What makes you beautiful?

I hate having my photo taken. I’m one of those people who either comes up well in a photo or very badly; if I have warning then I’m okay, but if you spring it on me I end up looking like Quasimodo. It’s worse at Christmas; there’s always some party to go to or family coming round, and there’s always someone with a camera lurking around waiting to steal my soul.

A lot of people feel like that with photos, but I probably take it a step further… what’s interesting though is that most people seem to come up better when it’s a spontaneous photo than when they’re posed. Catching someone in a moment just makes them seem more natural and it’s closer to the memory we want to keep.

I’ve been printing some photos for a friend over the last few days and the same thing’s true again. There are over 160 photos and most of them have come out well, but the ones which are stunning were all taken when they didn’t know they were being photographed. There was one photo of a couple of my friends that just jumped out at me; it’d be impossible to make them ugly but it seemed to capture the smile in their eyes, and that’s how I’ve always known them. None of the other photos caught that.

You often hear people say that it’s what’s on the inside that makes someone beautiful. It’s said so often that it’s become a clichΓ©, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. When I think of beauty I don’t usually think of someone’s appearance… well, that’s not quite true. My first instinct is to look at that, if they’re presentable, attractive, but I’m more interested in their personality and who they are. I think someone can be very attractive but not beautiful. Someone who is a racist or have repugnant ideas could be the most fair person in the world but would still be undesirable and ugly in a much worse way.

That’s one reason I don’t like it when people say someone is sexy. Certainly someone can be sexy and it can be a compliment, but I’m not a fan of how it’s overused; sexy, sexed up, I find that’s more about lust and desire than anything empowering. Hearing that governments “sexed up” reports just sets my teeth on edge. I guess I’ve always thought of beauty as what we represent as a whole, while someone’s attractiveness (or sexiness) is more related to their appearance.

Those photos seemed to capture that beauty; more than just the appearance, it caught the light in their eyes, a smile, a laugh… it transcended the rest. Unfortunately it doesn’t work for me, but I think those kind of photos definitely seem to cast most people in a good light.

What all this makes me wonder, though, is how do we define beauty today? Has it changed, the definition evolved? I think the way beauty and sexy are used interchangeably now suggests that it has. One example would be Maxim’s recent list of the world’s 5 unsexiest women; Sarah Jessica Parker came first. I still don’t understand that. Maybe Jessica Alba is the current It Girl, but I don’t find SJP unattractive at all. I think there’s something to be said for having a little elegance and class; calling her horse faced is just cruel.

But that’s part of the culture we live in now. Appearances matter more than ever and our definition of beauty is skin deep. As long as we’re presentable and look a certain way, then someone will like us enough that we’ll feel good about ourselves…

I wonder what you think. How do you define beauty and looks? What makes you beautiful? I’d be interested to find out. πŸ˜‰

16 thoughts on “What makes you beautiful?

  1. I’m not up for defining what “beauty” is. As they say — it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

    I’m also one of those people who look terrible in snap shots. I do everything to avoid having my photo taken. And I’ve made it clear to my friends and family that if they keep pointing cameras at me then they can do without my presence.

    Unlike you I do not find that amatuer photos that are taken of me when I’m unaware a camera is pointed at me are the most beautiful at all. This is because I have done a lot of professional modeling and in professional photos I look better than I do in real life.

    CJ: That’s very true, TT, we all have a different idea of beauty and also what makes something or someone attractive. I suppose I’m thinking more in how we look at beauty as culture, but I know what you mean. πŸ˜‰

    I run for cover whenever someone tries to take my photo now, and it’s usually at the worst time. I don’t like making a scene, though, so we tend to compromise. Usually they’re digital cameras and we can see them first; if it’s awful, we can just delete it.

    I find that a lot of amateur photography is good if they know to follow the golden meeting, but it’s always a risk if someone’s taking photos spontaneously… it captures a moment, so that can just as easily be good or bad. I hate it when I’m photographed that way, but a lot of the ones I’ve seen of other people are good. Maybe they’re just lucky with the photographer.

  2. Great blog! I very much agree and I also despise having my picture taken. I think that there is more than one kind of beauty and the two are inter-related to a point. I feel that there is a physical beauty about people which is noticed usually right away. But this beauty can be enhanced or increased by what is inside. Personality, humor, compassion and more can make an “ugly” person beautiful and a “pretty” person ugly. Just my humble opinion.

