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How Being in a Sorority Changed the Way I Think About Beauty


Being a sorority girl comes with a number of negative stereotypes. From the outside looking in, sorority girls are regarded to be shallow and spoiled, they’re assumed to have paid for their friends and apparently, they care about nothing more than their hair, nails and ludicrously over-priced shoes.

These perceived ideas are blown way out of proportion and have begun to degrade the Greek system. Beauty and appearance are not all that matters to a sorority girl—in fact, joining a sorority will definitely change the way that you will think about beauty. 

The rush week delusions

Any girl who goes through the rush process remembers the night before their first rush party. For me, despite the countless shopping trips I took, I remember still worrying that my outfits weren’t stylish enough. After spending forever watching makeup tutorials, I still wasn’t sure if I knew what the hell contouring was or if my lips would ever look like Kylie Jenner’s.

It was oddly comforting to see that the other girls in my dorm were all having the same anxieties that I was—and looking back, it's interesting to see how much attention we were putting on how we looked; it seems that stereotypes can affect us even if we don't know it. For that night and every night after, we all spent the evening consulting each other on our outfit choices and making sure that everyone’s Tory Burch and Louis Vuitton totes were full of every possible essential that we might need. 

Even with all the preparation, when it finally came time to step into the first rush party, I felt wildly intimidated. No matter how confident you feel when you leave your dorm room that morning, it all changes once you are greeted by the astonishingly polished and beautiful Panhellenic woman at the door of the first gargantuan house. 

The first thing I noticed about the girl who greeted me at the door was that she was towering over me—she was in these incredibly high heels. I then noticed that her makeup was even more flawless than the makeup gurus that I idolized, and she had a stark white smile that stood out against her perfectly tanned skin. 

Despite all of the effort that I had put into making myself look and feel as flawless as possible, I still left the first rush party feeling like a tiny ogre. “How is it even possible that her eyebrows were THAT on fleek? How is she not sweating right now? I feel like I just got out of a two-hour hot yoga session. Does her hair look like that all the time???” These thoughts ran through my mind the second I left the first house and if you were like me, you probably felt like you would never be pretty enough to find a place to call home in the Panhellenic community.

“When you walk into the rush process you have no idea what you've gotten yourself into. Everyone seems to be prettier than you or have a cuter outfit, making you overthink everything,” says Carsen Zink, a junior at the University of Florida.

What you don’t realize as a PNM (potential new member) is that NO ONE looks like that IRL. The moment recruitment ends, the same women whom you found intimidatingly beautiful trade in their 4-inch heels for their Birkenstocks and replace their chic outfits with a pair of Norts that are concealed by an oversized t-shirt, bearing their letters across a purely decorative frocket. Their impeccable hair is thrown up into a messy bun and they're barely wearing makeup, if any. 

The notion that all sorority girls look perfect 24/7? It’s a complete and total fabrication of the real deal.

Why all the fuss?

Now I bet some of you are wondering, “if they don’t really look like this, why do they pretend to during recruitment?” The answer is simple. It’s just good marketing. The goal of recruitment is for every girl to leave the house wishing that she could either be you, or be your best friend. Since first impressions are inevitably based heavily on appearance, the way that a chapter woman looks can heavily influence a PNM’s opinion on the house as a whole.

During rush, every chapter wants as many PNM’s to come back as possible; this means that they need to impress them more than other houses they have been to. Since every house is pulling out all of the stops in every way (including personal appearance) during recruitment, every other house has to do the same in order to stay competitive on campus.

The realizations of the new member period

As a naive new member, you will probably feel a need to keep up the charade that you look as nice as you did during rush week—all the time. I can remember walking into the house for lunch on my first day as a new member and feeling a calm come over me when I saw that every girl in the house, my new home, looked totally normal

They no longer towered over me and the most makeup that they had on was a brush of mascara and maybe some concealer. I’m positive that everyone in my pledge class was thinking the same thing: THANK GOD. 

“I remember feeling really at home once I realized that all of the girls in my chapter were just normal girls and didn’t devote hours to their makeup every day,” says Emma*, a junior at the University of North Carolina.

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely times when the recruitment-ready face is brought back out. For big events like formals and parties, you can bet that we are looking our best. Isn’t that the same for most of us though, not just those in a sorority?

The misconception about the shallowness of sorority girls is brought about by rumors that surface around campuses all across the country. A lot of people believe that sisters are told by the leaders of their chapters that they must look a certain way at all times and that this means they must have their hair done and makeup perfect any time they leave their dorm. Yes, it's true—chapter women are encouraged to represent their chapters in the best ways possible, but not through physical appearance. 

“Our chapter leaders always say ‘you are always wearing your letters’ to remind us that we are always representing our chapter. They never say to always look crazy hot, just to be presentable for ourselves and our chapter as well,” says Christine*, a junior at Florida State University.

What this means is that they are expected to do their best to represent their chapter by means of their character. Sisters in most chapters are encouraged to be respectful and kind to everyone they come across and show great work ethic in classes as well as high involvement on campus. No chapter cares about how long you spent on your makeup that morning; they care that you are representing your chapter in the best ways possible and upholding the standards that got you a bid in the first place.

The true beauty in Greek life

Although many girls have the idea plastered into their minds that they must look drop-dead gorgeous and impeccably flawless when they enter the Greek community, the true beauty in Greek life goes a lot deeper than fiercely contoured faces and remarkably winged eyeliner. 

Women who are now sisters in the Panhellenic community will tell you that the preconceived ideas that revolve around beauty in the Greek system are not what beauty really means to these women. 

Catherine Palmer, a sophomore at the University of Florida, explains that she saw the true beauty in Greek life after her first few weeks in her sorority. “When you're immersed in the culture you receive nothing but support while learning about the passions and goals of other women all of whom have pure hearts and lots of smarts,” says Catherine.

Panhellenic women all know that when it comes time to take off the makeup and trendy clothes, all you are left with is the woman underneath it all. It might sound like a hoax, but Greek life really does emphasize the beauty that is found beneath the surface of each and every sister. At its core, sisterhood is where the real beauty lies in Greek life.

“When you actually get into the sorority you realize that everyone is just like you and makes you laugh. The clothes and make up aren't the real beauty, it's the friendships you make when you join a sorority,” says Carsen.

In addition to appreciating the beauty that you already have within you, your sisters will only further encourage you to become an even better version of yourself. Whether it is pushing you to study harder or run for a leadership position on campus, or giving you someone to confide in when times get rough, your sisters only want to see you succeed and be as beautiful and successful as you can possibly be, on the inside and outside. This type of encouragement, support and love is just another portion of the beauty that is promoted within Greek life.

Even though the true testament to sisterhood is based on inner beauty, that doesn’t mean that we don’t value killer make-up and trendy clothes—just as many others, whether involved in Greek life or not, do. However, being in a sorority will teach you that you do not need all of that in order to be beautiful. 

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