Dr. Adam Sheck examines what it means to be beautiful, and explains the elements that create true beauty in his eyes.
As a man with a nineteen-year-old daughter, I am sometimes quite concerned with society’s continuing obsession with beauty, more specifically about our definition and attitudes about a woman’s beauty. The messages for the most part are fear-based and focused not as much on appreciating beauty as artificially preserving it and hanging onto it. The premise is that time and age make a woman less beautiful and that women must sacrifice time, money and health to conform to an externally dictated standard of beauty.
My concern is that the media has bombarded us with messages that have hypnotized us into believing that their definition of beauty is actually true. Like most of the messages we see in the media, the motivation is control and money. The beauty industry is a multi-billion dollar powerhouse that stays in business by telling us what is beautiful and who is beautiful, for their own gain.
I’m not worth nearly a billion dollars, but I am a man who’s been on the planet for over half a century, as well as a psychologist in Los Angeles, so I’ve seen and heard a lot about it, and would like to offer my perspective as a man who’s been around the block and isn’t in the pocket of the beauty business.
First, a woman is not beautiful in a vacuum, there is always an observer who interprets that beauty, even if it is the woman herself. But what I’d really like to talk about is how a man creates beauty through his perception of a woman.
Yes, I firmly believe that the love and admiration of a man has a role in creating beauty in a woman. As a former engineer, I learned that quantum physics tells us that observation affects the “reality” of what is being observed.
In making this statement, I want to make a distinction between “beautiful” and “attractive”. We are biologically disposed towards what is attractive, based upon what would make good “breeding” material in both sexes. It’s not romantic, but it’s true.
As the theory goes, classic attractiveness is based upon symmetry and proportion. The more symmetrical, the more “pure” and more prone to survival are the underlying genetics. We know and react to this deep within our DNA on a visceral, unconscious level.
This isn’t really news. The designers of the Great Pyramids of Egypt as well as Leonardo Da Vinci and so many others of the Renaissance used the “Golden Ratio” of 1:1.62 in creating their masterpieces. When an object or person meets this ratio, we consider it or them to be beautiful.
We can apply this to the ratio of face length to face width. We can apply it to nose-to-chin or pupil-to-nose ratios. It is endless—just ask any plastic surgeon.
Psychologically, we find attractive someone who embodies the qualities of our primary caregivers. The people who raised us, typically our parents and extended family are our models for relationship, emotionally as well as physically. Sometimes we choose someone who is the opposite of them, yet we are still using them as our template.
We are all drawn to certain body parts that sexually stimulate us: face, eyes, hair, breasts, belly, butt, legs, ankles. We each have different preferences, which is a good thing, as it is a rare woman who has each body part exactly as we would prefer. Again, this variation in what is attractive offers another genetic advantage through creating a more varied gene pool and is therefore more conducive to survival of the species.
Emotional maturity consists of recognizing our predispositions and focusing more on what we appreciate than on what we don’t appreciate in our partner and being grateful for that. We do have a cerebral cortex that lets us override the instincts of our reptilian brain.
Taking all of that into consideration, I would argue that attraction and sexual chemistry don’t make a woman beautiful, they simply make her attractive. I would argue that beauty is defined by something deeper, that it is truly more than skin deep.
Love is a big part of what creates beauty in a woman, at least in my eyes. When I truly love a woman and love her beautiful way of being, she becomes beautiful in my mind and in my soul, and then in my eyes. And when she is able to witness and feel my love for her and my vision of her beauty and she can fully take it in, then she is transformed.
I’m not saying this in a narcissistic, controlling way or even in a romantic sense. This beauty-endowing mechanism isn’t something unique to me or to men in general. We all have this gift. We all create beauty in our lives and in our relationships. There is something alchemical, something transformative about it, something soulful about it.
Have you ever experienced it from the other side? Have you ever wished that you could see yourself the way that your beloved sees you? You can and perhaps you have. That’s the beauty of relationship—we can be mirrors for each other and can also be healers for each other.
I have loved deeply and experienced beauty in women that have not been conventionally attractive or classically beautiful. I have experienced tears in my eyes from witnessing a beauty that has caused my more objective friends to question my very sanity. Looking at photos of these women years later after my intense connection has subsided, I can understand what raised the eyebrows of my doubting friends. I can also understand the soulfulness and the love that expanded my perceptions.
The type of beauty that I refer to defies gravity and time. It doesn’t require Botox and Pilates and rigorous diets. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take care of ourselves and do whatever makes us feel good about ourselves. I’m saying that the beauty of love is timeless and is not affected by the ravages of life.
Haven’t we all witnessed an elderly couple walking hand in hand and gazing into each other’s eyes with a love that has endured decades and decades of life’s vicissitudes? Haven’t we all been envious of the love and the beauty that is the co-creation of their relationship?
The beauty that I’m describing isn’t about attraction and sexuality, though we all deserve to have someone we’re sexually attracted to and who is attracted to us. It isn’t limited to one romantic relationship.
It is about any love relationship. I have had dear friends and family in the throes of cancer and AIDS, at less than half of their normal body weight and they have been beautiful to me. The soul is the soul and its essence is beauty on all levels.
The title of this article is “What Makes A Woman Beautiful To A Man” and it was written as one man’s response to one woman’s piece about beauty. However, the mechanism of love is one that transcends gender and sexual orientation. I believe that it is true for ALL types of relationships between all types of peoples. The soul doesn’t care what kind of body it or its mate are living in. Love is love and beauty is beauty.
Am I a hopeless romantic or am I onto something? For the sake of my daughter and all of the young women in our world, I would like to think so. What are your experiences of beauty and of creating beauty in your partner?