To take the meaning quite literally, authentic beauty is a strength of undisputed origin; a genuine attractiveness; real quality; true virtue; an original work of art. The Urban Dictionary defines beauty as ‘a thing seldom seen’. It can be argued that it is ‘seldom seen’ because, for example, beauty simply doesn’t exist, or is it rather because too often people look but do not actually see? There is an insurmountable difference between ‘looking’ and ‘seeing’. Once seen, beauty cannot be hidden; once acknowledged, it is undeniable. Beauty’s existence is unquestionable; whether we choose to see it or not is what we should query. Our reasons for choosing not to see beauty are often where we really need to challenge ourselves and face insecurity within us. Beauty is limitless – it has no parameters, no expectations. Nothing truly beautiful ever asks for attention; it has no agenda, no ego that needs tending to. Beauty simply is. Authenticity – it’s life giving. Therefore, to be a human with authentic beauty, we actually become a life-giving being. It’s an outward proclamation of an internal revelation.
Many people think that only women can be beautiful; for a man to be beautiful is somehow weak, a compromise of sexuality, or an emasculation of the male spirit. However, I believe that this is just not so. Men and women, adults and children, all encompass the very definition of true, authentic beauty. For beauty celebrates difference – in gender, colour, race, creed, genetic makeup, orientation, preference and ability. Difference is unique and unique is beautiful. Uniqueness cannot be threatened, though it seems easily intimidated. Maybe it is worth suggesting that the biggest enemy of uniqueness is envy? Envy is generated out of fear and breeds a culture of it, the results of which can be paralysing and utterly crippling, often succeeding in throwing us off course. People who are secure and refuse to compromise their uniqueness become targets to those that do – those that are insecure and unsure. Envy pulls the rug from under our feet; it is fear that prevents us from getting back up and dusting ourselves off. You’ll never reach the expectations of others, not because you’re never good enough to meet them, but due to those people’s own insecurities and their expectations that are fluid, therefore constantly moving. Insecurity breeds instability. Insecurity is ugly; it is unstable. And instability is insecure. Strength of character, however, is not only beautiful – it is infectious and inspiring. We can wait around for everyone else to ‘get it’ and start accepting us for who we are and how we look, or it can start with us. But if we want it to start with us, it needs to first start in us. I believe that you were (as it says in Psalm 139) “fearfully and wonderfully made.” ‘Fearfully’ and ‘wonderfully’ are both adverbs, describing how you were made. The very process of your creation, of your bringing-into-being, was wonderful; put another way, it was a wonderful experience to make you. You were created fearfully. From the very first moments of your conception, you were made fearfully – not out of fear, nor with fear – but you were made with the knowledge – the intention – that something magnificent would occur as a result of your existence; there was an awareness of the power and impact you could and would have on this world. The ‘fearfulness’ in the making of you is a reverence, a respect. Remember, you had a purpose before anyone had an opinion of you. And that purpose was in you and on you as you were being fearfully and wonderfully created. There is nothing ‘normal’ about you, your beauty or your purpose, so eradicate it from your vocabulary – now!
We are a generation obsessed with portraying the processed, airbrushed, tweaked and adjusted as ‘normal’ and ‘natural’, and to be frank, it’s draining and debilitating. If we are not careful, we are going to breed a culture of exhausted followers who consistently fail to keep up with the façade of unattainable perfection because it is just that – unattainable. You cannot attain what is not real. In all things, I believe we should never lose who we are or what we’re about. What we stand for and who we represent is what, in my opinion, represents our ‘self’. And I believe that we should always be one hundred per cent unapologetic about who we are. There is beauty to be found in the raw, in the real, in the rare… and you are rare. There is only one of you. You are the rarest of all. If we are to see and appreciate beauty in other people, I believe first and foremost it starts with us; we need a revelation that we are all – man, woman, child – authentically beautiful, rare and unique. As much as I believe wholeheartedly in the authentic beauty born within each of us, I believe that we are in control of how we nurture and navigate such a gift. To be authentic is to be true – and that means every part; every part of us needs to be beautiful if we are to be authentic in it. True authentic beauty emanates from all the senses. What we see, hear, taste, touch and smell in others, but also what people see, hear, taste, touch and smell in or about us. Now that can sound incredibly weird and albeit slightly disturbing, so let me break it down: when you look out in a room, who do you see? Do you see the person on stage talking into the microphone, the loud girl flicking her hair and strutting her neck at the