Beauty: A Matter of Mind Over Matter

This post is for the 3rd annual Beauty Of A Woman blogfest, sponsored each year by my beautiful friend, August McLaughlin. The BOAW festivities officially begin on Thursday, so make a note to pop over to August’s site then for a whole list of great posts about what really makes women beautiful. The posts range from serious to light-hearted and they are always fabulous! (Oh, and did I mention there’s a contest and prizes? Well, there is. YAY!)

BOAW logo 2014

So what is the main ingredient that makes a woman beautiful? Good genes that bless her with smooth skin, good teeth and glossy hair?

Well, those certainly don’t hurt. But in my experience, they’re not the main ingredient in beauty.

Dentists, cosmetic surgeons, expensive make-up and hair products to create dazzling teeth, glowing skin and glossy hair?

close-up of woman putting on eye make-up

(photo by Manuel Marin, CC-BY license 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Not really, in my humble opinion.

So what is the main ingredient? It’s confidence!

When I was a young teenager, I was a mess–dorky-looking and totally lacking in self-confidence. Not a day went by in middle school (the purgatory of the earth plane, IMHO) that I wasn’t teased by one of the mean girls, or sometimes by one of the guys, most often about my appearance. “Pimple face” and “ironing board” (I was flat-chested) are the taunts that stand out the most in my memory.

me in 8th grade

My 8th grade school picture (told ya I looked dorky)

During the summer between middle and high school, my mother sat me down and gave me a fake-it-til-ya-make-it pep talk. She asked me if I thought a friend of hers (we’ll call her Mrs. H) was attractive. Now what fourteen-year-old gives a moment’s thought to her mother’s friends’ appearance?

I just shrugged. My mother pointed out just how homely Mrs. H was. Now that Mom was mentioning it, I realized that the woman did kind of resemble those drawings of witches you see at Halloween, complete with a large mole on her chin. Mom went on and on detailing all the flaws in Mrs. H’s appearance. I was beginning to wonder what evil spirit had taken over my mother’s body, when she pointed out that Mrs. H was married to one of the handsomest men in their circle of friends. I had to admit, now that I thought about it, Mr. H wasn’t bad looking, for an old guy (he was probably 40). Then Mom said that when Mrs. H walked into a room, every man and most of the women would turn to greet her with a big smile.

“Why is that?” Mom asked. Another shrug from me.

Because Mrs. H carried herself with confidence and was always smiling and friendly was my mother’s answer. “Kass, you’ve got the smiling and friendly down. They’re part of your natural personality. Now all you need is the confidence.” That’s when she told me to fake it ’til I made it.

Well, it took several years of faking it, but gradually I did become more confident. Then in college, I got some counseling to dig my remaining insecurities out by the roots.

I’m still not the best-looking gal in any crowd, but I don’t worry much about what I look like. Oh, I’m not saying I don’t do the best I can with what the good Lord gave me. I do. But once I’ve put on my make-up and fixed my hair (my best feature, despite it’s tendency to frizz), I walk out the door and don’t give my appearance another thought. I go about the world with confidence, and the world treats me well.

I’ll bet if you asked my friends and acquaintances whether or not I’m pretty, they’d shrug, like I did when my mom asked about Mrs. H. And then they’d say, “Oh, she looks fine. She’s so______.” (Fill in the blank with friendly, nice, smart, vivacious)

A healthy dose of confidence compensates quite well for my lack of outer beauty, and it let’s me relax and be me wherever I am. And frankly I’d rather be remembered for being smart and nice than for being pretty!

Have you ever known anyone who was naturally beautiful and yet so lacking in self-confidence that it marred their appearance? How about someone who was quite average but could light up a room with their smile?

And we’re excited to announce a new release by bestseller Stacy Green.

Speaking of confidence growing, check out what her character, Jaymee Ballard, is up to in this last book in the Delta Crossroads trilogy, Ashes and Bone:

cover of Ashes and BoneJust when Jaymee Ballard’s life seems to be on track, a massive derecho attacks the Delta Crossroads sowing destruction in its path. Her boyfriend, investigative journalist Nick Samuels, comes up missing, and she fears the worst.

Nick’s abandoned car contains evidence of his involvement uncovering a controversial case mired in political power and greed. While her friend and local detective, Cage Foster, heads up the inquiry into Nick’s kidnapping, Jaymee finds it impossible to sit back and do nothing.

