What Really Makes A Woman Beautiful?

Eight months after the birth of my first baby, I still have purple-red stretch marks striping my stomach and a prominent spare tire—both of which I hate. My husband might say he finds my stretch marks beautiful because of what they stand for, but objectively, I think they are unattractive. Unsightly. I know I’d be prettier without them.

And even though I try not to get distracted by the day’s “trending topics,” too often I get sucked in. The popular and accepted point of view says we need to condemn unrealistic beauty standards by stomping on the concept of an ideal “beauty” and affirming everyone is equally physically beautiful.

That being said, does this mean our culture is obsessed with physical beauty in an unhealthy way? I think so, our beauty ideals are often unattainable by the average woman. After all, our eyes are naturally drawn to the exceptional. But by trying to adopt new, broader concepts of “beautiful” and “sexy,” we’re not addressing the heart of the issue–and we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.

I’m stuck with this body, so I have three options: spend extensive time and money finding ways to minimize the stretch marks with cosmetics and work out until I achieve the flat stomach I had in college; try to convince myself that the blemishes are attractive and hire a photographer to take artsy photographs of me showing them off; or make my peace with my flaws and remember that physical beauty is not as important as character, honor, integrity and kindness.

But it’s not easy. Society has always rewarded physical beauty unfairly to its actual value. Beautiful people often make more money than the less attractive. They’re more likely to be seen as leaders. They attract friends more easily.

But if we cling to the fleeting promise of beauty, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. Even the most attractive of us fade over time, and their crowds of admirers dwindle. For those of us who fall outside the beauty ideal, it’s great to project confidence and remind the world that attractiveness comes in many shapes and sizes. Still, it’s far better to end another message: that true beauty has nothing to do with the physical.

Faithful friendship, generosity, self-sacrifice, and trustworthiness are all far more valuable than a picture-perfect face. The people I most admire and aspire to be like will never be featured in People Magazine. And as they age, the beauty of their character will never fade.

I have a little daughter now, and she is exceptionally beautiful, with bright green eyes and sweeping eyelashes that stop passersby in their tracks. I look at her and marvel, and wonder if maybe she might not struggle with the same insecurities I did (and do) about being pretty enough.

I want everything for my daughter. But if I had to choose for her either a conventionally beautiful face or a deeply, truly beautiful character, I know for certain which I’d pick. Physical beauty isn’t the most important thing in life. It’s time we started acting on that truth and work to change society’s perspective–beginning with ourselves.

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