    CJ: Thanks for the compliment. I used to like having my picture taken when I was younger, but now it feels like a chore and that’s the real reason I don’t like it. I know I won’t photograph well, so I’d much rather avoid it when I can… for the most part I succeed. πŸ™‚

    Your idea of physical beauty is probably what I mean by attractiveness, and I definitely agree that can be enhanced by what we feel and who we are… some people have a glow about them that just doesn’t come across in photos; someone who’s pregnant, an excited child… I think that’s their inner beauty, but either the camera strips it out or it’s something we can’t capture. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. That list of least sexy women was just mean. They’re still no more ugly than a lot of people! That’s mainly why I dislike the culture of ‘lad’ magazines (well, most popular magazines actually): I just don’t find that kind of rudeness entertaining, whatever my opinion of the celebrities themselves.

    There are so many types of beauty. I know I don’t look particularly attractive, but then I’ve never made much effort to. I think I’m basically a good person, so I’m fairly happy with myself. Mind you, I’m a loser, so I’m probably not the best qualified person to talk about this sort of thing! πŸ˜‰

    CJ: I think a lot of these magazines (or sites) are harsh because they feel like they need to be… if they’re not causing controversy, they’re not doing their job. But I thought it was poor taste as well and I deplore personal attacks. If they find someone unattractive, just say so; don’t call them horse faced. Maybe someone should turn the mirror on them, eh? πŸ™‚

    Beauty’s one of those things that’s very subjective, and I think it comes back to values. A lot of people are into looks, others aren’t… it’s whether we can see past all that that matters. And hey, don’t sell yourself short, B0bbyG! I’m a geek and proud of it; being a bit different’s never a bad thing. πŸ˜‰

  4. i hate having my photos taken too. i went to my teacher’s anniversary party the other day and they put up a slideshow of her family and friends. i was enjoying it very nicely when suddenly there was a picture of me looking porky coming out. if it wasn’t her happy day… *mimes wringing someone’s neck*

    sadly, even though i’m no looker myself, i judge people at appearance level. but the longer i get to know someone, how they look like doesn’t matter anymore to me, and i actually start to see beauty in them. there was a friend who i thought looked so ugly and sullen; now i can really see how attractive she is because she is a pretty nice person.

    i feel most beautiful when people tell me that i am. it’s kind of lousy that i’m basically relying on affirmation in order to feel so, but it does make you feel so. and i also feel pretty after i get back from somewhere dressed up.

    lately though i don’t think i look half bad now. even though my ex-teachers kept pinching my flabby arms and exclaiming what a good life i must be leading now because i’m fatter than before. sigh. πŸ™‚

    CJ: Teachers are a pain, aren’t they? Like no matter how long it’s been, they still think their teasing can’t hurt your self-esteem. I think you did well to restrain yourself. I’d have got myself arrested. πŸ™‚

    I think we all have that instinct with appearances… it’s why we want to make an impression on a date, a job interview. I do it as well even though I don’t mean to. But knowing we do that means we can break the cycle and see past it… and needing affirmation is true too, craving a compliment, a kind word… it’s just how we’re wired, I guess.

    And you have my sympathies, btw. This school sounds like it was the Hogwarts from hell. πŸ˜‰

  5. Hi to All…

    Beauty – There’s an area as diverse as numbers of personalities. Outwardly beauty (or lack of) is an image which first appears before our eyes. The lens capturing the image and putting it to the thumbs up down test in our thinking, short of all other attributes from within. Globally, I think we rely on image from the media far too much to base our worth as adults. We are so drawn into equipping ourselves with just the right whatever to give our appearances an edge. All that really matters is who we are and do we have a good heart beneath the surface.

    I don’t feel that we are fair when it comes to judging ourselves, our own self. We are all beautiful irregardless of what we see as flaws in us. As for picture taking, a picture is priceless. Others don’t view us in the same manner in which we do. They don’t see us as we see ourselves. Their lens takes on a different angle. We are ever so quick to think less of ourselves. I offer up not to do that anymore because we are worth everything the picture means to others. The ones with good hearts anyway. btw, love your blog.

    CJ: I think you said what I was feeling perfectly, Pink Biz. In many ways our idea of beauty is almost manufactured; what we consider beautiful has been created by many influences, most notably the media and how we look at ourselves, our own image. Our first reaction isn’t always a realistic one, because we’re comparing it to this idea of beauty we’ve grown up with. But we can look past it, to what matters underneath, and I think most of us do (or try to!).

