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“𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘦𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘨𝘰𝘰𝘥 𝘰𝘳 𝘣𝘢𝘥, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦𝘴 𝘪𝘵 𝘴𝘰.” 

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Is beauty objective?

If you are suffering because you don’t think you look good enough, then you are beholden to the idea that there is a right way to look - an ideal - which you don’t measure up to. 

This ideal might consist of: 

  • Having smooth skin
  • Having skin of a certain colour
  • Looking young
  • Looking healthy
  • Being slim and muscular
  • Having symmetrical features
  • Being a certain height
  • Having hair
  • Having a certain type of hair etc.

The list goes on and on.

What are the implications of beauty being subjective?


  • What if no such ideal actually exists, apart from the one you conjure up in your mind, on the basis of second-hand ideas you’ve been exposed to during the course of your life? 
  • What if you stopped endorsing the view that there is an objective scale of attractiveness? 
  • What if you stopped holding up one way of looking over any other? 
  • What if you treated that perspective with the same degree of seriousness you treat the idea that you want to kill a driver who cuts you up on the motorway? 
  • How would you make yourself feel inadequate about your appearance then? 
  • And perhaps, just as interestingly, how would you make yourself feel superior or know you were ‘special’ without relying upon a high attractiveness rating? 

What if beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, and that beholder is a product of their culture and upbringing?

Without comparison to an ideal, our bodies just are. They are neutral. It is not possible for a body to be beautiful or ugly per se. We can only experience someone as being attractive or unattractive via our own psychological experience – that is to say, through the filter of our own thoughts and feelings. 

Many of these thoughts are judgments we pick up from people and the media in our society. But often these thoughts will have nothing to do with the physical details of a person’s body, and everything to do with how they treat us and the way we feel when we’re with them. 

People come up with all kinds of reasons to justify the notion that beauty and ugliness are objective. They will use their emotional reactions as evidence. For example: 

💬'I feel disgusted when I look at a body like that. Therefore, it must be ugly.' Or... 

💬'I feel lustful when I look at a body like that. Therefore, it must be attractive.' 

But these conclusions don’t take account of what’s going on within the beholder when they have their emotional/physiological reactions. They don’t acknowledge the lifetime of conditioning that’s in the mix. They ignore and discount the role invisible thoughts play on a person’s feelings and actions. 

  • How many films or TV programmes have you seen in which the hero or heroine always has a particular body type? And this starts young – just think Disney. 
  • How many sex scenes show people of a certain shape and size? 
  • How many conversations, comments, compliments, and insults have you heard throughout your life which reinforce a narrow, specific definition of beauty? 

Do our cultural notions of beauty reflect a fear of our mortality?

Another justification for an objective view of beauty is that beauty is associated with youth and health to encourage procreation and the continuation of the species. It’s therefore inevitable that we’ll find certain bodies more attractive than others depending on the extent to which they exhibit these qualities. That’s the theory anyway. 

And yes, when we’re young, we may well be more attracted to people of a similar age for such reasons, even if we’re not fully aware of this at the time. It makes sense that we may want to find a life partner to spend many years with rather than someone who’s likely to die in the near future. When I was in my 20s, I certainly wasn’t looking for a man in his 80s. 

But that’s a far cry from concluding that we lose the ability to appreciate the way someone looks as soon as they put on weight, fall ill, or get their first wrinkle! That notion has a lot more to do with a culture which is terrified of ageing and has become unduly preoccupied with the visible facets of life to the detriment of our spiritual inner life and our intimate relationships. 

Cultural notions of beauty can be incredibly compelling.

All these justifications for the assertion that beauty is objective, and repeated exposure to the portrayal of beauty in very particular, limited ways, accumulate in our minds to form what seems like a solid, irrefutable concept of what beauty is, and what it isn’t. There are apparently clear parameters. 

And when so many people around us are subjected to the same brainwashing, this standpoint becomes so pervasive that it no longer looks like a subjective opinion at all. It morphs into a ‘fact’. And if we don’t measure up to the ideal, then it’s a ‘fact of life’ which we’re at the mercy of, and one which is capable of hurling us into the depths of despair. 

It's possible to learn to see beyond our brainwashing.

But the truth is that no objective ideal exists. No one looks any better or worse than anyone else unless we think they do. There are simply different shapes, sizes, textures, colours, and proportions to which we attribute more or less value, depending on the extent to which we take on the conventional attitudes of the culture in which we live. 

Comparing our bodies to an imaginary ideal is optional. Yes, it may be a very popular habit. And it may be very ingrained within us. But throughout the course of our lives, we drop habits as soon as we realise there is a better, more satisfying alternative. 

I thought attractiveness was objective for most of my life. Until I saw it for what it was – a widely propagated myth. And yet, when I started my enquiry into the true nature of beauty, the notion that it wasn’t objective didn’t help me much. Because I reasoned, if nearly everyone saw it that way, then what did I care if they were all believing a lie? 

You can be happy in a world in which the so-called 'beauty' standards dominate many people's outlook.

I wanted other people to find me attractive and if they were brainwashed into finding my body unattractive, then I couldn’t get what I wanted. I wouldn’t be desired or admired. And so, I stayed miserable. 

What I didn’t realise back then was that when you begin to understand that your reality is created via your thinking, you start to notice more grey areas. You spot the cracks in the conditioning, and that’s where you find the possibility for more freedom, joy, and fulfilment. 

In my case, I began to realise that not everyone was as brainwashed as fully as I had been. And even people who buy into all the so-called ‘beauty’ standards often don’t give them all that much weight – they may well have other things they consider to be more interesting and important. 

You can be the change you want to see.

And I also underestimated the significant influence we can have over others – we are all a lot more impressionable than we’d care to admit. When we wake up to truth, it doesn’t just change us, it also impacts people we come into contact with. Not all the people all the time, but some of the people, some of the time. 

And that’s how the world changes. It changes when we change. It changes one person at a time. 


  • We unwittingly buy into culturally conditioned notions of what constitutes beauty.  This gives us the impression that beauty is objective.
  • When we recognise the truth - that beauty is subjective - it is enormously freeing.  We can stop striving to win approval for our appearance from other people and stop feeling like victims of the genetic lottery.
  • When we realise that we have been using our thinking to hurt ourselves, we can stop, and take back control over our minds.

And now it's over to you.  How do you see this?

Imagine for a moment that you saw for yourself that no one else in the world looked better or worse than you. 

  • How would that change your life? 
  • And how might such a transformation in you impact the people you encounter, including the next generation?

Reach out if you'd like support

The idea that there is a hierarchy when it comes to the appearance of our bodies can be a hard fallacy to see through.  If you'd like some support to help you see the truth at a level that will actually make a difference to your experience of your body, and of your life, check out my free resources or find out how you can work with me.

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