Reflection of the Soul: Why true beauty is about whats on the inside.

The media is flush with commentary on beauty: what makes a woman beautiful, how to be more beautiful, what “kind” of beautiful you are, and how little beauty allegedly remains in the world. Taylor Swift has been viciously mocked for being “ugly” (on what planet?), and Margot Robbie has been called “mid” (as if)… 

We have become a vain culture, forgetting that true beauty comes from within. This isn’t a trite adage, one to be repeated to insecure tweens but not believed. It is a truth so simple that we completely miss the point. Authentic confidence and love for oneself creates beauty. Sure, you can spend time lamenting your facial asymmetry and lack of mathematically defined aesthetic value, but the most beautiful women in our lives usually aren’t the most Instagram model-esque.  

The way your mother looks when she laughs, how your best friend shines as you both dance at a concert, your own radiance in candid photos from birthdays passed: these exemplify true beauty, the effortless luminance that we try so hard to capture through makeup, oxymoronically staged “candid” photos, and editing, never able to shake the ugly veneer of artificiality. It is celebrities who have this impression of effortless luminance whose beauty we envy—or at least used to.  

Take Sarah Jessica Parker, an undeniably beautiful woman with a unique signature look, especially in the 1990s. She is the antithesis of what we are lectured that beauty should look like in 2024: no sleek blowout, no “Instagram Face,” no Kardashian-Jenner-esque voluptuousness. What makes her beautiful? Her confidence, her radiant smile, her wild, curly hair, her eclectic, exciting fashion sense, and her passion for her work. Parker is just one example in an infinite sea of women who prove that beauty isn’t skin-deep or one-size-fits-all.  

Parker’s radiant beauty makes the harassment she has received in recent years even more horrifying. Despite how our culture criticizes the beauty standards of the 1990s and early 2000s for being narrow and exclusionary, our on-screen leading ladies and style icons arguably had far more diverse looks than they do now, with the convergent evolution of facial features toward the Instagram Face ideal erasing any semblance of uniqueness. However, the roots of this narrow ideal are evident, dating back decades in Hollywood.

Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Grey felt pressured to undergo rhinoplasty procedures after the film’s release, but with her new nose, she said, “[o]vernight…[I lost] my identity and my career,” as she was no longer recognizable and lacked her signature “look.” While conventional wisdom dictated only a conventional nose could make it in Hollywood, Grey soon discovered that her individuality was her greatest asset.  

On the other hand, for the great crime of having forgone a facelift past fifty and having gray hair, Sarah Jessica Parker has been ridiculed as “old” and “ugly.” In the age of anti-aging skincare regimes for ten-year-olds and the comparison of Botox and filler to a blowout and manicure, Parker and countless other women are burdened with the expectation of a slavish preoccupation with youthful attractiveness. “It almost feels as if people don’t want us to be perfectly OK with where we are as if they almost enjoy us being pained by who we are today,” Parker said—and she’s right.  

The misery is the point. A woman armed with the wisdom and self-acceptance that typically accompanies aging must be cut down to size somehow. Society seldom tolerates security in oneself, for it casts a light on others’ lack thereof. Insecure women and controlling men, thus, weaponize against other women the near-universal human tendency toward self-consciousness because they know that they could never compete with the magnetism resulting from self-confidence. 

Believing beauty comes from within is not about wearing a potato sack and doggedly insisting it is the pinnacle of aesthetic sense. Instead, a beautiful appearance is a natural outgrowth of authenticity and genuine happiness. It can be seen in the colorful sweater you wear on days when you feel similarly vibrant and in the extra smiles you flash when you’re proud of yourself. One can be beautiful wearing a full face of makeup or not a drop of it, a designer gown, or a tee shirt. 

So, reject what the talking heads of social media decide is beautiful; their brains have been broken by the algorithm and constant pursuit of attention and approval. Ignore the whispered snipes and snarky posts of others that pick apart someone’s appearance—they clearly have nothing important to offer the world. Shut out your own insecure inner voice and replace the time spent dissecting your appearance with activities that enrich the mind and soul. 

I think Audrey Hepburn said it best:  

“True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.”

This blog was written by Darien Barrera, Communications Fellow at the Network of enlightened Women.

 

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