    Photos always interest me in how if you look back on them over the years, as the memory fades, they tend to replace it; you remember the memory based on what the photo shows you. I think a photo can mean something different to each person who sees it, and perhaps that’s a part of the lens taking on a different angle… the photographer capturing what they saw, but also the larger moment. As long as I get to see the photo first I’m happy. I get to press delete! πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for the compliment, Pink Biz, and for stopping by. πŸ™‚

  6. oh no, i love me alma mater really. i just have teachers who are old and tactless direct. i think it’s because they’re old… old people get away with lots of stuff sometimes!

    it’s hard to remember that beauty should go by your own standards and not the society’s when you’re constantly judged by them. but at the end of the day, it’s your face, your body, and you should learn to appreciate it! i don’t think i want to live my face not loving my physical self, which is a part of me no matter what… just like family. πŸ˜‰

    CJ: Don’t worry, I was just joshing you. πŸ˜‰ I feel the same way about my old schools; mostly pleasant memories and I’m grateful for what I learnt, but there’s always something I’d rather forget! I don’t let old people get away with stuff, though. We must keep them in their place lest they rise up against us young’uns with their walking sticks. πŸ˜€

    It’s hard to keep to our own standard of beauty as well when the media’s constantly reinforcing their idea of what’s beautiful. But then we’re the consumers, so it’s our fault really… I’m happy with how I look, but I don’t like the expectations placed on children, particularly girls. In the end our bodies are our own, and beauty a product of how we look at ourselves, so perhaps looking at ourselves differently is the first step. Easier said than done, though. πŸ˜‰

  7. U know CJ more I think about it less I am able to give an opinion…What is beauty?..It all depends on the way we perceive it…There are so many beauty definitions up there that it is hard to define it….”Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” would be the closest to represent my own definition of beauty..I guess it is far more complicated than we think as there are so many subtle things going on when we are attracted to someone….

    CJ: You’re right, CV, beauty is very much based on our own perceptions. We all have our idea of what’s beautiful, but as a culture I think we’ve been indoctrinated to react to certain ideas of beauty as well. That’s why the magazines sell so well and there’s more coverage of red carpet events than the awards themselves!

    Maybe the better question isn’t what makes someone beautiful, but what makes someone ugly? For me that has little to do with appearance, more someone’s behaviour and who they are; if someone is aggressive, racist, abusive, then they’re very ugly to me and someone I wouldn’t want to know.

    Thanks for the honest answer, CV. πŸ™‚

  8. sulz, what the hell sort of teachers do you have? They sound horrid!

    Great post, CJ. I think there’s a lot to be explored in this area. For example – have you ever seen a list of the 5 unsexiest men?

    CJ: Actually, I have seen a couple of male lists. One on AOL was a reaction to the Maxim one; it has female fans of Grey’s Anatomy and Fall Out Boy calling for blood! But you’re right, there’s a big discrepancy. As a culture we’re much more focused on the female image and it’s no wonder there’s been such a rise in eating disorders and depression. It sets a terrible example for girls and that’s my main worry.

    Beauty means something different to everyone, though, and in the end it’s how we look at ourselves that matters. Perhaps as we get older we accept ourselves more and pass that on to our children… perhaps that’s how it changes. Thanks for stopping by. πŸ™‚

  9. blonde canadian: haha, just that one teacher… she says the most awful things but she gets away with it… i don’t know she does that! she’s cantankerous but somehow adorable that way. :mrgreen: i like her really.

    in malaysia, i guess people don’t see it as a faux pas to comment on someone’s expending (or decreasing) girth, though i’d never say that myself. πŸ™‚

    CJ: You’re sure this teacher isn’t McGonagall? πŸ˜‰

    I still think it’s poor form for anyone to comment on someone’s appearance, but it does seem to be happening more often. I blame political correctness; we let people get away with too much! But it’s better to have someone who’s honest (if blunt); I respect that much more.

  10. CJ says: In many ways our idea of beauty is almost manufactured; what we consider beautiful has been created by many influences, most notably the media and how we look at ourselves, our own image.
    **I agree. I might add, impeccable and flawless images rotating 360 degrees from every source we can imagine. I don’t know about other girlies, but I have to wash dishes and do the laundry, clean a bathtub, plug in a vacumn for a flawless habitat. I do not view myself as the Vogue girl with mop in hand. Even the models take off the heavy stage makeup and hoisery and kick back in a pair of sweatpants. Ever seen them up close and personal after a photoshoot? Very different image tranmitted.

    Behavior and beauty, overlapping influences of one another. Appropriate behavior is a source of beauty to me. Actions speak louder than the visual.

