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8 steps to inner beauty

Caroline SchmittMarch 12, 2015

We all know that beauty matters, but it’s not just your physical appearance that you should be worrying about - what about your inner beauty? Check out our guide for working on what’s inside.

Photo: Post-its on a mirror saying "you are beautiful"
Simple daily helpers like these can help #startyourdayright and build up your self-esteem, bit by bit.Image: DW/C. Schmitt

You’ve already guessed it, the concept of beauty isn’t limited to having high cheek bones, whopper boobs or more timely, that perfect thigh gap.

Outer beauty does matter, though. It really is as brutally simple as that. Telling ourselves it doesn’t is counterproductive - and an outright lie. Beauty impacts the course of our careers, the size of our salaries, the attractiveness of our partners - and all too often our own self-esteem.

But the term beauty doesn’t only encompass the visual. “If you know and love the entirety of a person - their face, body and soul - the outside beauty perhaps becomes less relevant and a different kind of attractiveness overshadows the rest,” philosopher Tobias Hürter tells Life Links.

Still, it would be narrow minded to strictly separate internal from external beauty. If you want to attain one, you also need to take the other into account: “As a model, I was busy trying to fix beauty on the outside. As a psychologist, it’s about fixing the beauty from the inside. But really they are connected. Inner beauty is often reflected in how we present ourselves to the world,” says Vivian Diller, a New York-based former model and dancer turned psychologist with a research focus on the psychology of beauty.

But it seems not everyone shares that perspective: #dropdeadgorgeous’ Isis lives in Brazil, the world leader in plastic surgery. So it’s no real surprise the 23-year-old has already undergone two plastic surgeries in an attempt to strengthen her self-esteem. With us all being hopeless romantics and ideologists, we thought there must be another way: just imagine a world where people put as much time and effort into working on their inner beauty.

With this in mind, we compiled a little step-by-step guide to add to your daily inner #beautyroutine. This list is subject to trial (the whole team is undergoing internal aesthetic surgery as we speak!) but you’re welcome to board the same train and join us on our journey towards silicone-free paradise.

1. #youaremorethanyourlooks: It’s not about the physical features (alone)

Here’s some theory to kick us off: As a model, Vivian Diller met many women who “had perfect bodies and could do amazing things with them”, but didn’t necessarily feel beautiful. Why? It’s because “beauty doesn't depend upon perfect sizes or shapes, but on the kind of attitude one has towards one’s body.”

2. #faceoftheday: You and the mirror

Diller’s comments are all fine in theory, but where does this leave us when we wake up feeling the very opposite of #dropdeadgorgeous?

Look in the mirror.

It might come as a shock that we are talking about inner beauty and yet our first advice is to concentrate on your face, but with this guide we’re not going to be advising you to become a hippie and move into the Norwegian wilderness so that you’ll never come across a reflective surface again! So, now that’s straightened out - just look right into the mirror. But instead of just taking a quick glance to check your hair or make sure that annoying blemish has disappeared, “look at the best aspects of who you are,” Diller recommends. “Instead of finding fault with your image, focus on your three favourite features.”

Once you have passed the initial awkwardness that comes with staring at yourself, talk to your mirror self, just as you would with your best friend. Chances are you won’t say “Oh my God! Your hair is a nightmare today!” but “Whoa, you look stunning.” Speaking from experience (we’ve recently been doing a lot of mirror talk at Life Links), this actually works.

Then, if you’re feeling even more conscientious, why don’t you try to boost your happy levels even further by putting on a smile while staring into that looking glass. It’s scientifically proven that the human brain cannot differentiate between a genuine and a fake smile. This is good, because as it turns out a smile not only makes your brain think you are happy, but it also makes you appear more attractive, too. So it’s worth trying to persuade your face of its loveliness each morning - and wait for it to gradually sink in.

3. #shinebrightlikeadiamond: Eliminate negativity

But it’s not only about complimenting yourself in the morning, or whenever you pass the windows of a shiny Porsche, it’s also about eliminating negativity from your whole life.

In a 2011 survey of the magazine Glamour, women were found to have on average 13 negative thoughts about their body - daily. It might not sound like a huge amount, but focusing on such ideas can warp the perspective you have of yourself.

“Researchers in the field of neuroscience have found that whatever you focus on shapes your brain. If you are constantly thinking negative thoughts about your body, the neural pathway becomes stronger, and those thoughts become automatic and habitual. The basic idea is that ‘neurons that fire together, wire together’,” Ann Kearney-Cooke, psychologist and designer of the Glamour survey told Darling Magazine.

The good news is that in reverse, a positive attitude towards yourself can go a long way to fixing your self image: “This inner dialogue is the language we use to speak to ourselves. It’s how we regard ourselves, it’s at the very root of self-esteem. If your dialogue is kind and gentle versus critical and harsh, that more than anything will dictate how you feel,” Diller explains. That does not only make you feel more confident emotionally, but change the way you’re perceived by people around you.

