"We cannot measure love, honesty, and loyalty with a tape measurer and a scale."

essays

williamsBeauty from Within
Amber Khan

Amber enjoys reading, writing, and learning new things. She also has a passion for history. To Amber, learning about human history is important, because history frequently acts as a cautionary tale, helping us to refrain from making the same mistakes in each generation.


“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep, loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." My definition of beauty is clearly defined here by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. She does not mention that beauty is found on the surface. In a society where we are conditioned by the media, it is hard to ignore that so much value is put on physical beauty. Physical beauty is not a choice. Before we are born, we do not get to order blonde hair and blue eyes. However, beauty from within is a choice. It is a choice to show compassion. It is a choice to be giving. It is a choice to be truly beautiful: to have a beautiful mind and generous, compassionate personality.

How does a blind man define beauty? Is his opinion shunned because he cannot see what we look like? It seems as though American society has reached a point of no return down Superficial Highway. With so much importance placed on physical beauty, we are losing our way.

Only the media is powerful enough to distort the ethics of a whole nation. Instead of doing good by each other, we are worrying about the way we look. Deborah L. Rhodes found that “almost 90% [of women] consider how they look either ‘very important’ or ‘somewhat important’ to ‘feelings about who they are.’” Various forms of the media attack us in devious ways, trying to convince a whole nation to abide by the cultural norms and standards they depict. The ideal image disregards a large percentage of women who may have plus-size figures and brown eyes and frizzy hair. The ideal is unsuccessful in connecting with the majority of women’s true figures; therefore, the media program women to mold themselves into what the media contend is the most appealing body type. Why do women try to conform to this image? They conform to feel comfortable with themselves.

Picture this: an ad with a beautiful woman in a bikini. What does she look like? First of all, she sure doesn’t have that nasty gut when she sits down. (So why do I?) Second, her skin is flawless. Has she ever had a pimple or scar a day in her life? (I’ve tried almost every product out there to get rid of my pimples and scars.) The list goes on and on. The point is that when we women look at these kinds of ads, whether we are consciously or subconsciously thinking this way, we begin to wonder what is wrong with ourselves.

We are always being told nothing is impossible. Being thin is not impossible. However, for many women, this “thin” ideal can only be achieved through torturous ways, whether these ways are unhealthy or some kind of plastic surgery. Either way, we are led to believe that being thin is, for all women, an attainable and realistic goal.

Therefore, because of the media, we take drastic measures to look a certain way to fit in. In the article “How the Media Keep Us Hung Up on Body Image,” author Shari Graydon makes an interesting point: “Models are becoming smaller, as real women grow larger.” The average American woman is 5’4” and weighs 140 pounds, while the average American model is 5’11” and weighs 117 pounds (MomGrind). The image of a woman five feet and eleven inches tall, weighing only 117 pounds, leaves almost no room for any body shape. It is as if American models wake up to a tall stick in their room to remind themselves of what they want to look like.

Not everybody has long legs. Not everybody can get a flat stomach. The goal we set is normally an airbrushed picture of a model who probably did not eat for months before the photo shoot. Instead of looking at others and setting goals and expectations for ourselves, we should be able to look at ourselves and see what our bodies allow us. Comparing is unhealthy. Every individual is unique.

An important lesson we are taught as children is not to judge a book by its cover. However, our society suggests otherwise. In almost all aspects of our society, we judge based on how something or somebody looks. “Less attractive individuals are less likely to be hired and promoted, and they earn lower salaries despite the absence of any differences in cognitive ability” (Rhode 1309). This immoral standard has been adopted and considered a norm. Who gets the job: the skinny blonde or the fat whale? The skinny blonde need not say anything in her interview. She can just flutter her eyelashes, and the job is in the bag. She may even get moved up the corporate ladder. What is even more disturbing is that cognitive ability is sacrificed in order to be able to work with a pretty face. The next generation of CEO’s in America could be empty-headed people, but because their appearance is easy on the eye, the more qualified “ugly” person turns out to be not-so-qualified.

Imagine living in a society in which internal beauty is worshiped. A beautiful society would focus on inner growth, self-motivation, and humanitarian achievements. In our society, the rich, attractive man in his business suit is adored. In a beautiful society, the smelly, dirty homeless man in his scraps of clothing is adored. In our society, the rich man signs a check, gives it to some charity as a write-off. In a beautiful society, the homeless man gives a quarter for a cinnamon roll to a stranger who is hungry. In the battle of “who deserves higher respect,” if a homeless person and a rich man gave you a dollar, whose action would you truly value?

