As a young girl, reading fairy tales and growing up in a media-driven society fixated on physical beauty, I unconsciously believed that being “beautiful” would make all my dreams come true.
I would surely find inner peace, happiness, love, and success if I just looked like a supermodel or an actress!
Much to my surprise, I later discovered that many of my physically beautiful role models led lonely, unhappy, or even miserable lives—so I began to seek out new inspiration, which included women whose inner qualities made them beautiful.
On my journey, I’ve learned that true beauty comes from within, shining through our outward selves. It comes from the symmetry of your soul, not the symmetry of your physical features. This tangible beauty can be felt by all those in our presence.
On that journey toward a deeper understanding of what it means to be truly beautiful, I’ve found five ways to enhance and express that inner beauty:
Smiling brightens the face, brings happiness to others, and allows your inner beauty to shine through. I’ll be the first to admit, when I pass a stranger on the sidewalk I wonder if I should wait for them to smile at me. However, I’ve learned that if I smile first, the majority of the time they will smile back. So: be brave and smile at everyone. While you’re at it, find the humor in life and laugh often, too:
A cheerful countenance lends consolation to the beholder. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 4, p. 186.
Laughter is caused by the slackening or relaxation of the nerves. It is an ideal condition and not physical. Laughter is the visible effect of an invisible cause. … Happiness is a spiritual state. – Ibid., Volume 7, p. 102.
2. Be Kind
Research shows that kindness increases energy, happiness, pleasure, and lifespan, while decreasing anxiety, depression, stress, pain, and blood pressure.
Acts of kindness and generosity magnify the virtues of God within ourselves and guide us toward inner peace. How we treat others is a reflection of our inner being and our relationship with our Creator. Living with an open and radiant heart causes us to become an irresistible magnet for the blessings of this world. The Baha’i teachings ask us all to “possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart:”
O Son of Spirit! My first counsel is this: Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 3.
3. Nourish Yourself Spiritually
Just as eating well keeps us healthy, we all need spiritual nourishment. I have learned that people can sense your level of healthy self-acceptance within moments of first meeting you, therefore if you are spiritually grounded and comfortable in your own skin, others will be more likely to accept and appreciate you. Take loving care of your physical body as it is the temple of your soul. Focus on the good in your life and think lovely thoughts. Surround yourself with positive, supportive, and uplifting people. Nourish yourself spiritually with the wisdom of spiritual and religious writings. I recommend setting aside time each day to do something that fills your heart with joy such as saying prayers, watching a funny television show, taking a relaxing bath, going to bed early, playing with a pet, cuddling with your partner, etc.
4. Be Grateful
The more grateful we are, the more miracles we attract into our lives. I liken this notion to a spoiled child who incessantly demands something, as opposed to a thankful child who others want to serve. However, practicing gratitude can be challenging when everything seems to be going wrong. In these moments, gratitude is the last emotion I want to feel—yet it is the first thing I should remind myself to do. Nine times out of ten, if I can begin to allow thankfulness into my heart again, my circumstances will turn around for the better. We all have bad days but it’s about moving forward, being grateful, and having faith that God will aid in resolving our issues:
A thankful person is thankful under all circumstances. A complaining soul complains even if he lives in paradise. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 4, p. 186.
Wherefore, O ye loved ones of God, offer up thanks unto Him, since He hath made you the object of such bounties, and the recipients of such gifts. Blessed are ye, glad tidings to you, for this abounding grace. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 82.
5. Serve Humanity
The Baha’i Faith emphasizes service to humanity as a means toward our own self-development—and as a means for bringing happiness to others. However, I believe service isn’t necessarily a “one-size-fits-all” endeavor. I recommend seeking out service projects and opportunities that speak to your soul. For example, I love teaching children, caring for animals, and helping young people. We each can’t do everything, but we can do our part in changing the world. Service can be a beautiful experience that fills your heart with joy. This bliss will emanate from your heart and touch all who cross your path.
The betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and goodly deeds and through commendable and seemly conduct. ―Baha’u’llah, cited by Shoghi Effendi in The Advent of Divine Justice, pp. 24-25.
Service to humanity is service to God. Let the love and light of the Kingdom radiate through you until all who look upon you shall be illumined by its reflection. Be as stars, brilliant and sparkling in the loftiness of their heavenly station. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 8.