In Your Corner: What is beautiful?

“Beauty is a characteristic of a person, animal, place, object or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure or satisfaction.” (Wikipedia) In other words, looking at something that is beautiful makes the observer feel good.

A brand new mother looks at her new baby, covered with mucus, blood, and a squinched up face with hands in fists, and feels it is one of the most beautiful things she has ever seen! And a baby looks into its mother’s eyes and sees her as the most beautiful person in the world. They are beautiful because they make each other feel something: loved, cherished, cared for, peaceful, important …

Most of us think of “beautiful” as describing the physical beauty of an object, and we have to say something like, “She’s beautiful inside and out,” if we are referring to an inner beauty. But people feel it. The late Princess Diana of Wales was a beautiful woman, but by solely physical standards, her nose would have seemed too large. She was beloved by England for her graciousness, kindness, devotion to family and children all over the world.

Scientists have done research on what is “beautiful.” Researchers found that “the computer generated, mathematical average of a series of faces is rated more favorably than individual faces.” (Langlois, Roggeman, Musselman, 1984)

 So that means that the standard of beauty, is actually what is the most average in the specie! But don’t try telling your boyfriend or girlfriend, “Wow, you’re really average looking.” In this society, average tends to mean less than the standard for beauty.

Standards of beauty change, as well. Being pencil thin is considered beautiful in California, but in India, at least a few decades ago, if a woman was thin, it was an insult to her husband, because it might appear to the world that he was not a good provider for her.

During the Renaissance the ideal female beauty was plump, and with a high forehead. Women would pluck the hair above their foreheads to have a high forehead. Plumpness generally meant health and possibly wealth, and high foreheads were supposed to be a sign of intelligence. Rhianna has a high forehead, but Jennifer Aniston doesn’t. Both are considered icons of beauty now.

What is so very important for everyone, especially adolescents to know, is that the magazines you look at, and even videos now are RETOUCHED! The ad you see of a model wearing new clothes has been able to make her body 10 percent taller, 10 percent slimmer, pouffed out her hair, removed all the skin imperfections, and perhaps adjusted her color and other features.

What you are seeing isn’t what’s real, and that’s in addition to the corrective makeup she’s already had applied. Using shadowing and contouring, make up artists can make a face look like it has higher cheekbones, slimmer cheeks or nose, larger eyes, etc.

So now let’s look at beauty’s opposite. Ugliness is a quality of a person or thing that is unpleasant to look upon and results in an unfavorable feeling. We could say that a physically ugly person is way off the “average” chart for how people normally look.

Sadly, people who appear ugly to others suffer well-documented discrimination, earning 10 to 15 percent less per year than similar workers, and are less likely to be hired for almost any job. Discrimination against others based on their appearance is known as “lookism.”

One of the reasons that people think others are ugly is because they haven’t seen people that look that way before, and as we see more of them, we get familiar with the look, and see more of the person behind it.

 J. R. Martinez was an Army infantryman in Iraq. In 2003 he sustained severe burns to over 34 percent of his body, including his face. Yet, he won season 13 in “Dancing with the Stars.” He did more good-will promotion for burn victims than any mass distribution of fliers. He was caring, engaging, interesting, and full of love for his family and the viewers.

 The “Biggest Loser” show has shown us the beauty inside the contestants as they choose to change their lives and become healthy, and made the U.S. more sensitive to heavier people. I know that Hawaii is wonderfully accepting of the different “packages” that people come in.

 Anyone can be beautiful inside. That is a choice. Anyone can dress with a little style. Even celebrities shop at thrift stores. Anyone can learn the tricks of makeup or what colors you personally look good in. Go to department stores and have a makeover, and pay attention to what they tell you. You will have to buy a minimum amount of products, but you can hold up different colored clothes to your face and hair, and determine what pops your natural coloring. Guys, the clothing thing is for you, too.

 Then look in a mirror and think loving thoughts, mean thoughts, sad thoughts, and see how they affect your face. How does having a good attitude look on your face? Researchers on Hawaii have shown that a good attitude is the number one key to success for kids after a negative life event. We are always starting from right now, so have a beautiful life!

• Hale `Opio Kaua’i convened a support group of adults in our Kaua’i community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at


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