One of the recent activities on Facebook has been for women to post five photos of themselves in which they feel beautiful. It is framed as a challenge.

I think it is good for women to recognize their beauty as we so often do not appreciate it in ourselves.

But what is beauty, anyway?

I didn’t feel beautiful for the majority of my life. There were moments, of course, during which I did.

But what is beauty, anyway?

Is it aesthetics?

What are aesthetics, anyway?

Well, most people agree on a certain set of guidelines for determining who and what is “good looking”. Looking healthy has something to do with it. Looking youthful has something to do with it. Looking fertile has something to do with it. Looking just enough out of the ordinary to be striking but not too much as to look alien, has something to do with it. Tradition has something to do with it. Looking non-threatening has something to do with it.

We could say that human aesthetics don’t really matter. But is that really true? Look at Michelangelo’s David. Look at Boticelli’s Venus. One only has to look at two pieces of art to realize that there are aspects of the human form that are aesthetically superior to others, at least as aesthetics are subjectively defined. Plus, if we are to say that aesthetics in the human form do not exist, then it is fair to argue that aesthetics in other forms, also do not exist like in trees, mountains, or other natural forms.

Beauty, though, is not the same as aesthetics. It can include aesthetics but it can also go beyond the visual. Beauty has meaning as well as looks. Beauty is also not the same as “pretty” for the same reason.

Beauty has meaning and the meaning is usually related to a virtue, like love. Love of people, including ourselves, love of animals, love of nature, love, couched in marvel of the best aspects of our planet Earth.

Love is always beautiful but it is not always pretty. Conversely, what and who are aesthetically pleasing, are not always beautiful.

Now, coming back to the Facebook challenge. It was to post photos of when one FELT beautiful. I have never felt beautiful when I was unhappy. It wasn’t that I necessarily felt ugly, though at times that was true, it was just that the unhappy feelings predominated.

The times I have felt the most beautiful, are mostly times that I also looked pretty. It was like the aesthetic aspects were the icing on the cake. But I’ve felt beautiful without the icing. Here is an example:

Here she is, Miss America!

Here she is, Miss America!

Do I look pretty in this photo? No, I don’t and I’m not going to go over the reasons for that. But I felt beautiful. That photo was taken by me last September. I had been walking six days a week for nearly a year. It was pouring down rain that day. I didn’t want to go for a walk. But I did it and it was actually really fun. I felt beautiful because I had taken care of myself and not just survived my walk but thrived in it. This felt like a triumph of my body and mind that had been through so much through my cancer treatment and reconstruction. I felt strong and there are few things that feel more beautiful than feeling strong and capable in one’s own body after a cancer diagnosis.

But there have been times in my life when I felt beautiful and looked pretty. I have written about a number of those times in my blog, times that have been captured on film. A photo of my kissing my newborn girl on the cheek while she smiles blissfully. The photo I shared recently that my husband took during a lovely evening out. Those were times, incidentally, when I was totally in the moment with a person whom I love.

My aesthetic beauty will continue to fade. I would be lying if I said that this is 100% okay with me. But it’s still okay. I have a lot of beauty in my life. I have a lot of meaning in my life. I have a lot of love and I hope you do, too.