Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Beauty Within

I am working in NYC for the next few days, and once again was reminded of how looks-conscious and how bombarded with images of "perfection" our culture is. I passed so many photos of airbrushed models I can hardly count them! And I passed too many tense, brittle young women who were attempting to fulfill all of these fantasies at once!

Having worked in publishing for so many years, I am fully aware of how photos are manipulated before they are published. Tall, slim men and women with interesting facial bone structure spend hours having hair and makeup done to create the photographer's ideal - then these people are carefully dressed, posed and lit before a single shot is taken.

Once the shoot is done, the images are sent to the art department, and the real work begins! Skin tones are balanced and corrected, pimples and freckles and other "imperfections" are removed, visible pores and lines are smoothed out, teeth and eyes are whitened, actual eyecolor is often manipulated to include colors from the clothing or the set, some photographers prefer to shoot the models with clean faces and apply all makeup during this step!

And these steps are just the standard taken with a gorgeous model. Much more can be done to enhance the not-so-perfect. Like removing fat rolls and cellulite and double chins, adding cleavage, altering noses or chins or cheekbones, changing haircolor, and more.

Even though I know all of this, and have actually done some of this work over the years, it is still hard to look at the finished product and not feel envious at times! And it is also still hard to keep my perspective on what is truly important: health and inner beauty.

Inner beauty does not come from the careful application of lotions and potions, nor does it come from regularly scheduled manicures. Inner beauty comes from self-knowledge. Inner beauty comes from cultivating interests and passions that have nothing to do with appearance, such as literature, or gardening. Inner beauty can only grow as we do, whereas the advertising/publishing model of outer beauty can only diminish with age.

I see inner beauty light up a mother's face when she snuggles with her children. I see a nurse's inner beauty when she cares for the babies in her NICU unit. I see my mom's inner beauty when she advocates for the head injured or when she cares for her loved ones.

When do you see the inner beauty in the women you love?