The most important things in life are not visible to the eye. I cannot tell by the color of my neighbors’ skin if they are serial killers. We cannot measure love, honesty, and loyalty with a tape measurer and a scale. Without medical expertise, we cannot look in the mirror and see if a malignant tumor is growing in our lungs. Children in third world countries are dying of starvation because they have no food. Men and women in America are dying of starvation because they want to fit in. With more important things at hand such as safety, love, and health, our society, influenced by the media, chooses to focus on physical characteristics.

According to Charles O’ Neill, “Advertisement is, at heart, only a reflection of society” (387). Advertisements in a beautiful society would be much different. First of all, physical beauty would be completely ignored. Everybody would understand that we do not have a menu of physical characteristics to choose from. Therefore, the pressure would be off society to hold up to some socially constructed ideal of perfection. People would be comfortable in their own skin. People would be able to be themselves. A woman could wear shorts without having to shave her legs, and society would accept this choice. “Eww! Gross!” you say? Look at the society you live in, and tell me, how happy are you… really?

In our ideal society, commercials would show people from across the globe and their achievements. When we see people in third world countries who have less than we do achieving more than we do because of their inner strength, they would remind us of what we are capable of. The commercials would inspire people in America to want to do greater things for each other and the world.

Understanding and showing compassion are critical criteria for a beautiful society. In the society we live in today, we are quick to judge. Many people think that they know what they would do in a situation they have never been in. It is as if we are not allowed to make mistakes because everybody is watching. Therefore, we are forced to go against our nature and try to imitate our idea of perfection. When people make mistakes, instead of embracing, understanding, and learning from them, they try to hide them. The only type of criticism that should be tolerated is constructive criticism because it is helpful and requires critical thinking. Constructive criticism shows that a certain level of thinking and understanding was put forth; it also shows respect.

Take a few moments to remember Britney Spears’ body when she performed at the 2007 Video Music Awards—after she had borne two children. Writer Dan Aquilante from The New York Post said it looked like she was “stuffed into a spangled bra…and jiggled like jello.” Estimated to be about 5’5” tall and weigh between 130-135 pounds, Britney Spears is taller and weighs less than the average American women after having had two children. In reality Spears’ body was great for having had two children. Seeing comments like these could make the average woman feel inadequate.

The American audience is notorious for judging celebrities for their physical appearance rather than personal attributes. Oprah Winfrey is an exception to this rule. Unlike the majority of celebrities, Oprah is a simple, beautiful soul who has devoted her life to helping humanity instead of impressing the public with her wealth and beauty. Oprah is well known for using her millions to help others. From surprising her studio audience with brand new cars to building a new school in Africa to educate women, Oprah is helping to ensure that this world becomes a better place for all. Oprah endured a very unfortunate childhood. Raped and abused by family members, she shows people how not to become a victim of society, but a symbol of strength and resilience. She is one of the only African American symbols of power and prestige, going from extreme poverty to exceeding wealth. At the same time, she has kept her identity, shows pride in her roots, and has not lost her way. Oprah is an example of true beauty.

Judging is neither gracious nor valid, but unfortunately as human beings, it is what we do. Judging is the foolish, and everlasting, thought or act of taking one meaningless characteristic and giving it the power to present a fraction of somebody’s identity. Judging is not always negative, but nonetheless it is frequently irrational. A common judgment is something like this statement: “She wears glasses. She must be smart.” Somewhere along the line, people who showed proof of having fuzzy vision by wearing bifocals were crowned as “intelligent.” If glasses truly made people smart, everybody would be wearing them. It is a dense statement. Simply judging. No substance. Since it is a part of human nature to judge, we cannot eliminate this predilection to judge, but we can correct it, make it rational. Judge somebody you know: yourself. Take some time to do some introspective evaluating. Are you a helpful person? Do you find yourself giving to others, even at cost to yourself? Have you ever felt selfish after doing something nice because you received a great amount of pleasure; and now, you are confused because you don’t know whether you like giving or the feeling you get from it?

It all boils down to how we evaluate people. Critiquing somebody’s physical attributes is pointless. Judging based on internal beauty is much more valid, moral, and ethical. We should be focusing on our levels of compassion, appreciation, and honesty. More importantly, instead of focusing on other people’s strengths and weaknesses, focus on your own. The media have proven that they have a great impact on our self-esteem. Luckily there is a solution: Be confident. Confidence is the power of knowing and feeling yourself to be great “as is.” Confidence is knowing your strengths and, at the same time, not allowing yourself to be shaken by the opinions of others. True beauty can only be felt by the heart. How do you let your inner beauty shine?