Enlisting the help of her best friend, Dani Evans, Jaymee discovers a trail leading to the dangerous and secretive Dixie Mafia. Facing a fraudulent Confederate artifact scheme, dark local history, and a powerful enemy lurking in the shadows, the two friends find themselves holding the key to not only Nick’s disappearance, but a shameful town secret someone will kill to protect.

ASHES and BONE is an action packed thriller with a shocking twist.

Check it out, then talk to me about how you see beauty influenced by confidence and vice versa. (And don’t forget to visit the BOAW blogfest on Thursday)

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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39 thoughts on “Beauty: A Matter of Mind Over Matter

  1. K.B. Owen

    Kass, your mom sounds like she was a special lady. What a fab post!

    Those mean girls could be really mean. I had experiences like that, too. I was taller than most girls (except for some of the jock-ettes), wore glasses, and was a “late bloomer” bust-wise, so there was an entire array for a mean girl to choose from. I made the mistake of wearing green once and was called “the jolly green giant.” Never wore green in public school again…

    I have to say, I’ve never understood mean girls. Don’t the girls themselves know how it feels? Why would they do that to another girl? I’ve heard it said that girls are meaner to each other than boys are to each other, and I believe it. But why is that?

    I’m just glad there was no social media or camera phones back then! Kids these days have it even tougher than we did.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Mom was a special lady, Kathy. I learned more psychology from her than I did in my formal education.

      Everybody thinks that boys are more aggressive, but studies have found that when you include what they call ‘relational aggression’ (what the mean girls do) the gender difference in aggression disappears. As to why I think the answer is the same as with male bullies. They are actually very insecure themselves, and putting down others is their way of building themselves up. Doesn’t work of course, at least not for more than a few minutes.

      I think the names they come up with are the worst because they linger. It had to be particularly tough for you being one of the tall girls. Makes it hard to blend in so they don’t notice you. Some days I could stay under their radar, but then I would open my big yap and say something that they could twist around.

      Reply
  2. Jess Witkins

    I love your mom’s advice Kassandra. It’s practically an epidemic of low self-esteem when we’re pre-teens and teens. I didn’t feel pretty growing either. I had big teeth, a big nose, and was really pale. I still am all those things, but my self worth grew as I made new friends, learned which friends were in for the long haul with me, and focused on school or work where I do well. I gained confidence.

    For the record, I LOVE that photo of you at 8 yrs old. You are adorable – then and now. Happy Beauty of a Woman fest day!!!

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Aww thanks, Jess and Kathy! It is sad how that portion of our youth is spent in misery. To some extent it’s part of the natural development process, to be that self-conscious. But society’s emphasis on appearance for girls doesn’t help one bit.

      And for the record, I think you’re adorable, Jess, inside and out!

      Reply
  3. Pingback: The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest III: Original Edition | August McLaughlin's Blog

  4. August McLaughlin

    I love this post, Kassandra! What an awesome pep talk your mother gave you. I’ve definitely known women whose appearances were affected by a lack of confidence — take the former me, for example. 😉 Every woman who walks with confidence and treasures herself more than her aesthetics is a role model this world needs. I include you in that category!

    Thanks for participating in the fest!

    Reply
  5. Kassandra Lamb Post author

    That was one of the things that Mom did best, August–pep talks!

    And speaking of role models, you are the best in that category. I love how you are willing to tell the world about your past issues and insecurities. So many naturally beautiful young women like yourself are so riddled with self-doubt inside. You let them know they aren’t alone and there is a way to feel as beautiful as they are.

    And I just thought of a better title for this post. Beauty Doesn’t Make Us Confident; Confidence Makes U s Beautiful!

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      My mom was ahead of her time, Kathryn. Parents didn’t worry all that much about their children’s self-esteem in that day. Didn’t even register on their radar most of the time.

      I hope more moms are having similar talks with their girls these days. I know the college students I taught seemed, in general, to have better self-images. Not great, but better.

      Reply
  6. Katy B.

    I’ve always received compliments on my eyes but walked around slump-shouldered looking at the ground most of my young life, lacking self-confidence, so nobody probably noticed them. Thanks for your post!

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Ah yes, the hunched over, please-don’t-notice-me look. I remember it well.

      Have you noticed that quite a few bloggers in BOAW have mentioned how eyes are such an important feature? They truly are the windows to our souls.

      Reply
  7. Lynn Kelley

    Kassandra, I have to agree that confidence in a person makes all the difference in the world. When we have confidence in ourselves, it seems other people have an easy time having confidence in us, too. And I find it amazing how a smile can light up a person’s face and make them so appealing.

