Years ago I planned a book about the beneficial, even therapeutic, effects of beauty in our surroundings. I still haven’t written it, because there has been little or no study of this phenomenon. I remain convinced but it must only be a personal opinion.
George Santayana, the modern Spanish philosopher wrote convincingly about the same thing (The Sense of Beauty, 1896).
One thing came to me very vividly, early in my medical career: that a woman’s beauty is a state of mind, not physical form.
I say that because one day, long ago, I was in theatre scrubbed for an elective on a very beautiful woman. She was gorgeous! Yet, as soon as the anesthetic hit, she transformed into a sack of jelly. Her face slumped and went plop! All the beauty was gone.
I realized in that instant that beauty is how a woman holds herself. If she thinks she is beautiful, or should be, then her musculature responds and holds her face and bearing in a certain assured way. But take away the conscious aspect of beauty, I realized, and it vanishes.
I even wrote a powerful poem about this. But it was in a briefcase that was stolen and I cannot, for the life of me, re-create that poem. Hah well!
But I dug up a similar idea from an old self-development writer Orison Swett Marden. In his classic best-seller “Every Man A King” (1906) he penned these words:
It is perfectly possible for the girl with the homeliest face, with the ugliest expression, if she has a an honest heart to make herself beautiful to everyone who knows her by the perpetual habit of holding in her mind the beauty thought; not the thought of mere superficial beauty, but that of heart beauty, soul beauty. The basis of all real beauty is a kindly, helpful heart, and a desire to scatter sunshine and good cheer everywhere, and this, shining through the face, makes it beautiful. The longing and the effort to to be beautiful in character cannot fail to make the life beautiful, and since the outward is but an expression of the inward, and mere outpicturing on the body of the habitual thought and dominating motives, the face, the manners, the bearing, must follow the thought, and become sweet and attractive. If you hold the beauty thought, the love thought, persistently in the mind, you will make such an impression of harmony, of sweetness, and soul beauty wherever you go that known one will notice any plainness of deformity you may possess.
I have known a girl whose extreme plainness of features and awkwardness of manner so pained her as she approached womanhood that she almost despaired of ever making anything of herself, and even contemplated suicide. She was so convinced that she was a target for cruel remarks, and became so impressed with the conviction that she was not wanted anywhere, and that she was constantly being insulted, that she resolved to make one supreme effort to redeem herself from her handicap. She resolved that she would make people love her, that she would attract them instead of repelling them; that she would take such an unselfish interest in them that they could not help loving her.
She determined to develop those beautiful heart qualities which would more than compensate for mere physical beauty. She began to sympathise with people and to take thought of their welfare. Wherever she went, if she saw anyone who was ill at ease or looked troubled or friendless, she immediately took such a deep interest in him that she won his friendship at once.
She began to cultivate her mind in every possible way in order to make herself interesting, bright, cheerful, and hopeful. She cultivated optimism, and she was soon surprised to see how the young people who formerly shunned her flocked around her and began to love her; and she not only succeeded in compensating for her physical deformity, which she thought was fatal to her pleasure and her usefulness, but she also developed a soul beauty that did not pass with years, and which was infinitely superior to that beauty, which comes from regularity of features and beauty of form. So popular did she become that the so-called pretty girls envied her.
So there you are girls: a free tip for a good complexion!
And need I say it guys? No, of course not…