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How do you define beauty?

Women are their own worst enemy when it comes to self-image. And yes, that would be me, but men are pretty good at it too. We look at the beauty we see in others far more favorably than we look at the beauty within ourselves. The people who make Dove soap have proven this quite magnificently with their latest ad and experiment in changing how women see themselves.

A woman sits on the other side of a partition and describes herself to a police forensic artist who never sees her, then leaves. Someone else who has befriended that woman comes in and sitting behind the same partition, describes her to the artist. In every case the self-description portrait is less - considerably less - flattering than the portrait described by the new friend.

Unilever, which manufactures Dove products, initiated the research. The result was The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report. “The study is based on quantitative data collected from a global survey of 3,200 women from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom, and the United States.”

Let’s be clear, Dove wants to sell more soap. But they won’t be able to do so if they don’t have the right information to market to their customers. So I’m inclined to believe the results of their survey. I was shocked that less than 5% of women around the world think they are beautiful. However, what they all agree on is that “they believe there is a one-dimensional and narrow, physical definition of beauty. The findings show that the ideas of beauty and physical attractiveness are largely synonymous, and although both are highly valued by society, both are rendered almost impossible to attain.”

Great! Now that we are agreed they are impossible to attain let’s stop trying! Let’s get back to the real beauty, the one that is within, and shines through our smiles, touches and ways of being. “She had nice eyes, they lit up when she spoke,” said one gentleman in the Dove video. People notice, they see and feel the real beauty within you.

More than three quarters of those women surveyed agreed that beauty could be achieved through attributes that have nothing to do with physical appearance. It has more to do with personal happiness, confidence, attitude, dignity and humor. Beauty is a big part of self-image and it is a life-long process because as your body changes your definition of yourself changes, but no matter what age your inner beauty will always shine through.

Self-image often starts with parents. “My mom told me I had a big jaw,” said Florence in the video but teachers, friends and family influence your thinking too. Relationships and experiences also matter and then you can add chronic pain as just one more thing to put a dent in your self-image. I’m with Dove. It’s time to change your self-image, it’s time to re-evaluate.

Here are six steps to get you started:

Start with a self-image inventory.

Confront the unrealistic and distorted thinking.

Identify childhood labels that do not serve you.

Stop comparing yourself to others.

Develop your strengths.

Remember to love yourself and laugh often.

Don’t let the chronic pain, or past experiences, or anything for that matter, take away the beauty within you. The vast majority of women surveyed state that, “every woman has something about her that is beautiful.” I would add, every man too.

How do you define beauty?

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