Beauty – it’s everywhere. On the billboards, you pass on the highway, the magazines you browse through at the airport, and one of the leading topics of interest on college campuses everywhere.
How many times have I listened in on a conversation at Starbucks, consisting of girls’ bad-talking another female based on her outer-appearance? “She is only pretty on Instagram” or “She only looks good because she cakes on makeup.” Or guys even into their mid-twenties bluntly talking about how another girl has a “great body, but an ugly face” right in front of me.
It is incontrovertible that the emphasis on “looking a certain way” has had an impact on girls that hurt their self-esteem and self-worth.
I’m reluctant to admit, but it seems like engaging in this behavior is sometimes so familiar that it becomes second nature. Often, I find myself comparing myself to other girls, wondering what they have that I don’t. Are her legs skinnier? Is her hair prettier? Maybe I should try putting more effort into my makeup? She definitely has a flatter stomach, but I think my teeth are straighter... her clothes are way cuter than mine, maybe I need to go shopping?
Comparing ourselves to other females and seeing them as competition isn’t only unhealthy, but unnecessary. There will always be someone prettier or skinnier than you. However, there is only one person in this world that is as uniquely beautiful as you are.
Where does feeling beautiful come from? I have heard guys I have talked to say, “girls only try to look good for guys.” Sure, it feels special and intimate when a guy looks into your eyes and calls you beautiful. It even feels somewhat good when a drunk douchebag at the bar stumbles over saying, “Hey, beautiful.” (but it also makes me want to projectile vomit as well).
Occasionally, I catch myself asking, when do I truly feel the most beautiful?
Feeling beautiful is more than getting dressed up for formal and taking a killer Instagram picture. It is the feeling you get when you are strong, confident in yourself. It stems from inner beauty. Everyone feels beautiful in their own special and unique way. That is beautiful in itself. I decided to ask 20 beautiful girls in their 20s what makes them feel the most beautiful. Here is what they said:
Disclaimer: names left out for privacy, but added a little touch of my own for fun
* * *
“I’d say it makes me feel beautiful getting compliments from other girls because you know they’re not just trying to get in your pants they actually mean it. Plus, we’re all on the same side and it’s nice when girls are nice to each other instead of catty." — Beautiful, selfless soul sis with a contagious smile and heart of gold, age 20
“I think I feel most beautiful when I am with good people surrounding me people who make me laugh and I can be my complete self with, and when people tell me l have a good heart it makes me feel beautiful!!” — My amazing and genuine cowriter, age 19
“I felt the most beautiful when I started to learn to accept for my flaws and imperfections and additionally when people compliment me for my talents, sense of humor, and kindness... instead of my physical appearance.” — My perfect sister and best friend, age 20
“When the hummingbirds sing for me” — The girl who let me cut in front of her at Starbucks, age 23
“The best is when it’s unexpected! Like when you didn’t put any makeup on and you’re kind of disheveled and someone compliments you or tells you you’re pretty. It’s better than when I actually tried to look pretty because when I’m trying, I would hope someone would take notice, but when someone takes notice of me naturally I feel most beautiful! Also when people aren’t just talking about looks, but my personality or character too! Like when they tell my mom you have such a beautiful daughter while I’m standing there after I took, like, a minute to be polite to them or if they see me interacting with other people! When you are polite to people they notice and it paints you in such a better light! I always feel so good when that happens.” — My best friend since freshman year of college who gives the best advice and has a smile that will light up the room, age 22
“Honestly I've felt beautiful when strangers or people I've met in classes have told me "your pretty" or "you have a pretty smile" because I've never really thought of myself as "pretty" especially my smile because of my gap teeth so that has always made me feel truly beautiful when someone who doesn't truly know me can say something so kind.” — My beautiful, inside and out, high school bestie, age 22
“ When I am confident in my own skin and putting a smile on people’s face.” — Another amazing cowriter, age 20
