English version | Seeing pink

07 May 2021
By Sara Andrade

In a world that has many gray areas and is not always pretty in pink, is pink the new black?

La vie en rose, pink of perfection, mundo cor-de-rosa. The language changes, but the meaning remains, placing the hue as a symbol of perfection. But in a world that has many gray areas and is not always pretty in pink, is pink the new black? Thinking that everything is pinky-perfect, since we were little, will not inevitably have created expectations destined for disillusionment and made the vision of life possibly darker than what we were taught?

We're considered princesses from an early age. Even though society tried (or tries) to demystify the stereotype and break up with the cliché, I am still from a time when pink was every girl's childhood color, it was us and our pink dresses, pink rooms and pink dolls that even had their pink cars, pink houses with pink rooms and pink dresses… only the boyfriend was blond with blue eyes (at least, it was so when I was little). And the color was not just a form of identity. It hid subliminal messages about behavior, expectations, goals: to be pink would mean always being well-behaved, to live up to expectations and to seek perfection at all times. Wuy? Because the symbolism of pink says that the color is “sugar and spice and everything nice”, that is, it relates it with a series of positive emotions, such as tenderness, softness, romance, and, in its most extreme sense, perfection. “Pink is associated with sweetness, beauty, tranquility and, in a way, happiness.” We spoke with Dr. Catarina Lucas, Clinical Psychologist, to put the pink black on white. “So, when we think of a 'perfect' life, we tend to associate it with this color. We do not imagine a 'red' life because red refers us to more aggressive or active emotions. The colors are symbolic and trigger moods ”, she adds. The English have an expression, "pink of perfection", which means the height of perfection - it is not just about being perfect, it is about being perfectly perfect, because the expression "pink of ..." indicates a state of top or higher than whatever it is. To be pink is to be sublime. After all, there is even a kind of rose, the flower, called “pink perfection” rose. And it'ss not just here that pink is synonymous with obtaining nirvana or reaching zen of anything: pink future, pink dreams, pink world are phrases that we adopted as common expressions that any colorblind can read - it is synonymous with everything good and wonderful. And we grew up thinking that life is like this - in candy pink... which then becomes a shocking pink when we find out that it's just not. Does believing in a pink world an omen for a gray life? 

"In general, today's society lives under great pressure, not only because we were taught this as a child or because we were told that we had to have a perfect life, but because we allow ourselves little room to fail ”, explains Lucas about the consequences of being “hostages to perfection”, as she says. “We tolerate our own imperfection poorly. Growing up to believe that things will be perfect can prepare us badly for the adversities of real life, for the problems that will arise. However, we must understand that childhood must have a dose of dream and some ‘pink’ ”, she emphasizes. “The important thing is that the child/youngster, throughout their development, will be confronted with adversity, with imperfection, and will be managing this frustration. However, everything has its time and this is a gradual and adjusted process. The adversity that we face at the age of five is not the same as the one we face at the age of 20”. In other words, the hope of a life without fail helps to navigate growth, and the child will deal in time with the frustrations that will come up from each dose of reality. Done in a balanced way, pink gains only a few nuances of darkness; done in an exagerated way, it can have more serious consequences in terms of happiness, experiences, daily life. "Life is not perfect, but we can learn to navigate imperfection and give it a hand, making it our friend", corrects the psychologist. In a way, believing that life is a bed of roses may seem at first glance reductive and utopian, but it has its raison d'être and the consequences are, in normal situations, manageable in terms of expectations. The problem is when the idea is taken to the extreme, when it becomes an obsession: “The search for perfection can be translated in many ways, either through a more obsessive personality, or through ritualized behaviors, disorders associated with body image, among others. We can still remain in states of inadequacy to the context, immaturity or difficulties in 'growing up' and taking on responsibilities. This difficulty can, in fact, have an impact at various levels and manifest itself in different ways ”, she warns.

In the case of women, the power of pink is also linked to a categorization that is greater than a search for perfection - it's not just being the best, it is corresponding to what Western society dictated for the XX chromosomes: “This is something very cultural and dates back to medieval times ”, contextualizes Catarina Lucas on the tendency to put girls in a box of pink, either literally or metaphorically. “Men were trained to be brave knights and fighters and women to be delicate, good housewives and good mothers. In some way, this idea is also linked to the notion of delicacy and sensitivity that is more easily attributed to women than to men. Men are also included in the princes' box. The difference is that the princes 'box has other obligations and stereotypes, no better than the princesses' box. Having to be strong and fearless is also a huge pressure. In general, we work through categorizations. We need to distinguish things, name ideas and objects and be understood by others. This is only achieved through categorizations. When we say ‘pink life’ we all know its meaning. This is a categorization, often necessary for the understanding between people in the communication process.” Is that why, even though life teaches us that the world is not pink and we know that there are many gray areas, we continue to perpetuate this idea of ​​pink as a mission or guideline? Perhaps, but also because habits and teachings are so much a part of us that it is difficult to purge them: “In spite of everything, we are rigid in our conceptions, because they are lessons that we take from an early age and with which we have grown and lived with for years. Changing this is not easy. Deep down, we want to continue to strive for that perfection. We need to practice self-compassion and acceptance, making peace with ourselves and our failures. Only then will we be able to do things differently. However, it is important to understand that we need to have goals and that, although we are allowed to fail, this is not synonymous with conformism and with not even trying ”, elaborates the psychologist.

