far”

Plastic smiles and denial, a literal recipe for an identity crisis disaster. These are both Band-Aids for bullet wounds. Treat the root of the problem. That’s what the song teaches, deal with the issue at hand and not the surface problem that you think will help you get the guy you want, or to simply fit in. Plastic smiles imply that you are not being yourselves, and putting on a mask to suit others by covering up what you are truly feeling inside. And denial just further suppresses the problem. My mind has unfortunately been a big fan of denial for things that are essential in life but as a 28-year-old woman I’ve decided to face things head on. I have learned that denial is not sustainable for your spiritual health, which is what we’re talking about here. Our souls are all connected, which is why one person’s inner pain is detrimental to all of our personal pain, because on a certain level we all feel it. And ladies, a fake smile and denial of what is truly going on inside of you will lead to a crash. Don’t deny that. As a gender we need to emancipate ourselves from the patriarchal system that pushes our spirits down and uplift ourselves by recognizing our inner strength. We are all works in progress, and the most important work you can ever do is the work that puts you in touch with your soul.

Pretty does hurt. Braces hurt. Plastic surgery hurts. Tweezing your unwanted facial hairs hurt. Getting a Brazilian bikini wax hurts. But nothing hurts more than the pain we inflict on our souls when we neglect our spirits at the cost of being physically beautiful. Physically desirable. But ladies, we are attached to your souls for life. Ask yourselves the deep questions. Don’t neglect your soul on a pursuit to be the dime he wants for you to be. Nothing will ever be as beautiful as the soul that resides within you and that’s something no amount of makeup can ever hide.


Female Body Image: Beyonce’s “Pretty Hurts” Is The Surgery For Your Soul  was originally published on