“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart” ~ Kahlil Gibran

sophia-loren 

Iconic, Magnificent Beauty: The Stunning Sophia Loren

Who decides what is beautiful?

“Beauty is power; a smile is its sword” ~ Charles Read

kim-kardashian1 I was reading a post on a blog a few days ago that really just made me sit up and take notice. Apparently, Jessica Simpson has gained some weight. Oh my. And Kim Kardashian has come to her defense. Well this particular blogger found the whole thing offensive because Kim Kardashian is too fat to have an opinion on Jessica Simpson, who apparently is humongous because she must have gained—omigawd—twenty pounds!

I am going to post here the picture that was on the blog showing Kim Kardashian’s horrible body, her “thunder thighs and fat a**.” Now, as with most women who have carried and delivered four children, I am not as thin as I used to be. But my body image is skewed, in large part because of the media and because of comments like the one in the blog that I read.

But in looking at this picture of Kim Kardashian, I have to say that I see nothing wrong with her body. She is not rail thin. She is wearing a bathing suit that flatters her body. It is not a thong; it has a strap that artfully conceals the little bit of tummy that she has. She has legs, yes. They aren’t bird legs, and how wonderful that is. How wonderful to see a beautiful, sexy woman who is proud of her body and full of self-confidence.

You can tell by how she carries herself. More women should use Ms. Kardashian as a role model as far as how they carry themselves. She has an aura of poise that reflects a confidence in her bearing and her demeanor. It is not hard to imagine that Ms. Kardashian can walk into any room and command attention.

I know nothing about her personal life. I’ve never watched “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” I know that Bruce Jenner is her step-father, and I know that she is relatively high profile. But other than that, I don’t know squat about this woman. My choice to write about her is purely because I am so tired of the media holding up wraith-like women and girls as role models in our society.

I mean, yes, women are taking much better care of themselves. Forty is the new thirty. Generationally, we are aging much better than our mothers. But there are numerous factors that come into play: better moisturizers, more knowledge of what ages the skin, better nutrition, less smoking among women, to name but a few. Look at Madonna. Her body does not look fifty years old. Personally, I would kill to have chiseled arms like hers, but I know that she works hard every day for those arms.

undine-rising-from-the-water-by-chauncey-ives

Undine Rising from the Water by Chauncey Ives

“Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical” ~ Sophia Loren

But it’s a matter of give and take, and what you consider to be beautiful and that for which you are willing to settle. And it is so hard to know what to settle for when you are constantly being bombarded with images of celebrities who look perfect two weeks after giving birth. Of course, their pictures are air brushed. They have personal trainers and chefs who cook high protein meals for them to assist in quick weight loss.

Young women with eating disorders have these problems for many reasons. First and foremost because of their distorted self-image. They might weigh 98 pounds, but when they look in the mirror, if they can pinch even a tiny bit of flesh between their fingers, then they feel fat and ugly. And then there are the fashion magazines, and every other advertisement is for a new diet or weight-loss pill or regimen. Commercials in the evening promote exercise machines and diet plans. Even women who don’t need to lose weight feel pressured to look like Heidi Klum and Angelina Jolie, neither of whom look like they have borne children, or Kiera Knightly, who has never seen cellulite in her life.

Skinny and beautiful sell. Anything over 150 pounds is considered obese. I am not immune to this societal obsession with weight, and skinny women, and perfect bodies. Everyday when I look in the mirror I see a fat sausage, and what makes me the maddest, is that I actually feel this way, that I cannot be happy with myself the way that I am. But I know that my low self-esteem comes from years of negative comments from someone in my family. You cannot escape that history easily. You cannot  jump an ingrained hurdle without a great deal of confidence to fight, which unfortunately, I do not possess.

“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it” ~ Confucius

And then there is the matter of  cosmetic surgery. MaureenJ and I were discussing this overwhelming need our society has today for cosmetic surgery: everything from Botox to complete face lifts to butt lifts to nose reconstructions to thigh reductions. If it’s part of your body, it can be fine-tuned. Personally, I’m not big on cosmetic surgery, although I may have to get my chins lifted one day simply because my mother has given me crap about that since I was a teenager, and I am very, very sensitive about it.

