Beauty and the Pursuit of Happiness

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Beauty is only skin deep. Don’t judge a book by its cover. It’s what’s on the inside that counts. These sayings have been heard a thousand times, but like all clichés their popularity can keep us from thinking of the deeper meaning. These clichés refer to the relationship between inner and outer beauty. Outer beauty, in the simplest of terms, is one’s physical appearance. Inner beauty is, vaguely, one’s soul, personality, heart, values, morals, and integrity. Media often depicts images of physical beauty as being closely connected to one’s happiness, as if without it, happiness is unattainable. Unfortunately, this sets the stage for disappointment and pursuit of happiness in all the wrong places.

Outer beauty comes from genetics and can only be perceived through sight. In large, society can be accredited with defining aesthetic conventions. What is thought to be beautiful has changed over years and varies by geographical location, time-period, and ethnicity. The Pa Dong tribe in Thailand is well-known for their women wearing weighted rings to elongate their necks. A female with a long neck is considered beautiful among the tribal members. For many centuries in China, young women would put on extremely small shoes to bind their feet and keep them from growing. Small feet were thought to be an attractive quality in women. Comparatively, women in these cultures went to extreme lengths to achieve their culture’s form of beauty, as do many women today. During the Renaissance, voluptuous, pale women were the most beautiful, which is discernibly different than the modern day conventions of being skinny and tan. While the varying concepts of beauty may seem foreign and irrelevant, the point is that outer beauty is universally indefinable.

There is no discrediting that outer beauty, or at least a clean, coifed look, plays an important role in certain aspects of life. However, a preoccupation with appearances can lead to a lack of focus on what is more important in the pursuit of happiness: inner beauty.

Inner beauty is about one’s soul, personality, heart, values, morals, and integrity. When lacking fulfillment in life, consider whether or not any of these areas are contributing to your unhappiness:

  1. Not taking time to really evaluate matters to you- and then standing behind it.
  2. Lack of humility. Humility does not mean weakness. It means one is strong enough to accept their shortcomings, work on them and grow.
  3. Inability to accept and appreciate the aspects of oneself that need no alteration. Not everything needs to be changed. We are all unique and deserving of love. Finding and appreciating those things about yourself that are, quite simply, you.
  4. Not engaging in fun activities. What do you like to do? Get out and explore the world around you.
  5. Not taking a genuine interest in the journey of others. Not only do we learn a lot from others, but it can be fun to hear stories about the experiences of others. Sit back and enjoy.
  6. Lack of understanding that we are all in the process of evolving and learning. Imperfection is part of life. Accepting others as they are and taking them at face value. They are on their own journey. You are on yours.

Understanding that outer beauty cannot change inner beauty is key. Inner beauty and strength can construct features of the outer beauty. One of the most obvious links from inner to outer beauty is a smile. More than that, it is a smile that conveys warmth, acceptance and understanding. To be a beautiful human being it is not critical to look visually “perfect,” because we are more than just a physical presence; we are minds, hearts and beyond. Beauty is conveyed through happiness- feeling good and making others feel good. Looks, on the other hand, as the old adage goes, can be deceiving.

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Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Centennial, Colorado. She is an EMDRIA Approved Consultant and Trainer and EMDR Certified Therapist, providing both EMDR trainings and consultation to clinicians as well as specializing in EMDR therapy for people seeking help with trauma, grief and other anxiety related disorders.
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