On beauty and body image

March 20, 2013

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”

(John Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn, 1819)

For some time now, I have been reflecting on this in the context of sexuality and relationship. It seems to me that the only way to have a truly intimate relationship is by being truthful, wholly authentic. By sharing our inner most feelings and vulnerabilities as they arise in each moment, authentically and from the heart, we make ourselves truly available for relationship. The word relationship means to relate one’s experience to another and it is in doing so that we reveal our true self to the other. When we relate our experience authentically in each moment we make ourselves available for love. The more we reveal of ourselves, the more we make available to be loved.

It also seems to me that if beauty is truth, then there is also a real, true and deep beauty in being exactly how we are physically as well. In my practise, I hear so many stories of women who feel uncomfortable with a part (or all) of their bodies. They frequently tell me how they don’t feel good enough, how they don’t measure up to some socially constructed “ideal” of beauty which would have them look or act a certain, prescribed way, especially sexually.

A lot of the imagery which women have in their minds comes from social media and, in relation to sexuality, from pornographic images, either the mainstream media depiction of female sexuality or of more hardcore material.

These images are not real. They are airbrushed and controlled, manipulated and filtered, revealing more about the prejudice of the photographer and his audience than about the subjects themselves. There is no truth here, just an ersatz interpretation of the female form, usually defined my male fantasy. And if truth is absent, then so is beauty.

For me, beauty is authenticity. It is a woman who can stand up and say, this is who I am, wrinkles and all. In connecting with that sense of self worth which arises from loving yourself, no matter what your physical or emotional state, we connect with a deeper and truer beauty than any artificial fantasy image. As a man, the most attractive thing to me is a woman who accepts herself exactly as she is, who loves herself whatever her shape or age or emotional state and when I witness that, I am truly moved. To me, that is beauty.

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