circle of guys surrounding her? Or what about the scrawny loner hiding behind the dust-covered piano in the corner? Notice them? The unseen should not go unnoticed. Period. I wonder that maybe if we looked at the souls of one another rather than our physicality, if our idea and ideal of beauty would be altered? And what do people see when they look at you? What do you want them to see? What are you allowing them to see? How do you carry yourself? How do you dress? Carry yourself with decorum and confidence. Have modesty, have grace, an air of mystery and beauty. What do you hear about people? Do you choose to listen to idle gossip? Or do you choose to sidestep that landmine and speak to that person face-to-face, get to know them and have a real relationship? What do people hear about you? Would you like what you heard about what people have to say about you? Your reputation is your best character reference. A bad reputation is like a bad smell; it always lingers and isolates its surroundings. It leaves a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth and it is not easily forgotten. What smell does your attitude leave behind? A refreshing fragrance or a foul stench? What words come out of your mouth? Are they life-giving or soul-destroying? Your words have power; they carry weight – when you speak, you create. So we need to check ourselves, not just with what we say but how we say it. ‘Touch’ is the one sense that I believe more than anything requires a boundary. I come from a close, loving, healthy, tactile family where hugs were (and still are) a frequent part of our everyday language and I have many friends who are similar. However, I am very aware that many people are not as familiar or comfortable with this type of interaction and so I have to keep that in mind. You see beauty is selfless; it is always outwardly seeking. It is always looking to the needs of others rather than fulfilling our own. Just because I love to hug people does not mean that I should be inappropriate or invasive with it; I must be aware and sensitive to each individual. And vice versa. I have a very treasured friend who really does not like to be hugged. However, in those times where she just ‘knows’ I’ve needed it, she has always given me the greatest of hugs. And I treasure it so much because in that moment, I know she puts me before herself; someone else’s comfort surpasses the sense of her own discomfort. That is truly beautiful. When you touch someone, do they feel safe, do they feel loved, do they feel valued? When any kind of physical interaction takes place, at no point should anyone walk away feeling devalued, awkward or rejected. Everyone should be aware of personal space and everyone should know where the appropriate boundary is – and this might look different to each person. Quite simply, respect it. That kind of awareness shows a selfless sensitivity, something which I believe is key to being authentically beautiful.
Beauty doesn’t require or demand maintenance or work; it does not have a list of ‘must-haves’ or tick-boxes to check off. It simply desires growth and will inevitably continue to do so. Beauty is constantly evolving, constantly growing and blooming. It changes, weathers highs and lows, can ultimately be messy and rough. But that is the very beauty of it all; its rawness, its realness, its authenticity. As William Leal said: “Beauty is the opposite of perfection – it’s about confidence, charisma and character. It’s all messy: the hair, the bed, the words, the heart, life…” We live in a culture obsessed with pointing out the flaw rather than the fleek. Take the recent pictures published of Beyoncé – a ‘queen’ and idol to many – yet scrutinised for her simple humanity; poor skin and a few pimples. Whilst it sheds light on reality, a good reminder that most, if not all, magazine and poster pictures are airbrushed to within an inch of their lives, it does not seem right that a woman is judged for simply being real and bearing blemish. Every prestigious awards ceremony has a best and worst dressed list, yet which list does everyone focus on? The negative. Though unacceptable, it’s the way society works. However, I love that there are many women and men in the limelight who are changing the game. In the recent Oscars ceremony, Reese Witherspoon brought her #AskHerMore campaign to the table, encouraging showbiz and entertainment reporters to ask deeper questions to these actresses rather than the simple ‘Who are you wearing?’ but instead: ‘What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken that you feel has paid off? What accomplishments are you most proud of?’ or ‘What potential do filmmakers and characters have to make a change in the world?’ These women have a voice, as do the men, and I love Reese’s eagerness to use her platform to shed light on what prominent figures are giving focus to and changing it.
In this series, we have endeavoured to not just talk about authenticity but actually be authentic in who we are, our approach and what we have to say. I feel very privileged to have had some incredible people involved in this project and these girls are no different. These five are some of the most real, authentic, beautiful, genuine girls I have the privilege of knowing. They have wisdom beyond their years and I find myself learning from them constantly – I adore them. Here’s what they had to say about true authentic beauty.
