If you ask one hundred women, “Do you want to be beautiful?” most of them will say they do. But, if you ask them, “So what do you think of beautiful women?” Most will have some pretty strong opinions. They will tell you that beautiful women are “thin, confident, perfect, well-dressed, and that they get what they want.” They will tell you that it takes a lot of time, energy, and money to look beautiful. They will also say that beautiful women are usually born that way. These statements are all myths — they are not true, but we tend to believe them.
And lurking just beneath the surface, the myths get even worse. When questioned more closely, many women will also report that beautiful women are “vain, self-centered, egotistical, selfish, and basically, not very nice.” I have asked tens of thousands of women of all ages and social groups these questions and share with you that this is what many women experience. They also think that they would have to be perfect. And until they are perfect in every way, then they cannot be beautiful.
If we think this way, we are in a trap! We think we want beauty, but the concept carries a lot of baggage with it. And if it’s as bad as some think it is, we should be avoiding it! The unfortunate result is that very few women have been able to be happy or satisfied with their appearance. Yet, we live in a world where others judge us and we judge ourselves on how we look.
Most women don’t want to be vain. In fact, the fear of becoming vain — or being perceived as vain — keeps many women from seeing and experiencing their beauty. This becomes very understandable when you look up the word “vain” in the dictionary. It is defined as, “having no real value, idle, worthless, useless, foolish, silly.” With this definition, I can see why no one would want to be seen in these ways.
Another definition of vain is “having or showing undue or excessive pride in one’s appearance or accomplishments.” If a woman thinks that she is worthless or has little real value, then any small amount of personal pride is “excessive and undue,” and can make her uncomfortable.
Pride is a very tricky word. It has two completely different meanings and they are quite contradictory. One definition is “inordinate self-esteem; conceit” and the other is, “a reasonable or justifiable self-respect.” So, let’s think of false pride as, “conceit” and true pride as, “self-respect.”
Now, the plot thickens. It’s not just becoming vain that we fear. Women are afraid that others will think they are vain and so they either keep putting themselves down, or trying to prove that they are good enough. So, in several different ways, vanity is related to fear.
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Vanity comes out of feeling worthless or unworthy to some extent and trying to prove you are not. So, every step toward finding your true worth is a step away from vanity.
Both vanity and false pride seem to come from trying to pretend that you are something that you are not. Let’s give this up! Every single woman I’ve ever met had her own beautiful qualities. Very few women realize their beauty fully and some have not realized their beauty at all. They are all just at different stages of learning their worth and beauty.
Realizing our beauty is not something that we were ever taught to do. And we were never shown how to do it. To top it off, we live in a world and society that teaches us that it’s bad to think too highly of ourselves. We are also told that we can never be perfect, but that we should be perfect. So it should be no surprise that women have so many mixed emotions about these issues. Beauty, the way society has defined it so far, is a pretty impossible goal.
The real problem with the common notion of beauty is that we often see it as something comparative and competitive. This is really a very silly idea that we don’t apply to the rest of nature. We don’t go to the zoo and discuss, “Which is more beautiful a giraffe or a zebra?” When we go for a hike in the mountains we don’t analyze or evaluate, “Which is more beautiful an oak tree or a pine tree?” But for some odd reason, we apply this strange thinking to our appearance as women. Let’s stop it.
Women have to realize how much of a lose/lose situation this is. No matter how much you perfect your appearance, there will always be someone out there who is thinner, prettier, or younger, etc. All women lose at these limiting, either/or type of comparisons. Let’s leave competition for sports.
I used to say that we’ve needed to redefine beauty. But if you look in the dictionary, you’ll see that “beautiful” really means, “generally pleasing; excellent.” I’ll buy that. “Beauty” is defined as “the combination of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” That really is sounding better, isn’t it?
If we can go along with the idea that all flowers are beautiful and all mountains are beautiful, why can’t all women be beautiful? We shouldn’t have to stretch our imagination too much to include ourselves with the rest of nature!
It’s really a matter of harmony. Just as there is already beauty and harmony in forests and deserts, there is already beauty in people. They just need to realize it. If you went on a walk with someone who did not see beauty in the woods, would you change your opinion? I don’t think so.
Harmony is a pleasing or congruent arrangement of parts. It’s knowing that, as part of nature, you are put together well. That’s exactly what I’ve seen in studying thousands of women (and men, too.) We are put together very congruently. Nature is very consistent in giving giraffes long necks and zebras get stripes. There are patterns in women also.