And we grow up thinking that life is like this - in candy pink... which then becomes a shocking pink when we find out that it's just not. Does believing in a pink world an omen for a gray life? 

It is in this exercise of balancing frustration that lies the formula for the magenta not to slip into a red alert. In a way, it is embracing the pink color, having it as a guide for maintaining a positive spirit, but knowing that it will not always be a constant presence. “We have to reconcile ourselves, forgive ourselves for our mistakes, realize that we can be happy in imperfection. Tolerate the frustration that we cannot always succeed, but understand that this is not the end ”. Easy to do, not so easy to achieve? Of course. We never want to fall short of expectations, even if they are our own. We have much more trouble in overcoming the negative than prolonging the feeling of conquering the positive. I always remember an example that one day someone said to me: “Tell a woman that she is beautiful and she rejoices for five minutes; tell a woman that she is ugly and she will remember it all her life.” It is true that this would open a whole new debate about the impossible beauty standards and about a society that is governed by appearance, notions that are not dissociated from this idea of ​​belonging and obeying the pink rules and boxes that the world places us on, but let's focus on the idea in general and not the physical in particular. What this phrase means is that good things seem fleeting to us when something bad settles in our core: the preponderance of anxiety about having to deal with criticism is much more striking than accepting praise. “Nobody likes to look at themselves as an imperfect person or being wrong. It hurts our pride, it hurts our self-esteem. We often fight ‘battles’ just to prove that we’re right. Not being right is seen as an imperfection. In the end, what we seek is to be accepted, validated and loved and, we believe that this only happens, if we are perfect. As if only perfection was ‘loved’. Our ultimate fear is rejection ”, says Catarina Lucas.

The risk of believing in the pink parameters imposed on us is also related to our social conditions and, thus, the will to please. It is not just finding out that the world is not pink or that we are not pink, meaning, perfect; it is to believe that there is no life - or acceptance - beyond pink. In a way, it is believing that the happiness that connotes acceptance and the feeling of belonging only happens when we meet the standards, which ends up translating into constant unhappiness, because you can't please everyone all the time, starting with ourselves. The disappointment in failing is what makes us fight for it not to happen and generates difficulties in accepting when it actually happens. But it is possible to navigate and deal with these feelings, to find the balance - the ability to managing expectations that growth offers us. How does one deal with this fear of rejection? How can one live in the compromise between the desire to be perfect and the notion that it is ok not to be? “We must make a good assessment of ourselves, our skills and characteristics. In this way, we will be able to understand when to continue and when to stop. Reflecting on things is very important. Perhaps the secret is persistence coupled with forgiveness when we fail. ”

Believing in a pink world or being put in a pink box can be belittled in children, but it can also be (or better yet, is) a necessary evil. Even because the opposite isn't a solution: to not categorize can also trigger an identity failure, can it not? Maybe a topic for a next article, but let's finish this one in pink, first: painting the world in beautiful Pantones of this hue does not dictate what it will always be, or is, like so, and putting a girl in a pink dress does not mean one day she won't take off the ballerinas and exchange them for sneakers or biker boots. In fact, painting your childhood pink or the future in the same hue is actually instilling some hope (in the sense that pink is a symbol of happiness) and ambition (when pink is synonymous with perfection) so that willingness to live, grow, overcome yourself is somewhat constant. As in everything, taking this idea to the extreme can have harmful consequences related to inadequacy, inability to relate, hard blows on self-esteem and personal validation… but, when used in the recommended dose, with some white-balance in the mixture, it is a mechanism for evolution. “The truth is that it can mitigate some frustrations. If we start looking at the ‘black’ world, we’ll be discouraged and desperate. We also need to believe in the good in people, in the world, and hope for the best. To take that away from us may be to take away the meaning of life. Furthermore, this idea can make us, at times, achieve what we thought we could not achieve, struggle to achieve something, persist. We just need to find balance in the middle of all of it”, concludes Catarina Lucas. "Pink dream rules life", that was what António Gedeão wanted to say in his poem Pedra Filosofal, we suppose.

Translated from the original on the "Pink Issue", from may 2021.Full credits and story on the print version.

Sara Andrade By Sara Andrade

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