“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.” ~Kahlil Gibran
When I was in high school, I had a friend who was not beautiful or even particularly pretty, but she was very popular.
Both girls and guys liked her, she had a steady boyfriend, and she was always hanging out with the most popular crowd. And she was genuinely nice to everyone.
The most popular crowd in my high school (and likely in every high school in the country) consisted of the jocks and the cheerleaders and any other pretty people who orbited the sphere of the A-list group. If you weren’t really cute and were still in the A-list group, then you either came from a wealthy family, drove an enviable car, or you were mean and spiteful and scared the crap out of anyone who tried to cross you.
That’s why my friend was an anomaly.
Without being beautiful, wealthy, or mean she managed to be liked by everyone. Not in a manipulative way, but in a real way. She was funny, outgoing, adventurous, and authentic — something virtually no one in adolescence can pull off. I remember feeling envious of her ability to feel so at ease, especially around boys. She was simply herself, without the benefit of model looks to attract others to her. And yet she was so attractive.
I’m sure there were times my friend suffered the same self-doubts and low self-esteem we all did in high school. It’s impossible to underestimate the emotional impact our physical appearance has on us from the time we’re aware of how we look.
Messages are everywhere reminding us of appropriate standards of attractiveness and beauty. And try as we might to achieve those standards, the truth is 98% of us will never achieve them. Even the models and actors who are setting the standards have been airbrushed and photoshopped to look more attractive than they really are.
Take a look at this incredible video of a model in a photo shoot and the “work” that’s done on her during and after the shoot:
In my research for this post, I found dozens of examples of airbrushed models and actors. Anyone can look stunning with the magic of computer technology. And even though we know this is happening, that most models and actors look “normal” without all the make-up and airbrushing, we still fall for it. We buy the magazines, and stare at the images hoping we can figure out how to transform ourselves into the media’s definition of beautiful.
Getting older has made me face my own fears and doubts related to appearance. With each passing year, the stark reality that I will never look like a face in a magazine is more evident. Aging has and still does compel me to redefine attractiveness. I must learn to express inner and outer beauty in more seasoned and sophisticated ways.
Regardless of age, being beautiful or attractive begins with self-love. When you love yourself, you don’t care so much what other people think about your appearance. You don’t obsess about your physical flaws. Instead you define your value by what’s on the inside.
Can YOU essentially value and like the man or woman you are on the inside?
Do you feel worthy of loving yourself?
If you don’t feel worthy of your own love, you will project your self-doubts and anxiety to other people. You will long for approval from others, even as you push others away with neediness and insecurity. You will never feel beautiful or good enough because you’re trapped in a vicious cycle of longing and rejection.
If you want to know how to be beautiful and feel beautiful, the first step is practicing self-acceptance and ultimately self-love. When you’re entrenched in low self-confidence or self-loathing, this will take time and patience. But you can change.
Here are some ideas on how to be beautiful.
1. Define the person you are authentically.
The best place to start with this is by determining your core values. Take a look at this list of values. What are the top 5-6 values that define the principles you want for your life? How are you living outside of those values? What can you do to realign with them?
2. Look at any pain or shame from the past.
How are these impacting your self-esteem and self-respect? If they are holding you back from loving yourself, take the initiative to seek help with these issues with a professional counselor. Actively forgive yourself every day and change your focus from your pain to the positive qualities you possess. Write them down and review them every day until you begin to internalize them.
3. Act as if you love yourself.
Pretend that you’re self-confident and self-assured in small areas of your life. Of course this will feel awkward at first, but eventually your feelings will follow your behavior.
4. Do loving things for other people.
When you express unconditional love for others, and you give of yourself freely without neediness or manipulation, you will begin to love and appreciate yourself. Love will overflow inside of you.
5. Take care of your body.
Everyone has physical flaws and things we don’t like about our bodies. But showing yourself love requires you to take care of your body. Maintain a proper weight for your height (take a look at this chart). Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. Find an exercise routine you enjoy. When you are in good shape physically, you can’t help but feel more positive and loving about yourself.
6. Maximize your physical appearance.
Do the best with what you have. Get a great haircut. Dress your best when you go out. Take care of your teeth and pay attention to hygiene. Our tendency is to let these things go when we feel bad about ourselves, but letting them go will only make you feel worse.
7. Be authentic.
Forget about trying to impress people or protect yourself by hiding behind a persona. Allow your real self to shine forth. There is nothing more beautiful than authenticity. This was the key to my high school friend’s attractiveness. She felt free to be herself.
8. Allow yourself to have fun.
Life doesn’t need to be so serious or difficult. Our time here on earth is short. Enjoy it! Find ways to laugh and have fun every day. There is nothing more attractive than someone who enjoys life.
9. Be kind to everyone.
A simple act of kindness, a warm gesture, a hug — all of these make a person undeniably engaging. Sincere kindness is an amazing quality that makes everyone feel wonderful. And that wonderful feeling will be reflected back on you.
10. Smile more often.
So often when we feel self-conscious or lacking in some way, we forget to smile. Just the act of smiling, even if you don’t feel happy, will trigger feelings of happiness in your brain.
Being beautiful shouldn’t be defined by physical perfection. The real beauty this is so attractive to others comes from loving yourself, being yourself, and sharing yourself in kind and loving ways.
Real beauty shines through when you pull off the mask, stop hiding behind shame and fear, take charge of your health, and allow yourself to enjoy life to the fullest. Physical beauty fades over time, even for the most physically attractive people. Begin to practice inner beauty right now so you can feel beautiful for a lifetime.
How has appearance impacted you during your life? What do you do to feel beautiful (or handsome)? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
photo credit: killerturnip