“When I use my vibrator” — My unapologetically honest, confident and beautiful best friend who always has a sense of humor, age 21
“What makes me feel the most beautiful is when people compliment my character. When you focus on your inner beauty, it makes your outer beauty shine. I think that if women are true to themselves and make their inner beauty a priority, their physical beauty will be exemplified.” — My bestie since 8th grade who has never lost her sweetness, age 21
“When I run and feel super strong, like my legs can carry me anywhere and nothing can stop me.” — My fitness inspiration at the gym, age 20
“When you’re getting ready at your friends’ house and they are in the living room ready to go out and you walk out and all ya chick friends be like 'ooh, dayum, girlfriend' and you do a 360 like you Tyra banks owning a runway ready to get litty.” — My homegirl that I can always count on to make me laugh, age 21
“I’m with my gal pals and they are encouraging me to be my best self” — My gal pal that always encourages me to have a good time, age 22
“At the end of the year in High School and I was in my economics class and my professor said something (who low key was an ass to kids but was so funny anyway). So the class was doing nothing and he started telling the class he was looking at all our senior year pics that came up on the roll call and randomly he calls my name out to the whole class and says “(Name), you look like a supermodel in your picture, wow” and the whole class looked up and over at me and I was just like umm thank you. He didn’t give out a lot of compliments to people and stuff and he actually meant what he said and I felt really good after he said that.” — My little who is beautiful inside and outside and always makes me laugh, age 20
“I feel most beautiful when I’m practicing yoga. Rather than overanalyzing my stretch marks, and stomach fat and all the other things I tend to see, I see strength and poise and a body that can move so freely. It’s like I’m really seeing my body for the first time.” — Yoga beauty and inspiration to girls everywhere, age 22
“I think that when people in general compliment who I am as a person it makes me feel beautiful and confident -not the way I look. Like how they say I am such a funny person or I am always there for them. That makes me feel good” — My beautiful G big, who is always there for me, and just an amazing person, age 23
“I feel pretty when my mom says “your eyes look green today” or sometimes in the morning before I put makeup on and I see my freckles I feel pretty” — My pretty, kind and sweet sorority sister, age 21
“I like when our sisters hype me up on Instagram or Snapchat.” — My genuine and beautiful sorority sis who always has others backs, age 21
“The day I got my braces off !!It was February 3rd and I didn't realize how much have straight teeth could help your self-confidence! Like I got compliments on them and also it just makes you feel pretty.” — My G little, who is adorable and just a little ball of fun, age 19 (still counting you even though you are a young one !!)
“Other than the cliche “I feel pretty in bomb lighting or in a new outfit” I feel the most beautiful when I’m around people I love who are positive and make me laugh and feel comfortable. Also since being single I’ve learned to find beauty outside of a boy telling me that but just by being strong and independent.” — My hilarious and sweet bestie, age 21
* * *
Feeling beautiful is undoubtedly unique for everyone. Beauty is not classified by the number of likes on an Instagram. It doesn’t come having the best makeup or clothes. It isn’t from compliments on Tinder or Bumble.
Knowing you are beautiful doesn’t steam from a boy tell you that you are pretty or sexy. Beauty is a feeling that is shaped differently for everyone. It comes from inner-beauty, love from others and confidence in yourself. It is the genuine compliments of strangers or the feeling you get doing what you love.
Beauty is the feeling I get when the sunshine comes in through my sunroof and my favorite song happens to play on the radio.
Beauty is when my dad tells me how proud and strong I am.
Beauty is when someone tells me how much I remind them of my mother or when my sister randomly gives me a hug and says, “I am so lucky you’re my sister.”
Beauty is what I feel when I drink my morning coffee, bare-faced and sing to myself in the kitchen.
Beauty is when my best friend looks at me over a shared plate of loaded fries and tells my broken-heart “you are gold to me.” (S/O @malloryrossen)
Beauty is life’s little moments, the kindness you portray and the feelings you get on the inside, that no matter how pretty a face might be, is no match for inner beauty’s shine.