Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The Perception of Beauty

After one girl made some waves with her shmaltztastic video I was again reminded of the never-ending human quest to define and identify the allure of "beauty". A hackneyed theme, but nevertheless enduringly beguiling. When I think on it myself, often my starting point is a poem which although one of my favourites, always unsettles me with its final concluding stanza,

"'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'"

Don't worry - I won't turn this blog into a practical criticism GCSE fest! But it does eloquently build up to the point that true beauty has inherent within it some revelation of clarity - some "truth" to unveil. Such is the essense of 'falling in love' - discovery of a trueness that translates as beauty.

But here you can scoff. After all maybe one can say men can become beautiful when armed with a great sense of humour and a warm smile, but women? Sense of humour can't bridge physical shortcomings in the same way. Sad, but no point masking the facts. However albeit the boundaries are unequal and the fairer sex have more pressure to attain true (literal) beauty, the nature of beauty still has the complexity of a truth: Truth is simple, organised, and clear, though it can be colloquially known as "the ugly truth" rather than anything approaching beauty. But the epiphany of the moment of truth is unrivalled. Truth can be manipulated, measured, controlled; used to dazzling effect. The coupling of truth and beauty thus gains momentum.

But onto the less abstract interpretation of "Beauty", gleaned or at least triggered by Keats' poem.

Contrast, ultimately is master. Truth is valueless and rootless without lies and Fiction; Good is unremarkable without Evil; Silence is deafening without Noise. Beauty is flat without Flaws. Embrace your 'flaws' - your quirks are there to contrast your beauty and bring it to a 'truth'. Kate Moss' crooked teeth give her a jaunty beauty; Cindy Crawford's mole sparks her beauty; Linda Evangelista's hooked nose gives her an unworldly elegance ... (don't mention Angelina Jolie at this point though please don't break the spell!)

My perception of Beauty, to throw my hat into the ring, is the confidence to use your weaker features to offset your classically beautiful features. If you have thin lips, splash them with a bold slice of colour, à la Lily Cole doll face look. If you have a prominent nose, don't keep your head down - wear your hair scraped back and blush up your cheekbones, wear extra eye makeup, a prominent feature gives you license to wear bold looks à la Erin O'Connor. Embrace your individuality and find the truth of your own beauty.

...What is your perception of beauty???


  1. I'm similar in thought to your perception of beauty. It's important to emphasize your best features, accept the less conventional ones - even play those up, like you mention.

    While considering your question, I started thinking about where I learned about my best features (and worst). Of course, it has shaped my perception of beauty to a degree but as I've gotten older, I'm so more accepting of myself. Plus, I've made a conscience effort to push past the western convention of beauty. It's opened my eye to re-evaluate beauty. We can be a bit bland over here in this hemisphere;P
    Hope you're having a great weekend!

  2. I totally agree with playing up "flaws" (i.e. embracing the truth rather than fighting it!)

    When I was younger, I hated my thick eyebrows and my curly hair. My mother would encourage me to keep it short to keep it "controllable", and I spent tons on haircuts and products to smooth it.

    When I finally decided to let my hair grow long, it became maintenance-free and I got compliments on it. People called it my "signature!"

    I've also gotten compliments on my eyebrows (o.k., so I didn't leave these all bushy but they do remain bold.) I wouldn't look right without them.

    My nose... well I'm still trying to make peace with it but I've stopped letting the hairdressers talk me into styles that try to "soften" my features. It never looks right. I've got strong features and playing them up results in a more harmonious look.

    BTW that Keats poem is one of my favorite quotes. My late father used to recite it all the time and I would roll my eyes of course. But the older I get the truer it seems.


  3. I always think chemistry is more important than beauty....chemistry is a feeling while beauty relies on looks, but the right chemistry and wow! Anyone can be gorgous!

  4. I'm not sure I have a complete perception of beauty...so I can't answer your question. But I do want to thank you for writing such a wonderful blog about this topic. I found you via Love Lipstick & Lime via Anna Saccone (The Style Diet).

    Thanks again,

  5. @ aestheticoo

    Thanks! Yes there are a myriad of ways to be 'ugly' yet very few to 'beauty' in the established sense. It's all about symmetry. But, we are pushing past that by accepting unconventional beauty, as the world gets more ethnically and culturally diverse.

    Yes that's exactly my point- the effort it takes to twist your individuality to fit a pre-conceived notion of 'beauty' is bound to backfire. Better to create and nurture your own true beauty. To thine own self be true and all that right? haha! Yes poetry explains the world.

    Chemistry, yes! The innate quality no one can fathom... Indeed, yes humans are funny things... You're right, great point as always!! Thanks!

    Yes that was SO sweet of Nadia, and so sweet of YOU to say that, thank you!! Xxx

  6. Confidence is the best beauty secret for sure!

  7. @Errynshealthandbeauty.com

    Hi Erryn -- Agreed! Though I fear more the case for males than females....?

  8. Acceptance: To feel beauty/iful, you need to embrace what you have – the good and the (what you perceive to be) bad features.
    Confidence: To radiate beauty, you need to believe in yourself.
    Modesty: For others to see the beauty in you, be humble. Arrogance in a beauty is no beauty at all.

    If any one of the three is missing, then this ‘beauty’ becomes untrue and incomplete.

  9. @Witoxicity

    Wow yes you put that very elegantly, it sounds like a chinese proverb or something - perfect! I completely agree, that's spot-on!!