How We Perceive Beauty

I had a new associate on my current freelance project introduce herself to me in person last night, after passing me in the hallway on Sunday and friending me on Facebook about two weeks ago. She apologized for not talking to me on Sunday, and then said she hadn’t recognized me at first. She followed it by saying, “I hope you aren’t offended, but you are so much more beautiful in real life than in your Facebook photos.” And I blinked a moment before saying of course I wasn’t offended. How could I be offended that someone thinks I’m more beautiful with my hair thrown in a messy bun, sans makeup, and running around like crazy in work mode than when I’m actually making at least half an effort to look presentable or even dressed extremely well? Could anyone be offended? Well, I guess maybe you’d like your efforts towards perfecting your outer look to be appreciated, so you could take issue on that front. But since I hate looking at pictures of myself anyway, I will never mind a compliment like that.

It got me thinking, though, about how we perceive beauty as a culture, and how some people see and appreciate the inner self pouring out into the outer, and how some people merely skim the surface. What does it take to open people’s eyes to other’s inner light, and what does it take to teach someone to let their inner self shine and show that beautiful soul on the surface? Or is the risk too great on either side for some?

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