    Love your quote about middle school being the purgatory of the earth plane! For me, it was junior high. Ugh! I’m sorry you were picked on so much. That makes me so mad. Your mom is full of wisdom. Yay for her sitting you down and having that talk with you. Wow! If only every mother had that talk with her children, what a different world this would be! I think you look darling and sweet, not dorky in that photo. Cheers to your career helping so many people! It takes a strong person to do that kind of work.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb

      Thanks, Lynn. I kinda like that picture now too, from the perspective on an adult. But then all I could see was the too-big nose and the crooked teeth and the hair sticking out funny on the sides and… Lordy, what an awful age that is!

      And you are so right about one’s own confidence causing others to have confidence in you. I have certainly found that to be true.

      Reply
  8. Kitt Crescendo

    Confidence is definitely the great equalizer. I’m so glad your mother told you to “fake it till you make it.” I’m a firm believer in emulating the attitude I want to have, because, like you said, you eventually get there.

    My best friend was one of those girls who didn’t feel beautiful, and was constantly undermined and cut down by her “prettier” “cooler” friends. It caused her to doubt herself for a while. Maybe that’s why I never liked them. I was 3 years older and could see what they were doing. I took her under my wing and gave her a very similar pep talk to the one your mom gave, actually. Today, they all doubt themselves while she’s happy, confident and doing well….because she chose to bet on herself, to believe in herself…and distance herself from the negative influences in her life.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb

      Boy was she lucky that you did take her under your wing, Kitt! And it’s no surprise to me that she’s now doing better than the girls who used to put her down.

      My mother also used to say was, “Summer roses bloom longer.” And she was right! Those of us who bloom a little later often have more of that confidence for the long haul. Of course at the time I kept wondering why she was giving me gardening advice when all I wanted was something to fill out my training bra! 😉

      Reply
  9. Audrey

    Wow, your comments about the middle-school taunts brought it all back for me: 7th grade, when I was called “possum” on the school bus because of the fuzzy winter hat I wore, and then in homeroom, when two boys wrote on the board, “Are thay reel?” referring to a part of my anatomy that was just coming into its own. Luckily, I had by then internalized enough strength from my own (admittedly strong and unusual) mother to laugh at their misspellings and feel superior.

    Your post also brings to mind the cliches about the prom queens and football stars whose best years come in high school. Those of us who were awkward and dorky as kids, in contrast, become more beautiful with each passing year.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Good for you, Audrey (and your mom), that you could rise above their stupidity. Some kids back then really did work overtime to find something to pick on.

      That middle schooler that I was couldn’t wait to “mature” and be like the prom queen-types, but now I’m very glad I was a late bloomer.

      Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Funny you should mention Helen Keller, Patricia. She was my heroine back then. I figured if she could overcome all that she had to deal with, I could handle a few mean girls and snotty boys!

      Reply
  10. Eden Mabee

    In the old photo-albums at my parents’ home, there are quite a few pictures of a girl who looks a lot like the one above… Taller by the sound of it and one of the cursed earlier developers… Oh, and she had glasses….

    She heard the names. She used to go home and cry almost nightly. Her mother gave her similar advice. She said to smile and treat everyone, especially the mean girls, politely and nicely. To act as if I didn’t even notice the mean things… to act as if I couldn’t even imagine that someone would want to be mean to me.

    It hurt at the time, but… she was right. It was another kind of faking it until I made it. It didn’t always work, but today, I have to think about the bad experiences to remember them in any detail. I spent my energy on remembering good things, to creating stories…. to becoming someone with diverse interests and a love of the world. (Your/My) Mom was right.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      I like your mom’s way of fakin’ it til you make it as well, Eden. Another way to put it is ‘kill ’em with kindness.’ When you don’t let it show that their crap is hurtful, they lose interest.

      Moms really are pretty wise, aren’t they/we?

      Reply
    2. Shan Jeniah Burton

      I remember that girl with glasses…and those amazing river-stone blue eyes flecked with life. I remember that hair that stayed put all day, and was such a pretty red-brown (and, oh! my delight at having hair that color on a little girl I love!).

      That girl was beautiful. She defined so much of my world. She got into my soul, and she’s still there.

      And it was your mother, who, when we went swimming at your cousin’s, and I was being teased for my stick straight and painfully thin body, who said that she bet I’d have the best figure of us all, when I was 16.

      I was pretty curvy by 16, and I’ve always appreciated the way your mom stood up for me, in that moment.

      And you?

