In April 2015, the Dove brand released a powerful video about how women judge themselves and their own beauty. In various cities around the world, they invited women to attend an event, but in order to enter the building these women had to choose to open the door that said, 'Beautiful' or 'Average.' A few women made the choice to go through the door labelled 'Beautiful,' but most walked through the 'Average' door.
That mental shift applies to both men and women. At some point or other, most of us struggle with feelings of inadequacy, worrying about whether we are attractive enough to find a partner, believing that we could never be with someone we judge as more attractive than ourselves. If you're lucky, these feelings arise rarely in social situations, like turning up to a party in something that doesn't match the rest of the people there. More often these feelings run deeper and influence how we conduct ourselves and the interactions we have with others on a daily basis.
So we have to ask the question.... is this habit to view ourselves as less than attractive, as less than beautiful – is it helping us to become more attractive and more beautiful?
You've heard the quote: “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.”
First, we are seen by others, and judged by societal norms and cultural meanings for beauty and attractiveness. We learn these as small children. One member of our Happy World team, Laura, struggled as a young child with wearing her glasses. She wanted so very much to be beautiful! But wearing glasses did not match her ideas of what beauty was, so she often broke or hid them so she would not have to present herself as ugly. We learn quickly that others judge us, and if we are the person dressed differently at a party (too casual or overdressed) we feel that social pressure from others looking at us – we judge our beauty based on what we expect others see and pay attention to. We believe that the ‘beholder’ is someone else.
What would have to happen for us to change our view about our own beauty? How can our thinking change and shift?
For most people, regular and repeated messages from others will validate a new view of themselves. If 5 different people told you every week for two months, 'you look great! You are so good looking!' then you will probably start to believe it at a deep level. But what has actually changed? Your thoughts.... that is where the work is to be done about your view of your beauty and attractiveness.
How would it feel to let go of other's definitions of beauty, and accept yourself as a beautiful person, just as you are? How far can you go? Men, do you really need to conform to the classic ‘hunk’ stereotype to be attractive? Ladies, how about going without make-up? Can you be attractive without changing too much about your appearance? Just being neutral, your own raw self, and comfortable and happy that you are attractive and beautiful?
- Make a list of your best qualities. If you can, list things you like about your physical appearance. Have you got friendly eyes? A great smile, or lovely lips? Do you like your hands, your legs or your shoulders? Rather than focus on what you don't like (which is so much easier but not good for your mental space) try really looking for things you like.
- Turn it around. Think of one thing about your body that you aren't happy with. Now turn this around into a positive attribute. The Happy World Company founder Nerea Carryon for years did not like her nose. But her mother told her, 'don't worry about it – people with big noses have big personalities!’ Now Nerea enjoys letting her personality shine rather than thinking so much about her nose.
- Try a bit of reprogramming. Every single day for two weeks, in order to create a new habit, look into your mirror and repeat five times, 'I am beautiful!' or 'I am attractive!' If you don't believe it to start with, don't worry about it and don't feel guilty about it. Just do it and keep doing it. Keep practicing at viewing yourself as attractive -- it’s a skill like learning piano and needs practice. Try different expressions. Try it wearing different clothes, or wearing nothing at all. Reinforce the message by posting notes around the house in locations where you will see them that say, 'You look gorgeous today!' and 'You light up the room!'
- Look after your posture and body language. Stand like Superman or Superwoman for 3 minutes before you go out of the house for the day. Practice big gestures that open your shoulders and chest to the rest of the room. Walk around with an exaggerated and arrogant posture for a few minutes a day – this can have a massive psychological benefit in boosting your sense of confidence and being able to handle whatever your day may bring.
- Enrol in a class. Help yourself gain greater grounding in your body and energy with a physical class such as yoga, tai chi, or qigong. Work on your inner world, and this will create a more beautiful and attractive person to present to the world. Clowning can actually be an enormous help here -- clowns intentionally draw attention to their most vulnerable parts and gain acceptance from their audience
Nerea Carryon (below) talks about her time as a model and all that it helped her to learn. She says she trained her body to show confidence, and this was reflected in a growing inner confidence.
Nerea is so convinced about the power of the camera as a tool to grow in self-awareness and confidence that she is hosting a whole workshop on this theme: POSE: Photoshoot on Self-Esteem. Here eccentric posing is allowed! Nerea and the team will gently guide you toward facing the camera, letting go of the thought patterns that block you, and breaking free into a deeper acceptance of your unique self.
Find your Attractiveness with us on 8th April! You will have your photos taken by the same photographer who took the portraits in this article. Steve Lavelle will make the inner you shine out.
Sign up for the POSE: Photoshoot on Self-Esteem now.
Heidi is a writer and editor who uses storytelling and journalistic tools to create great messages that make the world a better place. Contact her on writerwithboots [at] gmail.com
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