Beauty isn’t just an inside job



Are y’all up for getting a little controversial today? Because I want to talk with you about this whole “beauty’s what’s on the inside” thing.

Frankly, I think this is a cop out. When we say, “It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside,” we’re denying that we live in a world that focuses a lot on external beauty.

When we tell women, when we tell young girls, that what they look like doesn’t matter, we’re doing them a disservice. Because whether we want it to or not, it does.

Don’t get me wrong: What’s on the inside counts. I certainly think it counts more than what we’re like on the outside, but back to this whole concept…

Saying external appearances don’t matter is sweeping the REAL problem under the rug: the way we view beauty.

We’ve been conditioned to think that just about everything except what WE look like is beautiful. Victoria’s Secret models are beautiful. Celebrities are beautiful. Even plus size models are beautiful. But to extend that definition of beauty to ourselves??? No way.

I think this happens for more reasons than we think. In a way, it’s a kind of self-sabotage. A way of trying to stay humble and modest. Because surely if we call ourselves beautiful, someone is going to call us out for being over-confident or immodest.

But we also tend to be a lot more lenient with others than we are with ourselves. We feel much more at ease accepting other people the way they are than we feel comfortable accepting ourselves, because we know ourselves much more intimately. We’re much more aware of our own flaws and shortcomings, and we judge those.

My friend Raun used to say, “Why would you create a definition of beauty that doesn’t include yourself?”

I’d like to pose a new question:

“Why create a definition of beauty that excludes anyone?”

Because, really, what do we get from beauty being this one set thing? Does it make it something to attain, like some kind of elite status or exclusive club? Maybe it gives us something to work for, a goal to achieve?

What I’m really seeing it getting us is a bunch of people who are unhappy about how they look, uncomfortable in their own skin, and so self-judgmental that they miss the fact that there are tons of people out there who love them just how they are.

I know this because I’ve lived this. I’ve been the person who never thought she was pretty, even when people were smacking me in the head, like, “DUH, Shannon! Of course you’re pretty!”

But I didn’t see it. All I saw when I looked in the mirror was fat and acne and cellulite and stretch marks. I saw all the things that I thought made me “ugly”. No one else sees that, though. Or they just don’t care about it.

I’ve been playing with a couple concepts lately, and I wanted to share them with you.

What you see in the mirror isn’t really what you look like.

I’m convinced that the Shannon I see in the mirror is not what everyone else sees. Because the Shannon in the mirror looks different depending on what mood I’m in and how I feel physically (exhausted, worn out, bloated, stressed, etc.). It’s not uncommon to have days where I feel like a complete sexpot, only to end the day feeling like I just swallowed a whale and it settled in my stomach. (YAY HORMONES & EMOTIONS!)

Play with this and see what happens. Remind yourself that what you see is not what you really are. It’s just a reflection of where you’re currently at.

See yourself through the eyes of those who love you.

My friend Marcus tasked me with this last year. When we were together, I was only allowed to see myself the way he saw me:  perfect, beautiful, confident, healthy, happy, whole, complete, awesome, super cool, wonderful.

I find it no coincidence that when I hang out with friends who play this game with me, I get more compliments than I do on an ordinary day. That’s the power of intention for ya.

Try this for yourself:  Ask for your friends and family what they love about you and how they see you, then hold that vision of yourself for yourself. When you find yourself getting judgmental or critical, return to this place of seeing yourself as others see you.

Redefine beauty.

What if beauty isn’t what we think it is? What if it’s not internal and external qualities, but it’s just something that permeates everything?

I really think there could be beauty in everything, just like we can find humour and joy in most everything (with some obvious exceptions).

Nothing has meaning except for the meaning we give it. Tony Robbins said that. If we get to define what beauty is (because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?), then let’s start making beauty more inclusive — much more inclusive than it has been.

Would love to hear your thoughts. What has your relationship with beauty been like? Would you consider yourself beautiful? Have you thought you could only love your insides and not your outsides? Share in the comments.


This article was first published on the Hunger for Happiness blog and has been republished with permission. 

{Photo: Maria Panayiotou / Flickr}

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Shannon Lagasse

Shannon Lagasse

Shannon Lagasse is the founder of Hunger for Happiness, a business dedicated to changing the way women relate to themselves, their bodies, and the world around them. She is also a recovered anorexic, bulimic, and binge eater turned health coach whose message is one of self-love and self-compassion in the healing and recovery process, whether from an eating disorder or emotional eating. Shannon inspires women worldwide through her writing, coaching, and speaking. Visit Shannon online or book her to speak at

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