Monday, October 26, 2009

Beauty IS More Than Skin Deep

By Amy Phillips-Gary

I have this mixed up and confused sort of relationship with beauty.

I would so like to feel beautiful; and there have been moments that I have-- but not as many as I'd like! For the most part, I look around me and feel sub-standard or merely okay.

Images of beautiful women in ads on tv and in magazines seem to hound me and exacerbate my lagging perceptions of myself. This doesn't necessarily get better or easier as I get older either!

I am not alone. It is a rarity to find a woman who truly feels beautiful as she is. So many women are critical in some form or another of our own bodies, skin, hair, and so on.

This is one reason why I feel encouraged by the Dove company's Campaign for Real Beauty. Yes, they are trying to sell us Dove cleansers, lotions and hair care products. But this company is stepping out and trying to do so in a different way.

In a field where the images are altered so that just about no actual woman meets the standard portrayed, this is a refreshing effort. Dove is talking about the importance of self esteem for girls and women as well as promoting their products with models who look closer to what you and I look like rather than the modeling industry's norm.

A conundrum crops up for me when I realize that while I so want to feel beautiful, a part of me discounts the whole idea of it.

I've considered myself a feminist for the bulk of my life and, on some level, I believe that placing my attentions on trying to be beautiful is a kind of sell-out. I tend to hold onto a belief that there is something shallow, superficial and even unintelligent about being beautiful.

The false dichotomy between beauty and brains arises within me and, of course, I want to go for the “smart” choice.

So I am left wishing I felt beautiful as I discount beauty. This leaves me merely wanting, empty and unable to truly feel that I am either.

Take back your power to be beautiful

It might be easy to merely blame the advertising and modeling industries and their unreal and impossible beauty standards for the pervasiveness of body/appearance hatred. I think that this misses a deeper piece of the dynamic however.

It's not so much about the ads or even the models and the airbrushing after all. If body image wasn't already a difficult issue for me, these ads wouldn't seem so powerful.

The trigger of feeling unattractive wouldn't be a trigger if the core belief that I am not beautiful didn't exist in the first place. And my confusion about beauty itself doesn't help!

A shift about the whole concept of beauty is called for here. After all, beauty is far more than just “skin deep.”

When I really think about it, beauty is an essence and an energy certain people just have.

Yes, the effects can be pleasing to the eye when a woman has created a particular look using makeup, hair styling and clothing. But a woman (or man) whose beauty effuses forth from within doesn't have to put forth those kinds of efforts.

She or he walks around confidently knowing her or his own worth, value and beauty and it shows-- with or without makeup. There is a depth and a sense of empowerment present in this manner of being beautiful.

This inner beauty that comes through is truly beautiful AND intelligent, wise, substantial and valuable all at the same time.

Cultivating Beauty

Grow your inner beauty by trying these ideas...

*Love yourself
Tell yourself, “I love you” throughout your day. Know that you deserve to be loved and who better to love you, than you!

*Build your self esteem
Find things to appreciate about yourself regularly. You can start out with seemingly small aspects and continue from there.

*Keep your dreams alive
Nothing stokes inner beauty and glow more than maintaining your visions for the future. What do you feel excited about? No matter how “pie in the sky” your dreams seem to be, keep them alive in your heart and act when inspired.

*Surround yourself with opportunities to cultivate your own beauty
Close friends and family members and I recently gathered for a Beautiful Party. We each wrote positive and loving words on our own bodies.

Many of our arms, faces, legs and bellies were covered with declarations such as: “confident,” “aware,” “wise,” “beautiful,” “graceful” and even “hot.” This was a fun and enriching way to witness the growing sense of inner beauty in each of us.

You don't have to host a Beautiful Party unless you'd like to. I do encourage you to take steps toward discovering and celebrating your own beauty and allow it to shine from the inside all the way out.

*The Beautiful Party idea is thanks to this woman and her friends.


  1. I had the honor of being at Amy's "Beautiful Party" and it was such a great experience! I loved the way one woman would find a word that was perfect for her to write somewhere on her body and then several of the rest of us would say "I need that too!" A very loving, rich way to enjoy a get-together with beautiful women.

  2. Wonderful article, and loved the party! I still have "worthy" on my back!

  3. And you are so much that and more Alissa!

  4. This is a beautiful post. I love the Dove campaign, too, and I know they're trying to sell us stuff, but the difference is I'm left with a feeling that I don't *need* the stuff in order to be beautiful. And I think that's swell.