      You are beautiful, in so many ways, and getting more so with every day. <3

      Reply
  11. Inion N. Mathair

    Love that you spotlighted confidence, Kassandra. It is grossly needed in this world, especially amongst younger generations. Mathair always taught me that confidence is something that you need for yourself, rather than others. It makes you feel better and that comfort in yourself will project and leak out onto others. I was bullied horribly in high school and it took a great toll on my confidence, but since graduating and tacking on a few years, I’ve become increasingly more comfortable with myself. Though I’m not at the level I would like to be, I am getting there. Great post!

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      So glad you found so much to relate to in the post, Inion. And I wholeheartedly agree that when we can project confidence, it bolsters those around us as well as ourselves.

      Ironically, I ran into one of the girls who had hung on the outskirts of the mean girl crowd in middle school, when we were in our mid-twenties. Once we realized where we knew each other from, she blurted out, “Wasn’t middle school the worst time of your life?” I acknowledged that it was and we parted amiably. Somehow that put a whole new spin on those early experiences for me.

      Reply
  12. Marcia Richards

    Oh, those preteen years are the worst for most of us – hormones raging, quests to be the most popular, and dealing with boys who only see shiny hair, bright eyes and newly forming chest ornaments. Your mom’s smart and loving talk with you must have stayed with you for a long time, though your insecurities tried to make you forget what she said.
    We do grow more confident when we age a bit, realizing we have much to offer the world – more than outer beauty. A confident, personable and caring woman is far more beautiful than a Hollywood starlet who may be shallow and fake. Some of your beauty lies in your friendship with online acquaintances and the support you offer them. I’m there’s much more to you that I have yet to learn. You’re just right the way you are.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Oh, Marcia, don’t we wish we knew then what we know now. Everything that was so important to that little 8th grader and her friends (and enemies) is so irrelevant to me now.

      Reply
  13. Shan Jeniah Burton

    Kassandra,

    My story is a lot like yours, except in specific details. I always thought I looked “weird” as a child. My hair, which I adore today because it is wild and wavy and lush and sprinkled with silver strands, never seemed willing to cooperate with those mid-80’s styles. My clothes weren’t fashionable, and I developed painful acne.

    It didn’t help at all that my home life was one of abuse and intentional humiliation. I had very few social skills, and no tolerance for being teased – which I was. Nearly everything I was seemed to be at odds with what was deemed “cool”.

    My daughter is 9.5, and developing early. It can be awkward for her – but she is confident and, most of the time, she feels beautiful. Where my time in front of the mirror, at her age, was deflating, she enjoys primping and dressing up and accessorizing – not for what anyone else will think, but because she likes to get pretty that way. I’m so plain and disinclined to fuss that I don’t wear makeup; but I support her passion for fashion, cosmetics, hair ornaments, and the like.

    We support her other passions (wildlife, art, reading, Minecraft, stunts, and others) the same way.

    She’s never attended school, and I think that makes a huge difference. She doesn’t look to the girls around her to assess her appearance or worth. In school, spending many hours a day in the peer environment, other kids’ opinions have much higher importance. My daughter spends her time as she wishes, and mostly with her family and friends who are much more interested in who she is, than how she looks.

    School is an environment, I think, where most kids do not get their emotional needs met. So the insecurities and grievances tend to intensify, and there are a lot more kids than there are adults.

    Also, there are kids like me, who are not raised with mothers like yours – and while some become appeasers, like I did, others become bullies, and express their pain and rages on the vulnerable members of the group.

    Sadly, school ensures that there will be a captive pool of victims to prey upon, and so the cycle continues…

    As for that picture of you – I think you are very pretty. I love the direct way your eyes meet the camera, and the spirit in them. I love your smile. I bet we could have had some adventures, together!

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb

      Oh yes, I think we could’ve gotten into all kinds of trouble together, Shan! 😉

      We humans are pack animals, and the nature of the pack is that there is a pecking order, with some on top and some who are picked on by the rest of the pack. Children will revert to this mentality without adults keeping an eye out and gently steering them toward more civilized ways of interacting. (And that’s before you even throw in the insecurities created by dysfunctional families that, as you say, create plenty of bullies and victims.)

      Sadly, this is what happens in schools, even more so today with tight budgets reducing the number of adults to provide supervision. Your kids are very lucky to have you homeschooling them!

      Reply
  14. Ingrid Schaffenburg

    I so agree! True beauty comes from within. And confidence is huge. It’s probably one of the most important attributes to have in order to live a joyful, fulfilling life. Thank you for sharing with us!

    Reply
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