“She’s so gorgeous,” I said to my daughter, referring to a woman I know. My daughter wrinkled her nose — “no she isn’t!” she protested. It turns out, I was responding to the woman’s vivacious spirit and sparkly eyes, whereas my daughter has a more analytical method of evaluating beauty, and criticized her facial structure and complexion. So, is she beautiful or not? The answer, of course, is yes. And no. And maybe. Or maybe not. What does this mean?
It means that beauty is not a definitive construct. It’s not like, “human or not human” or “black or white.” You get to decide whether you are beautiful or not, and whether someone else is beautiful.
How do I know this? It’s really all in our minds. We make it up. We decide on the criteria for beauty standards. But we’re in charge of our own body image.
For me, it’s an energetic aura, whereas for my daughter it’s physical properties. I’m attracted to people who radiate a pure, sparkly energy, and she’s attracted to people who are well put together and have big sparkly eyes.
We think that beauty is obvious, but really, it’s something we’ve learned, and choose to keep believing. And that means we can change our beliefs.
I’m not denying the science — I know all about the research showing that attractive people are more successful on so many levels, but the research also shows that the definition of attractiveness varies widely across people, cultures and decades. Plus, there’s always the outliers.
Now, if you’re universally acknowledged as gorgeous, you don’t have to worry about this. But let’s say that you weren’t born with that perfect facial symmetry and small features that are generally revered in our current Western culture, and you would like to consider yourself, and be considered, more beautiful.
I’ll tell you what to do.
Remember high school? Remember all those popular girls? Most of them were thin and beautiful by conventional standards. But remember that one girl (her name was Tessa at my school), who you couldn’t understand how she got to be part of the “Beautiful People”? Maybe you studied her to try to figure out how she made it in? I’ll tell you.
It’s highly likely that Tessa believed she was beautiful. At some point in her childhood, she was told or learned that she was gorgeous, which made her feel confident, led her to interact with the world in an engaging and outgoing way. As a result, people responded positively to her, thereby reinforcing her belief that she was attractive, which indeed she was — no matter her physical makeup.
This model of how the world works is outlined by Brooke Castillo in her book Self Coaching 101, where she teaches us that we create our experience of the world based on our beliefs and thoughts, for which we seek and create evidence.
Here’s a simple example: I think that the drivers in my city are becoming increasingly rude and careless, but my husband thinks that they are perfectly polite and rule-bound. Every night, he can come up with stories of politeness, and I have stories of recklessness. We’re both driving the same streets, he and I, so both exist.
Our beliefs are orienting us to find what we believe in our environment, and this gets even more interesting when we discover that we actually create the evidence for our beliefs.
Here’s how that works: my husband is much more likely to drive courteously, because he feels relaxed, knowing that he’s driving on safe streets. In this state, he’s more likely to let pedestrians cross, and drive in a way that causes other drivers to be polite towards him.
On the other hand, I get into the car braced for battle, already feeling aggressive, so I’m more likely to cut someone off, have them flip me off, and confirm my belief that the drivers in my city are rude.
So what does this have to do with beauty? Here’s my hypothesis of how Tessa made it into the “beautiful people” group at my high school.
She was taught, lucky girl, that she is beautiful. She believed her programming, as children do. This made her feel confident, so she interacted with the world in an engaging and outgoing manner, people to warmed to her, rewarded her with their attention, confirming her belief that she was attractive and beautiful — and she became even more so.
The most fascinating part of this model that Castillo outlines is that, because Tessa believed that she was beautiful, she only noticed those people who agreed with her.
She was both creating and seeking evidence for her beliefs, as we all do.
Think about a time that you felt gorgeous. Maybe you were tanned from vacation, maybe you’d had your hair and makeup done for a special event. You looked in the mirror and loved what you saw, even though you don’t usually.
Did you step out differently? Did you stand taller, smile more readily? I’m guessing you did, and that people paid more attention to you.
What if it’s true? That you create your experience, and that people who believe they are beautiful, experience a life where others are drawn to them more? How does this relate to you and your magnificence?
Sure, if you were brought up believing you are beautiful, you hit the jackpot, no matter what you look like. But even if you didn’t, you can still create a life where you are considered beautiful. But you have to go first.
You have to find your beautiful first. It’s there — I promise you. Don’t be shy or humble. Find it, and practice believing it — all day every day.
Then notice how you start to feel different, then act different and be conscious about finding evidence that you are attractive. You’ll find it when you believe it. If beauty doesn’t exist, other than as a concept in our minds, then we can decide that we’re all beautiful if we want to.