What is beauty? I know how society defines beauty: an arbitrary collection of attributes, inches and numbers often a result of genetics and youth, and often maintained through extreme dieting and narrowly targeted fitness plans. Ladies, let’s take back how we define beauty. This one’s for the girls!
How narrowly is beauty defined?
American Olympian Hope Solo was featured in an article in the Huffington Post recently. (Read the whole article here.) One of her responses struck a chord with me. “When I did Dancing With the Stars, everyone in Hollywood was saying I had too much muscle…You want us to win gold medals, but at the same time, you don’t want me to look like I have muscles.”
Society says fit and youthful is beautiful, but athletes training at the provincial, national, and Olympic levels are “too bulky” to be beautiful. So, it’s not really about heath — though we equate being healthy with beauty don’t we. There are a whole slew of attributes we pile on those we consider “beautiful” such as: health, happiness, wealth, intelligence, successful, youth.
This video of Dustin Hoffman on the topic went viral on social networks a few weeks ago talking about his role in the movie Tootsie. The movie was attempting to answer the question: If you were born a woman how would you be different?
“…I went home and started crying talking to my wife…I think I’m an interesting woman when I look at myself on screen, and I know if I met myself at a party I would never talk to that character because she doesn’t fulfill physically the demands we’re brought up to think women have to have in order for us to ask them out…There are too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.”
I’ve observed men whom society would say aren’t attractive, yet women flock to them. (And they’re not rich.) I would talk to the women, talk to the guys, to see if I could pinpoint what was that magic element. The women couldn’t pinpoint it, and the guys often shrug, “I listen.” If I had to choose a word to explain it, I would say large quantities of being present and charisma compose that fairy dust. But there doesn’t seem to be a female equivalent – there’s no escaping this societal inches and ages and numbers definition of beauty.
I make a point of hanging around women older than I am because I’m always interested in hearing wisdom and perspective gained through experience. The Socratic back and forth of ideas and insights is something I wish more people purposely sought out for themselves. And these women tell me things that ‘society’ would have us discount.
Beauty isn’t a set of arbitrary inches and ages and numbers. Rather, it’s a collection of attributes we can all cultivate and shape within ourselves. There will always be a set of physical characteristics that compose a pleasing face, no question, but there’s more to a woman’s beauty than her face.
What do men find attractive?
Mature, honest men are drawn to self-confidence and vulnerability. Not vain, egotistical self-importance, but that sense of being completely at home in their own skin. Women who know who they are, where they’re going, and what kind of person they want to become. Women who are honest and authentic about their own flaws, and ooze compassion and empathy for others. They don’t seek out peace, rather they offer it in simple ways such as a warm hug on a blue day, a wink over a shared confidence, a cuppa, and maybe some laughter to dry your tears. They’re not pushovers, because they do get angry, Mount-Mamma’s-gonna-blow mad. They’re probably the strongest person you know and yet manage to be vulnerable at the same time.
But ladies, we’re our own worst enemies. We’ve been brainwashed to believe beauty is only the inches and ages and numbers. Stasi Eldredge writes in her book Captivating:
“Most women hate their vulnerability. We are not inviting, we are guarded. Most of our energy is spent trying to have some sense of security…We women hide. We hide behind our makeup. We hide behind our humor. We hide our true selves and offer only what we believe is wanted, what is safe…We hide because we are afraid. We have been wounded and wounded deeply.”
What if we taught our daughters to cultivate these attributes and stop obsessing over points and the zone and P90X? Not that there’s anything wrong with those things, but we raise the results of those activities on an altar of exclusivity and exclusion. What if we taught our sons to see a woman’s heart and not ONLY her face? What if we believed our men when they tell us they see past the inches and age and numbers. Not because we lack those things, or have lost them, but that we’re so much more! What if we stopped buying into the lies, stopped perpetuating the madness? What if we were all broken, as Dustin Hoffman was, at the loss caused by the brainwashing? What if…