Header image of Tawana Bain for September 2022 Publisher's Blog post.

What Really Makes You Beautiful?

Written by Tawana Bain | Photo by Tawana Bain

Beauty, according to Miriam Webster’s online dictionary, is the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.

For some, when you mention the word beauty, the first thought that comes to mind is the external appearance. While physical appearance shapes so much of who and what is viewed as beautiful in the world, there are many other things that can define beauty. Our ability to create art, inspire others through words or song, to entertain through dance, or even our ability to show kindness to fellow humans and animals – these are all ways in which beauty can be embodied. Yet many of us spend a lot of time perfecting our outer shell and so little time honing in on the beautiful gifts we have that are invisible to the naked eye.

I often listen with great intrigue when there’s a debate about whether Jay-Z would be labeled attractive had he not become rich? I contend that for Beyoncé it’s likely not his wealth that she finds most attractive, but it’s his musical talent, drive and overall personality that won her over.  I imagine some of you saying, “Tawana, if the roles were reversed, her beautiful voice be damned he probably would not have had interest in her if she were not visually pleasing to the eye.”  We’ll save that debate for another issue.

Here’s more food for thought on Mr. Sean Carter: Would he be asked to don the cover of any of the world’s most popular magazines or would he have become a success if he led with his physical appearance? Would he have become a global icon if he were a model instead of a musician? Would opinions of his physical attractiveness be a help or hinderance to his success?

I applaud all persons who couldn’t care less about whether they meet society’s beauty standards and instead opt to showcase their amazing talents for the world to behold. Their courage affirms that what we do, who we are and how we show up in the world is far more important than the shape of our eyes and the size of our waists or breasts.

I’ll never forget asking an ex during a day spent barbecuing and playing games on our deck, if he knew what I longed for most in my life. His response almost knocked me clean out of my flops. He said, “I bet you wish you were the world’s most desirable woman.” Needless to say, that response is just one of a gazillion reasons why he’s an ex. What I actually longed for most was for the nitwit to see how pure my love was for him in hopes of him feeling the same about me.  I thought if he had a glimpse of the beauty in my heart then he’d cherish that beauty completely. But that wasn’t possible for him.  A valuable lesson I learned from that relationship is there is value in those who can see you for who you are and nothing you can do about those who cannot.

“Let me tell you something – being thought of as a beautiful woman has spared me nothing in life. No heartache, no trouble. Love has been difficult. Beauty is essentially meaningless and it is always transitory.” — Halle Berry

How are you allowing your beauty to shine? Are you spending more time nurturing the gifts the creator provided to you? Or is improving your physical appearance more important? While there is nothing wrong with attending to your outer beauty, I don’t want you to miss the opportunity to showcase other attributes that make you beautiful. Halle Berry said it best; beauty is transitory.

But, what if your gift is your beauty? Well, there is surely no mistaking that there are some people who are born so attractive that they are a sight to behold.  And yes, I do perceive it as a gift. After all, many studies have shown that good-looking people receive preferential treatment. According to a 2015 report by economist Eva Sierminska, attractive employees earn up to 15% more than those considered less or unattractive. (You can read the study here: https://wol.iza.org).

Quite honestly, I find the concept of beauty problematic – especially for women.  No matter what you look like, both sides of the coin come with complications. It’s also why I’m never surprised when I meet women with all types of physical appearances grappling with insecurities. Oftentimes, when an attractive woman walks into a room, she will get the quick (or sometimes lingering) head-to-toe look from other women who immediately consider her an adversary. For some of us, controlling this behavior is difficult because of the insecurities we have about ourselves and our looks.  We also don’t understand how our response to another woman based on her looks impacts her ability to show up as her authentic self. Just like a woman blessed with beautiful vocals cannot change the fact that she can sing, a woman who is born beautiful cannot change what she looks like. So why ostracize her?

All of us have been given innate gifts that can serve us well if we use them responsibly – and beauty is no exception. It is a gift, and how we use it matters. To me, using physical attractiveness for selfish purposes is just as nefarious as using your gift of intellectual prowess to swindle people out of millions.

In closing, I want women and girls to understand that there’s more to beauty than looks. Beauty can be seen in the way a person raises their children, shares their talents or cares for a community. These are all very beautiful traits that add something special to our world. While not always easy, my hope is for women to focus on nurturing the qualities that make us magnificent regardless of their outer appearance. I want women to knock down the beauty barrier that prevents many of us from accepting and supporting another woman based on how she looks.

Ultimately, caring for our inner selves and celebrating both the inner and outer beauty of others is where the true beauty lies. #weseeyousis #todayssisters


Read the August 2022 Publisher’s Blog.