Mirror mirror on the wall who is the fairest of them all?
One of the first movies I watched as a child was Snow White. The evil Queen asking the magic mirror to declare her the most beautiful in the land is an iconic movie moment. Through many means we learn at an early age, that it is the norm to rely on external standards and judgments to define our beauty.
Stone Age Beauty
According to Wikipedia, beauty; “…often involves the interpretation of some entity as being in balance and harmony with nature which may lead to feelings of attraction and emotional well-being.” Standards of physical beauty are forever evolving and have changed drastically over time.
Recently I saw this exhibit of the Venus of Willendorf at the Vienna Natural History Museum. It is a tiny little statuette of a naked obese woman. The statue is from the Upper Paleolithic Period (20 00 to 30 000 BC). Interestingly the woman is faceless and her very robust feminine aspects are clearly sculpted; fleshy hips, protruding stomach, buttocks, and large breasts drooping halfway down her body. This is the earliest known depiction of women. How things have changed since the Stone Age…
Physical beauty is a transient and fleeting concept. Historical renditions of beauty show a wide range of differing standards since the Stone Age. To complicate matters even more, beauty is a very subjective experience.
Plastic surgery for the mind
The evil Queen in Snow White had a talking mirror to tell her who was the fairest in the land. We don’t need any magic mirrors to figure that out any more – that information is at the palm of our hands, every day of our life. We are bombarded with idealized images in the media. Editorial and advertising campaigns display images of models that after several hours of makeup and digital manipulations hardly resemble their original likeness. The impossible standard is set. Our concept of physical beauty is externally imposed on us by mass media. Like a pray-mantis patiently perched on a blade of grass waiting for its next victim, the media preys on our insecurities. Insecurities they created by the impossible ideals. Everywhere we look we hear messages that we would and could be more beautiful if ONLY – we buy their product, get a face-lift, liposuction, nose job, collagen…. Being subjected to this repeatedly takes its toll on self-esteem. But the worst part of it is we eat it up. We let it happen to ourselves. What we really need is a mind job.
Is beauty the physical characteristics of a person?
Any discussion of beauty has to bring into consideration inner beauty. Inner beauty is something intangible radiating from within. It is not a physically observable characteristic; rather it is manifested through positive qualities such as compassion, kindness, intelligence, grace, charm, integrity, empathy and elegance. Inner beauty is like light to a stained glass window, it illuminates the true beauty of the glass.
Inner beauty is evident when you are in harmony with your true nature- you understand who you really are. You don’t need a talking mirror to tell you if you are beautiful. There are so many influences that can cause us to loose focus on what beauty truly is. It is a life long challenge to overcome all those persuasive distractions. It is obvious, when someone feels in harmony with his or her true nature – they shine. When someone has found their inner beauty, their harmony manifests itself physically in many ways and their light shines on everyone making them more beautiful.
Is inner beauty something to be judged by others?
Researching this project I came across many “inner beauty contests.” In Saudi Arabia contestants secure an inner beauty crown through their ability to demonstrate devotion to parents and Islamic values. In a nun beauty pageant Sister Italia 2008 inner beauty was judged based on spiritual attributes. I think they missed the point; inner beauty is not something to be judged by others. Those who posses true inner beauty do not require external reassurances or comparisons. Inner beauty is not something that is judged, measured or compared. It is your own unique recipe, each with different ingredients, and instructions. It is like the futility of comparing the beauty of a rose to that of a magnolia, they are both beautiful in their own unique ways. Inner beauty once you are aware of it is something that can never be taken away from you.
Real beauty isn’t about your weight, skin or symmetrical facial features it is about seeing all the magnificence and beauty of the world reflected in your self, and uniquely projecting it outwards. Look in your mirror and see for yourself.
I have attached a video (for those of you who have not already seen it) of the evolution campaign dove put together with Ogilvy – this is a very poignant example of how our perception of beauty becomes so distorded.