The Truth About Beauty

Beauty. Exactly what does it mean to be ‘beautiful’? According to society, beauty is more often than not a perception of what appears on the surface.

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘beauty’ as ‘a combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.’ That is, beauty is essentially a direct appreciation of superficiality.

I personally believe it’s time to redefine society's construct of 'beauty’. As the writer of a fashion blog, you may label me a hypocrite, but I’m not calling for women to abandon fashion, throw away their make-up kits and stop tending to their physical appearance. Rather, I am strongly advocating we reformulate the concept of beauty so it is not solely focused on physical attributes, which are ultimately dependent on genetics, an inherently good sense of dress and/or a genie of a plastic surgeon.

It’s not how we look which make us truly beautiful; it's not how thin our bodies are or whether our faces are perfectly symmetrical. As cliché as it sounds, what makes us beautiful is the person we have residing on the inside. The question we should all be asking ourselves is when we strip away the outer layers of clothing, make-up, skin and hair, what kind of soul do we reveal?

As women, we should be revered for the person we are within and not for our genetic composition or man-made attributes. If the focus was solely on our personalities and not our appearance, society's unhealthy obsession with body image would dissipate. Conditions such as anorexia and bulimia would become as rare as the Ebola virus. Women may even cease treating each other as enemies in warfare to attract men.

Advertising and the media controls our perception of beauty. Fashion magazines create hysteria around models and actors, holding them out as benchmarks of beauty. But I ask, what life-altering contributions have many of these women made to the world (and I say many, as some have indeed done their part to make a difference)? Most of the time – nothing; they simply fit the Oxford Dictionary definition of 'beauty'.

Young girls across the Western World are encouraged by advertisers and the media to adore and aspire to be like these women. Why? It's quite obvious. Their appearance sells fashion and beauty products, lining the pockets of clever marketers, large corporates and plastic surgeons. Conversely, women who have made incredible advances in the science or medical fields, or who fight for human rights and women’s equality in society or in the workplace on a day-to-day basis, do not and are unlikely to ever appear on the covers of Vogue or Harper's BAZAAR; that is unless these women can sell fashion and beauty products or until WE take a stand and change the definition of beauty.

If I am blessed to have a child of my own one day and that child is a girl, I don’t want her to obsess about her outer ‘beauty’; I want her to recognise and cultivate the beauty she possesses within her soul and in her mind.

To me, TRUE beauty is found in a person’s contribution to the world and in their ability to think intelligently, contribute, care for, empathise with and love other people and all of our planet’s creatures.

I do not want my girl to grow up believing the pinnacle of beauty is a woman with a surgically enhanced bust or a perfectly airbrushed face. I want her to grow up knowing beauty is embodied in a woman who is intelligent, kind, compassionate, generous, strong and loving (an apt description of my amazing mother and a fellow mentor).

My favourite quote on beauty is by life coach Steve Maraboli. In the context of women's obsession with weight loss, he tells us:

'You are beautiful. Your beauty, just like your capacity for life, happiness, and success, is immeasurable. Day after day, countless people across the globe get on a scale in search of validation of beauty and social acceptance.

Get off the scale! …I have yet to see a scale that can thank you for your compassion, sense of humour, and contagious smile. Get off the scale because I have yet to see one that can admire you for your perseverance when challenged in life.

It’s true, the scale can only give you a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. That’s it. It cannot measure… talent, purpose, life force, possibility, strength, or love. Don’t give the scale more power than it has earned. Take note of the number, then get off the scale and live your life. You are beautiful!'

Outer beauty is an illusion created by marketers to sell fashion, beauty products and plastic surgery. By focusing on outer beauty we line the pockets of large corporates and plastic surgeons at the expense of cultivating the other amazing talents and attributes we possess. It's time we move beyond outer beauty to reveal true beauty; for the truth is always found in what lies beneath.