Self-confidenceÂ transcends physical beauty
By Jackie White
February 6, 1994
Sharon Smith thinks Robin Turtle j is one of the beautiful people. ‘ “She is always pleasant, enthusiastic, energetic. She exudes personality,” she says of her friend, the executive secretary in the city manager’s office inÂ Kansas City.
Allisyn Kateusz touts her mother, Jane Gilbreath, in the same way.
“It’s not that she has a fine bone structure,” Kateusz says. “She’s very friendly, loves people and is intelligent.” Describing Gilbreath, who owns Westport Book Store in Kansas City, she adds, “She has an open face, and she is nonjudgmental.”
To be sure, some women are strikingly attractive more because of certain intangible qualities they project than their physical features. Maybe they are beautiful in the classic sense, maybe not. But an energy or charismatic aura can, make even a Cindy Crawford body, Liz Taylor nose orÂ Michelle PfeifferÂ eyes seem, well, almost irrelevant.
Some people describe the quality of beauty as a state of being centered or at peace with oneself, reflects a basic “sense of self-esteem,” says Kansas City psycholrOgist Linda Moore. Eleanor Roosevelt had it. First ladyÂ Hillary Rodham ClintonÂ reflects it, in Moore’s opinion.
“It’s self-confidence,” agrees Linda Wells, the editor of Allure, a New York beauty magazine. “If you’re really confident, it doesn’t matter so much if you’re overweight.”
It’s the ability to move out of oneself, pursue a cause, have a passion, says Ruth Margolin, the director of the Women’s Studies Center at theÂ University of Missouri, Kansas City. Golda Meir, Mother Theresa and writer Betty Friedan come to her mind.
Debbie Dusenberry, a Kansas City photographer’s stylist, recognizes it in models who don’t take their beauty too seriously. It takes a bit of age, she says, experience and a history of good relationships. On her list of more visible examples are fashion designer Adrienne Vittadini,Â Bette MidlerÂ and Barbra Streisand.
Surveys have shown that when men and women are queried about attractive qualities, both sexes tend to comment on smiles and eyes, notes Mary Jo Neitz, an associate professor of sociology at theÂ University of Missouri-Columbia. Her conclusion is that the drawing power has to do with “an authentic revelation of the self.”
Richard Martin, the curator of the Costume Institute atÂ New York’sÂ Metropolitan Museum, acknowledges an aura exists that enables some women to transcend the ideal beauty mentality of the moment. Television’sÂ Oprah WinfreyÂ is an example, he says. “Ultimately it doesn’t matter whether Oprah weighs 145 pounds or 165 pounds,” he says.
“She is still attractive for who she is.”
Can charisma be developed? Can the aura be pumped up?
Self-esteem may be a place to start. Allure’s Linda Wells says self-confidence is a more important priority to work on than a new diet.
Kris O’Rourke, aÂ New OrleansÂ psychotherapist, likens it to the self-confidence she and her partners in Just Start! Inc. teach as part of their multitiered improvement program. She maintains that before and after photographs actually reflect a remarkable difference in the clients’ looks following the training.
She says the quality stems from self-understanding and comfort with that being. “It’s that sense of, ‘I know how to get what I need’ and ‘I don’t have to know everything now,'” she says.
When people are comfortable with themselves, they have an openness to others. They are not competitive or judgmental. People can be comfortable and relaxed in their presence, she said, without the senseÂ they are being judged. Thus they
exude an inner beauty.
Indeed, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and over the years the sense of the ideal has changed about as frequently as hemlines. Shortly after the turn of the century, the notion that mental attitude was related to beauty became popular.
AuthorÂ Lois Banner, in her book “American Beauty,” writes that “If You Want Beauty, Think Beauty,” was a typical advice column title of the times. “If you could keep from tension of any sort . . . your neck would not be scrawny, nor your skin peaked,” she quotes.
Never mind if your body is not Cindy Crawford perfect or if your eyes are no match for Liz Taylor’s violet beauties. Concentrate instead on pumping up your personal charisma or develop what some people call a hefty dose of self-esteem. Some ways to start:
* Take time to be kind to yourself. Allow yourself small treats
* Stay on an exercise program. You’11 feel good about yourself.
* Concentrate on your strengths. Take time to recognize your accomplishments.
* Consider a habit of daily meditation. It’s a way of centering your psyche.
* Accept that you don’t have to know everything. You don’t have to be perfect.
* Learn a lot about one thing.
* Choose causes you care about. Allow yourself to have a passion.
Â» Make the best of your looks. Get good advice on cosmetic colors and then trust your instincts.
* Seek out people with whom you can be yourself.
* Develop self-confidence by seeking out a partner with whom you can practice being safe and comfortable, advises New Orleans psychotherapist Kns O’Rourke. Exchange thoughts and observations without being judgmental or being judged.
* Set good boundaries for yourself. That means be very clear about who you are and don’t try to mold yourself to please other people
* Learn not to absorb negative criticism, O’Rourke counsels. Think about it, acknowledge it and then move on.
* Care about other people and be empathetic with their needs. It’s easier when you’re comfortable with yourself