    CJ: Yes, it’s not just beauty we seem to admire, but perfection. We have this idea for how someone should look, and we place Angelina Jolie and others on pedestals. If we aren’t beautiful enough, it’s simple to remake ourselves in an image we like… if someone says we’re beautiful enough times, then we begin to believe it…

    The thing is, no one’s perfect; that image takes time to create and it’s just an illusion, which is why it’s silly to admire beauty like that. Beneath the makeup, everyone is different; and Kate Moss shows just what that lifestyle can do to you. I’m much more interested in if someone is kind, funny, engaging; that’s what makes them attractive to me. Perhaps that’s just looking at the beauty of life. πŸ™‚

  11. you know!! we are shown so many images or definintions of beauty that it seems we have lost our own views on what we find beauty is! i seriously admire your views on what is beauty is too you ( there soul) i never thought that some one in this world actually viewed a person on there soul rather on the outer shell! honestly i didnt think anyone was that good! why is it that people judge others on there apperence? why cant beauty be found in peoples hearts, there attitude towards others, their kindness the ”inner beauty” but the world sees with their eyes not with their hearts!i wish that society was like this!! i find the issue very close to my heart because i find myself the most monumentally ”ugly” person on the planet(whom in photos is repulsive), and belive that no guy would ever look upon me other than in disgust(so i have never had a boyfriend and dont think i ever wil i no i never will though i long for one) i cannot go out the door with out make up because people who view me would change their mind,and find out that this ”illusion” i create with makeup is not real! Can make up MAKE someone beautiful or does it just bring out what is already there? i am told i am beautiful by others but it hurts me everytime they say it because they only see me with my ”mask on” they do not know the truth of what i am! but back to the point why does the out beauty of people override the inner , why must we feel inadiqute if we are not beautiful, do we not deserve to love or feel desirable beause we are not exteriorly pretty, even if we have the most beautiful souls! and do you think it will ever change!
    sorry for my rantings!

    1. Beauty is for me always in the eye of the beholder what one person thinks is beautiful another person will think its not and vice versa. I also strongly believe that true beauty begins from within, you can have the most gorgeous woman in the world but when her heart is ugly it will eventually come through and no matter how good she looks on the outside it wont matter she will appear ugly, remember that beauty fades but whats inside you will be there forever. Im the same as you I do not feel im beautiful either but my husband tells me all the time that i am and girls that i think are he thinks are ugly which brings us back to it all being in the eye of the beholder. Please stop thinking so badly of your own appearance for you sound to be a beautiful person inside and im sure that shines through to the outside and you will find love someday for we all deserve that no matter of our looks, size, or shape. so stay strong n beautiful n dont let anyone bring u down, start loving yourself n u will find someone who loves you too!!

  12. Beauty, i’ve spent the best part of this evening trying to find out what the perfect face proportions are, this has all been to no avail, i have seen plenty of faces that have been measured up and are apparently perfect, beauty in its truest form, but the women in these pictures, with lines to measure the distance between their lips and their noses, are not what i would consider beauty to be. I find beauty is in that quirkiness of a face, that chipped tooth, or those slightly too pointed ears that give someone a pixy look, or that one over plucked eyebrow that lets you know that they spent maybe an hour trying to get it just perfect but eventually gave up. I love these things about people. I love freckles that look like sun kisses and beauty spots that people spend hours in a day trying to cover up with concealer.
    My search for the perfect beauty began when i looked in the mirror and decided my chin looked funny when i smiled and i got dimples in my cheeks and my eyes went into slits, i basically look like the Cheshire cat when i smile. Then i looked through pictures on my facebook of me and my friends and i realised that yes i look like an absolute goon when i have a mad grin on my face, but the grin is also the one thing that shows I’m surrounded by people i love the most in life.
    Saying this, i came home from college the other week and burst into tears and sat and cried for an hour. When my boyfriend came through the door he came straight over to the couch kissed me and told me that i looked truely beautiful when i cried. this confused me for days, but when i asked him a few days later what he meant, he said it was “because i wasn’t hiding or holding anything back, i was there in the raw, makeup down my face, a snotty nose and my hair close to dreads form me scrunching it up.” I was silent and he added a moment later “and thats when i love you most, when you’re completely open” So although to lots that will seem stupid that my boyfriend loves me most when I’m in tears, but that made me so happy.
    I guess it’s true for any emotion really, your most beautiful when your just completely free, and letting what you truely feel out.

  13. I also think that candid shots of me are where I am the most beautiful. I have very chubby cheeks so when I smile I look like a child, which. by the way, isn’t a bad thing but I am the most beautiful in candid shots. I agree that no one should be listed as unattractive or unsexy because everyone is gorgeous in their own way. I’ve always thought that I’m very unique and that’s why I’m considered beautiful, but I’m also very open and not mysterious; which some like. I’m not ashamed of myself, my looks, my body, or my ideas, and that “i honestly don’t care what you say, Imma be me” attitude I think makes me attractive. Everyone is absolutely beautiful and gorgeous in their own special way… don’t let anyone tell you differently!

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