But the truth about cosmetic surgery, I believe, is that the people who get it again and again are very insecure about themselves. My mother has had a lot of plastic surgery, and she is never happy with the results. She had her first face lift about 20 years ago. My theory about my mom is that she is very insecure about her own personal beauty, so she tries to compensate through surgery.

That’s my theory about most people who have cosmetic surgery: They are insecure about themselves, so they try to fix something that is wrong on the inside by fixing something on the outside.

“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart” ~ Helen Keller

The old quote about beauty being in the eye of the beholder is probably truer than most people realize. Quite often, one man’s beauty is another man’s fodder.  How often is it that two people standing in front of the same painting will walk away with two completely different impressions? One man’s Escher is another man’s Monet. It’s a matter of preference, a matter of taste.

But if you put ten women in a room together, how many of them will agree on what the standard of beauty should be by picking out the same pictures depicted in models? Long legs, big eyes, pert breasts, possibly bordering on larger round breasts, flat stomachs, firm buttocks, high cheekbones, beautiful hair, nice arms—the total package.

How many of us do not really believe our husbands when they tell us that they think that we are beautiful? We think, “oh, how sweet. But he doesn’t really mean it.”Yet psychologists will tell you again and again that beauty is determined by the heart, not the eyes. Yet at the same time, do we tell our significant others that we think that they look nice in that grey sweater? That we like those pants? Do we mean it? Then why can’t they?

“What is lovely never dies, But passes into other loveliness, Star-dust, or sea-foam, flower or winged air” ~ Thomas Baily Aldrich

AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODELSo let me close with these two images of beauty. The first is a statue that I have always loved. It’s called “Undine Rising From the Water” and it was created by Chauncey Ives. One of the most incredible features of this statue is that the marble is so thin and shiny in some place that when the statue is placed in direct sunlight, the marble looks wet and almost transparent. That is quite a feat to attain with marble. Because her drape is so clingy, her body is revealed beneath the wet garment. I have always viewed this statue as incredibly sensuous and beautiful.

Undine is an immortal water nymph who is drawn to the man she loves, even though loving him will make her mortal. Once she becomes mortal, she begins to age, and her love no longer stays true. Undine slays her love for failing to remain true, and she returns to the water.

In comparison is the other image of beauty: America’s Next Top Model from cycle 8 (2007), 20-year-old Jaslene. This young woman is definitely beautiful, but again, her body, which is being held up as something young women should strive for as being idyllic, is in direct contrast to what I would call a realistic woman. Few women can achieve a body like this without starving themselves. Granted, there are people who are naturally very thin, but most of the time, that is an anomaly.

I chose this particular picture of Jaslene* because it is so reminiscent of the Undine statue, with the long flowing dress being reminiscent of the water pooling at Undine’s feet, and Jaslene’s arms above her head being similar to Undine’s arms reaching upwards. Both women have their eyes closed as if they are in a dream-like state. And Jaslene could definitely be compared to a water goddess.

In the end, we must define beauty not by what we see in a person, but by what that person makes us feel. Does this individual bring beauty into our lives in some way, through their songs? their poems? their words? Does this individual bring beauty into our lives in the way that she gives so much of herself in everything that she does? Does this person bring beauty in our lives by being genuine and passionate in everything that she does? Does this person reflect beauty in her kindness to others? Is this person someone you are glad to share time with?

Beauty of the soul is a gift. Physical beauty is nothing more than mascara, blush and lip gloss applied with some finesse to heighten something you naturally have. It cannot hide all of the ugliness on the inside, ugliness that calls someone ugly names just because they don’t happen to weigh 105 pounds.

More later. Peace.

*Photo of Jaslene by Jim DeYonker/CW
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19 thoughts on ““Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart” ~ Kahlil Gibran

  1. Good day, I an writing about ms. Sophia Loren is it ok with you if i use the picture that you used? If not, were dit you get the picture? Looking foreward to hear from you

    with regards
    Nancy

  2. Wow, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I needed to read this. Not ten minutes ago was I standing in the mirror pinching at my body while awful thoughts ran through my head. Eating disorders, like anorexia, have always been something I’ve struggled with, and today as I stood in the mirror I felt as defeated and ugly as ever. –it’s a weird situation really…I know that what I’m thinking is destructive, I don’t want to think this way, but I have trouble seeing myself in any other way. I was probably at the brink of a complete break down when I was crying out to God, “Please, just tell me that you think I’m beautiful!”…I sat down at my computer and somehow I found my place to this blog, it was exactly what I needed to read and I related so much to it. So I just wanted to say thank you, your words really touched me just when I needed them.

