Saturday, October 19, 2013

Eye of the Beholder

            Have you ever called yourself beautiful?

            Barrie Davenport from her self-improvement blog Pick the Brain, says, “Young women today see more images of exceptionally beautiful women in one day than our mothers saw throughout their entire teenage years.” Jean Kilbourne, who has studied women in advertising for forty years, agrees that women have become more sexualized and more prominent in media. We are bombarded with these images of the “ideal” beauty that are only achievable by less than 2% of females.

            There is such a stress on female beauty, and I don’t think it’s something we can escape so easily. It feels good to be beautiful. Many ads prey on women’s insecurities about their looks that we as women buy into. I’m generalizing, because I know women who perceive beauty differently and only care that they look presentable.

            What saddens me most is the beauty that many women don’t see within themselves. This is a problem when it creates self-esteem issues and lowers confidence. Also, I believe every woman is entitled to feel beautiful. In 2011, Dove conducted a study called The Real Truth About Beauty: Revisited that found only 4% of women worldwide consider themselves beautiful.

            The problem isn’t that women aren’t beautiful; it’s that they don’t feel beautiful and don’t see themselves as beautiful. It is very easy to look at and focus on only our flaws. In fact, anyone can do this and most people do. It takes strength to focus on the good aspects about ourselves. So, here are some practical tips that I have found (some I modified and added) to help women feel beautiful:

1.      Smile – for yourself and others; smiles are contagious and we all find them more attractive than non-smiling faces

2.      Find features about yourself that you like “When your eyes take in something that pleases you, your brain's reward system is activated, lifting your whole mood,” says Nancy Etcoff, PhD, director of the Program in Aesthetics and Well Being

3.      View yourself as a loved one views you – “with appreciation and acceptance, not criticism”

4.      Have good posture – stand or sit straight with shoulders back and chest open; “When your posture is erect, the message it gets is: I feel good about myself.”

5.      Appreciate your flaws – because every single person in the world has flaws, but flaws have every potential to be beautiful depending on the way we look at them

6.      Say “thank you” we have the tendency to deflect compliments when they are given; just accept it and take it into consideration

7.      Wear comfortable clothes – wear cute/elegant comfortable clothes in the size you are now; “When you wear clothes in the smaller size that you want to be (or once were), the feeling of constriction sends a constant signal to your brain that you're not thin enough.”

8.      Be expressive – let the fullness of your beautiful personality come through

9.      Get Excited – be enthusiastic about life

10.  Exercise – exercising releases endorphins that will make you feel happy and better about yourself afterward

11.  Show kindness – you’ll be doing others a great service

12.  Compliment sincerely – people love to be told genuine nice things about themselves; it will also make you feel good to make someone else feel good

13.  Create something – creativity is a great outlet that allows us to physically see what we have accomplished

14.  Stop your thoughts – whenever your thoughts are getting too negative, just stop them and think about something more positive

15.  Hug often – physical touch is a great way to help others and yourself feel better

16.  Dance – alone or with friends, dance like no one is watching and just have fun

17.  Dress up – just because you feel like it and for no special occasion

18.  Tell yourself that you are beautiful – in front of a mirror, alone, or with loved ones; admit the words out loud and listen to your voice say them

19.  Be a role model – you’ll be surprised how differently you’ll see yourself when you know someone is looking up to you

            There are many ways to feel beautiful. You can find a lot just by looking it up in Google. What’s most important is having a beautiful heart, which means do things for others often, no matter how small. Expect nothing in return.

            Jacqueline Novogratz discovered another view on beauty in a Mumbai slum. In her article “What Are You Doing When You Feel Most Beautiful?” She interviewed a group of women. After listening to their hardships, she thought there must be times of real joy, so she asked them, “What are you doing when you feel most beautiful?” At first all of the women had trouble answering and one said they can never feel beautiful, “Our lives are too miserable. They are too difficult. We fight just to make it to the end of each day.”

            Then one of the women talked about her job as a gardener. She works hard on a small patch, and when she sees the flowers bloom, she feels beautiful. Then the rest of the women talked about their accomplishments that give them pride and make them feel beautiful. Bovagratz believes, “Freedom is what beauty feels like when it can most express itself. It has to do with the ability to express yourself in both big and small ways.”

            “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” – a common saying. This time you are the beholder. How will you choose to perceive yourself?

*Tips found from Oprah’s online magazine in the article, “Empower Yourself: 11 Ways to Feel Beautiful,” and Barrie Davenport’s blog Pick the Brain, “36 Ways to Feel Absolutely Beautiful.”


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