Ama: Authentic beauty is being truly comfortable in your own skin and being happy, not feeling like you have to modify, mould and change yourself into something else so that others are more likely to accept you or so you fit in. Authentic beauty is different to what we are told to perceive as beauty through the media and everything else that shows us what is ‘attractive’. The beauty that society shows us is fake, temporary, self-obsessed, addictive and a trap. These things tell us that we always need more and that having these things will make us happy, complete and beautiful. However, I believe that we can never get happiness from products and possessions. We may buy something that brings us happiness for a short period of time. However, it will never last as there is always something newer, something better. All of these things in the media corrupt our view on what is beautiful, especially in advertising for clothes and beauty products. Why should someone who is ‘chubby’ or ‘too skinny’ feel uncomfortable in their own skin or pressured to look a certain way if they are perfectly healthy? Or why should someone feel uncomfortable and self-conscious if they have big ears or a big nose? My question is why would the media portray those things as ugly - why can’t it be beautiful? The real, raw beauty I believe in and see is that we are all made perfectly and we all have opinions, voices and ideas that we can share and make an impact on other people around us. I also believe that God put so much detail and effort into creating us as individuals, so how can we not be made perfectly if the Creator of the world made us in such great detail - from every single hair on our head to the lines and prints on our fingertips! Like diamonds pulled from the ground, we contain so much beauty outside and inside of us. We all have our rough and jagged edges and we have high value. Beauty is every face, every person, every thing that God has created. Beauty is being who you are and what God has called you to be, whilst not letting the world change how awesome you are and how you view yourself. Beauty is being comfortable with who you are and not wanting to change that. Beauty is knowing God made you perfectly down to the finest detail. The thing that makes authentic beauty so raw and amazing is the spirit behind the physical person. To me, a person can never be truly beautiful if they have an ugly soul. A beautiful soul to me could be a person who tries to bring light to situations, wants to learn, is full of wisdom, is joyful, caring and loving. These are the characteristics of beauty to me that I strive for and will keep striving to have.
Nathalie: Authentic beauty is real and can’t be hidden. We find it hard to cherish, be warm, kind, humble, gentle and thoughtful. Authentic beauty emits within me and you, only if we choose to show it. It acknowledges you without conviction and admires you for ‘you’. When in need, it’s there for you; it’s not something we can spot quickly like physical beauty. Authentic beauty is something we get to know when we want to know. You just have to give it time to shine.
Denise: We tend to get so caught up on how the media presents beauty that sometimes we catch ourselves trying to be like it. And either we lose focus or we’ve got no idea on what actually needs to be adorned. We end up frustrated because clearly we’d always fall short from the standard we think beauty is. Yes, it doesn’t hurt to get all dressed up, face on fleek and hair did etc. However, authentic beauty isn’t about having ‘perfect’ Angelina-Jolie-lips, perfect bone structure, fleeky eyebrows and winged eyeliner, what clothes, shoes or jewellery you wear. I could go on… All those things are temporary. Authentic beauty is what lies within a pure heart and a gentle, quiet spirit. By this, we please God and that’s all that really matters. Authentic beauty focuses on having a genuine character that we continuously build up. It is about us watching what we say and how we say it; conducting ourselves gracefully and with dignity; and to just let love flow in and through us. Always remind yourself that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that we are made in HIS image. What more can I say… you are B E A U T I F U L.
Joanne: Beauty comes from within. It’s something we are all born with but requires each of us to nurture. The face you’re born with is the one you’re meant to leave this Earth with. It’s not a canvas for us to start cutting and mutilating to fit the criteria that the world constantly changes. Mankind was created in the image and likeness of God; therefore if you’re forged in the likeness of a perfect creator, by default you are perfect. Society will constantly try and dictate to women what size they should be, what shape your body should contort to. Listening to the world will only mean you never feel good enough. But listening to your Creator, you realise you are more than enough.
Lorraine: I’m sure, like many, I believe that authentic beauty truly comes from the inside and is not something that can be constructed. In a society nowadays where women especially are told that they are supposed to look a certain way, it can be hard to recognise authentic beauty and for people to recognise that within themselves. To me, I see beauty as something that resides on the inside and can grow and change according to what kind of influences are in your life. An example of this is if we base our beauty on the standards of society, then we end up with a socially-constructed idea of what beauty is, which in all honesty is upsetting. To me, it is something more than that. I see it as what God has told me about who I am on the inside and how I can stand on His firm foundations, knowing and believing that this is true. I think that authentic beauty is a reflection of our spirit and it’s a shame we rely on other things to dictate what it is.
One of the most beautiful women, in my opinion, to have walked this Earth in recent years is Maya Angelou. She said: “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Put another way: all of us fight battles privately that we don’t declare publicly. We never know completely what goes on behind closed doors, nor the troughs and valleys that many have to walk through. May each of us always be mindful of that. Girls, let’s keep it real – we can be the worst at this; judging someone based on the platform upon which they stand rather than learning from them and admiring the journey they’ve walked to get there. We can be our own worst competition. Let’s change that; less of the comparison and critique. May words of praise alone ever be on our lips; praise in all things. What He alone has made is worthy of honour, worthy of respect – that’s each of us, every single human. What we are worth and what we deserve are two very different things; how someone behaves does not alter their worth but it may well change what they deserve. How different would society look if we treated each person with an acknowledgement of their worth rather than a judgment of what they deserve? Difficult to do? Absolutely. But a total game-changer? I believe so.
Salma Hayek said: 'People often say that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realising that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves.’ You are a treasure, a rare and unique valued diamond; an authentic beauty. Believe it.