    • Thank you so much for stopping by. I am glad that you found comfort in my words. All too often, our conditioning keeps us from accepting ourselves, from liking ourselves from finding any beauty within ourselves. I know that I am my own worst enemy, but I try to remember otherwise. Take care.

  3. I love what you said about beauty. I consider that a beauty is going from inside to outside. I know some people who are not beautiful according to the social standards, but it’s a big pleasure talking to them. The “beauty standards” are determined by society, and usually so many people follow the standard opinion. I think that the more materialistic a person, the less he or she can feel the inside of the other person, and the more the appearance of others will matter to him/her. At the same time, it’s a pity that there are so many single people, especially women, with a low self-esteem because of “beauty standards”; they experience difficulties when meeting new people. We try to explain women and men at http://www.meetingland.com/ that happiness doesn’t depend on the facial beauty and body proportions.

  4. Wow..you are a little moronic I must admit. Who on Earth would use someone as shallow and absurdly small-minded as Kim Kardashian, who is famous for doing not much of anything similar to Paris Hilton, as a role model? I certainly would not want my children looking up to someone like her. Since when is she the standard of real? She has had plastic surgery to obtain what many voluptuous women are blessed with (i.e butt, lips, breasts, even had a nose job!) She is NOT the standard of real, but I do respect her for not being rail thin. I would never look up to her for anything outside of what she is–an attention/media whore. That is what she lives for. Famous for being promiscuous and creating sex tapes “mysteriously” released on the internet. I’ll look up to someone who aspires to be something more than what she unfortunately is.

    • I have never said that Kim Kardashian is a role model. I said that she could be a role model “as far as how she carries herself.” If you read more closely, what I was commenting on was the fact that she is attractive without being rail thin. Other than that, I know nothing about the woman.
      If you were a regular reader of my blog, you would know that my heroes are more in the line of Socrates, Einstein, Virginia Woolf, and countless other philosophers and writers.

      I have never viewed celebrities or celeb-wanna bes as role models. Nor have I ever pointed my children in that direction.

      As for your labeling of me as moronic, perhaps you should read more than one entry on a blog before casting aspersions.

  5. This is a wonderful post. I enjoyed it immensely.

    I’m a once-thin girl who thought she was fat, and who now *is* fat. I am disgusted by the shallowness and ridiculousness of people who would judge and denigrate women who look normal as being “fat and ugly.”

    Kim Kardashian is neither (at least on the outside, I have no inkling as to her insides.) People who feel the need to do that are, themselves, insecure. Shallowness is not beautiful. People who are only beautiful on the outside will struggle their whole lives to keep that beauty, as it’s temporary, but those whose beauty shines from within will never lose it, and will be beautiful long after their hair turns gray, their middle thickens, and wrinkles set in. I’d rather have personality, humor, and grace than youthful looks, any day. (of course, I was carded for alcohol the other day, even though I was with my husband, and I’m nearly 40. So I guess I have the youthful looks, as well.)

    • I agree with everything you said about beauty being on the outside. Unfortunately, after years of my own mother pulling at my stomach and my chins and saying things like “you need to do something about that,” I’m more insecure than I would like to be. But I try not to judge others, and I hate our societal standards of beauty. From your picture, it does indeed look as if you have the youthful looks.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I love to visit your site.

  6. Thanks Maureen. It was your post about cosmetic surgery that got me started on this whole topic, and then I saw that really nasty piece on Kim Kardashian, and it really got me riled. It’s not that I’m a big fan of hers, but if she’s a fatty, then I’m a horse! I just can’t stand the body images that are put out there. And then after I had posted, I saw a more recent picture of Jaslene, and my god, she is completely skin and bones, it looks as if she has lost 20 more pounds since she won the competition, and she can ill afford to lose 20 pounds. I mean, she was beautiful but skinny in the picture I posted. She looked cadaverous in the other picture that I saw.

  7. Hi Lita,
    Fabulous piece. I hope that the many individuals who are influenced by media or internal personal conflicts read this. Beauty does come from within :)
    Maureen

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