4. #happyface: Head up, gorgeous!

Speaking of confidence - once you’ve braved the mirror and deleted discouraging words from your mental vocabulary, try standing taller. Work on your posture, put on a smile and make sure you’re able to look people in the eye. This has tangible effects thanks to the “feedback loop”. Sometimes “behaving as if you had confidence can make you feel more confident,” Diller says. “When someone walks into a room with their head held high, smiling, establishing eye contact and giving you a firm handshake, you will immediately find them more beautiful than someone with ‘perfect’ features who doesn’t have that air. Interestingly, when people receive positive feedback, it makes them stand even taller and smile more, so the loop continues.”

Turns out no breast surgery or nose job can replace that feeling of being a content person with a beautiful, genuine smile - still, it’s not like that’s any less work, sometimes!

5. #livelovelaugh: Develop your other interests

While your brain is recovering from so much pep talk, why not take a swift detour to other beautiful things that make you, you? Things that don’t have anything to do with silicone, mirrors or anything else to do with our looks. If we stopped being so busy shopping for anti-aging products, perhaps we’d have a little more time to develop our careers, dust off those rusty piano-playing skills, and work on our true friendships and family bonds. “We often don't think that these less ‘visible’ features contribute to feeling beautiful but they become part of the entire package, especially as our looks change,” says Diller.

What are you passionate about? Is there a degree or online course that could help you sharpen your skills and make your eyes shine with fascination as a result? Could you do with a bit of yoga - (quite possibly after that exhausting mirror talk we’ve just had). Or do you fancy a late night swim to calm your head? And when was the last time you had a decent champagne brunch (or beer-induced football match, depending on your style) with your favourite people? All that matters. All of that gives you confidence and helps you realize that everything you need to be happy and beautiful is already inside you. Apart from the beer, maybe.

6. #loveyourfriends: Nourish your (beautiful) friendships

We just touched on that a little, but it’s oh so important and therefore gets another mention. Make your friendships beautiful. That doesn’t mean you should cut people off if they don’t have big boobs, skinny legs or a six-pack! What it actually means is that you should work on nourishing your friendship, learning to inspire but also challenge, each other - not to mention also kicking each other’s butts when you get too caught up in self-doubt again. Invest time, money and energy in the people that make you glad to be alive. Building meaningful relationships and friendships often doesn’t come easy, in fact it’s a lot of work. But maintaining them through the difficult times, developing a history of trust and support, and knowing about each other’s worth is priceless.

Still, it’s not just about your close friends. In case you feel stuck in a psychology lecture, here’s a practical application: Spread the love! Tell a stranger their smile has made your day, tell your colleague they did an excellent job (instant ego boost!), tell someone you love them even if they already know, compliment someone’s clothing style - because really, you’d have no clue how to pull off that onesie, right?!

In case you lack some of those creative genes needed here, check out the Emergency Compliment generator, for when you’re stuck on a date there’s the Compliment Bot, the weird science generator one for all you lovely nerds or, a personal favourite, the Kanye West swagger machine. Talk about good deeds... that will surely get us all straight into heaven.

8. #plasticfantastic: Is cosmetic surgery a bad idea?

But where’s the line between enjoying beauty and being content with yourself? What about Life Links’ Isis and all that silicone? Have the 1.5 million people who underwent cosmetic surgery in Brazil in 2013 made an unwise decision?

As we’ve been trying to tell you - beauty is more than just looks and physical features. The way we view ourselves is a decisive factor in how beautiful people think we are - both inside and out. Getting a nose job doesn’t automatically make you happier - and there are health risks in Brazil and all over the world.

In the UK, a quarter of everyone who underwent cosmetic surgery didn’t check “their surgeon's credentials and over a fifth are not aware of the risks associated with their chosen procedure,” the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) found in February 2015.

But that’s only one side of the story. “If there is a physical feature that has bothered you for a long period of time, that interferes with looking as good as you feel, then take time to research a good surgeon and take advantage of safe procedures that can help,” Vivian Diller advises.

Turns out in some cases surgery dealing with an issue you have with your physical self can actually help you feel more beautiful on the inside - which then adds to the feedback loop (just checking you’ve paid attention!) and reflects back on your whole appearance.

But now over to you, happy mirror talking and complimenting strangers everyone!

#dropdeadgorgeous: Operating on self-esteem

Photo: Operation in Brazil
In 2013, almost 1.5 million people underwent cosmetic surgery in Brazil - is that really an effective way to become an overall beautiful human being?Image: DW/R. Richter
Berlin Fashion Week 2014 Designerin Esther Perbandt
Psychologist Diller met a lot of models who had “perfect” bodies and could do amazing things with them, but didn’t necessarily feel beautiful.Image: Timur Emek/Getty Images for IMG
Life Links Kategorie No Words Allowed
If you love someone, looks are only one part of the package. The beauty of their mind, heart and smile will also be a factor. Good thing we can work on these, too.Image: DW/C. Schmitt