Beauty is Power

Beauty is power. Big time. Especially in our culture that places such an emphasis on it. Being physically beautiful can get a person a job, a lover, admiration, validation, and open doors that are closed to the less physically attractive.

My beloved friend Cedar Barstow has developed an extraordinarily insightful system of ethics that she calls “the right use of power.” She has founded an organization, Right Use of Power Institute, and trained many teachers nationally and internationally in her work. She expresses the essence of right use of power thus: “Power guided by loving concern for the well being of all . . . Power directed by heart. Heart infused with power.”

It is not hard to think of  misuses of the power of personal beauty. We hear of it all the time—manipulation, seduction, entitlement, domination, putting down one perceived to be less beautiful.

What then is the right use of the power of personal beauty? How can we use it to benefit others?

First of all we must let go of ego identification with our beauty, (see my recent blog, Beauty is Dangerous,) then humbly receive it as a gift.

I was walking around Wonderland Lake a few days ago with Cedar, brainstorming on this question. A little girl in bright pink slacks whizzed by on her scooter, blond hair flying, little body light and lively, swift, graceful motion. My heart lifted. I turned to share a smile with Cedar.

In the same way my heart lifts when I see the shining eyes of my grandchildren.014-3 Or when I go to a tango dance and delight in the beautiful clothes the dancers are wearing and the grace and precision of their movement.

We have an expression “eye candy.” The sight of a handsome man or a beautiful woman is sweet.

Beauty delights, and one right use of its power is to let it shine.

But there is a deeper question. What is beauty really?

Is it a culturally approved shape of nose, eyes, lips, body? I think not. That is fashion. Fashion changes all the time, and in my experience only occasionally aligns with beauty. I noticed, when I was studying fashion magazines to better understand this question, that most of the models looked sullen. It seems pouting is fashionable nowadays. But I do not think it is beautiful.

No matter what the shape of nose or body, people shine with beauty when they are happy or filled with enthusiasm.

This kind of beauty attracts, draws people to us. Then if we have something to share, if we are teachers, therapists, artists, or business people with a good idea, we have the opportunity to enrich the lives of those drawn to us because of our gift of personal beauty.

The give and take in such a situation creates connection. Those drawn to us appreciate us, and that appreciation opens us to give more freely. Connection is something we all long for. Shining and sharing in this way, is another right use of the power of beauty.

There is a deeper level still.

My friend Charly Heavenrich  is a canyon guide and has for many years taken people on raft trips down the Grand Canyon. He tells me that after a week or so, all the faces of the people in his group are beautiful, stripped of the stress of their usual lives and filled with awe at the magnificence of the canyon.

I have seen that same kind of beauty in the faces of those with whom I have shared a meditation retreat or a Summer Solstice long dance.

Perhaps the most profound way to use the power of beauty is to seek out and develop those experiences and practices that clear away the debris, so that our true selves, our essence, Love, God within us can shine forth.

Then all in our presence are blessed.

Beauty Is Dangerous

Physical beauty is double-edged sword, for both men and women. It opens doors for us, bolsters our self esteem, but because of our cultural complexity, it can also entangle us, get us into trouble.

Clara (Never Again) muses on her new-found youthful beauty. “Now the beauty I had been given felt somewhat dangerous. I wanted to hide it, diminish it. Beauty attracts, and I’d always fallen in love too easily with anyone who desired me. Off I’d go on the romance roller coaster. Only that roller coaster was not like the ones in amusement parks where you step off safely at the end of the ride. My roller coasters always crashed and broke my heart. Would I be any wiser now?”

Being beautiful can become an obsession. Is my hair right? my clothes? Oh, no! is that a pimple? Am I thin enough, buff enough, tall enough? Am I pretty enough to be loved?

As I wrote in my last post, we can spend huge amounts of money and energy trying to shape ourselves to an image that is rarely attainable or even real.

If we do succeed in feeling we’ve achieved our goal, the greatest danger of all is to identify with it. Our culture, with its many advertisements for beauty products and procedures, teaches us that if we are beautiful the world will open for us, we’ll be popular, we’ll find our true love, we will succeed. But physical beauty is an ephemeral security. It can be altered in a moment by injury, corroded by illness, and finally, inevitably, worn away by aging, year by year, until the face we see in the mirror bears little resemblance to the picture in our high school year book.





If it is love we seek, or worldly success, perhaps we need to turn inward to find the eternal beauty of compassion, listening, caring.

The Lure of Youthful Beauty

I have been challenged by some of my readers because the protagonists in all my novels are exceptionally beautiful. Perhaps in my next novel my heroine should be a plain, somewhat lumpy, middle-aged woman.

But that is hard for me. I want my readers to love my protagonists. Do I believe that  a woman can only be loved if she is beautiful?

Certainly our culture tells us that. And we respond, bending ourselves all out of shape to fit the images of youthful beauty that surround us in the media. Make up, jewelry, clothes, hair dos and hair color, skin creams. More radically, face lifts, tummy tucks, breast implants.

eye make-up

I read in the paper just the other day that the latest fad is bodacious buttocks. You can buy padded panties, get buttock implants. Really. I’m not making this up. It was in the newspaper. “Businesses that specialize in butts say pop culture has had a direct impact on their bottom line.” So to speak.

What are we really looking for with all these efforts? The prince on the white horse to carry us away to happily ever after? (Note that the fairy tales rarely tell us what happens after the marriage of the beautiful maiden and the prince.)

I searched  several beauty magazines in the bookstore for inspiration. I remembered beauty product ads that showed a handsome man leaning over the shoulder or kissing the cheek of the woman using the product, but to my surprise I found only one of those. All the rest showed the woman standing alone in all her glory.

So maybe it’s not the prince, but an image we want to create. Why? For whom?

I am curious. Is the whole beauty rage more about image now than finding love?

What do you think?

In what ways do we disown ourselves when we cover or alter our natural beauty to fit the model?

One of my favorite lines of poetry is from Keat’s “Ode to a Grecian Urn.”

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty.”