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Published April 26, 2012, 11:30 PM

Linnares: A quest to find the key to feeling truly beautiful

I am going to dedicate this column just to those women who feel that they are not beautiful enough.

By: Chris Linnares, INFORUM

I am going to dedicate this column just to those women who feel that they are not beautiful enough.

Women who are not comfortable with their bodies because their bodies are too skinny or not skinny enough.

Women who are not happy with how they look because, compared with other women, they are too different or not different enough.

Women who feel they are not attractive because they don’t have a partner or because their partners don’t appreciate them enough.

Unfortunately, I am dedicating this column to 98 percent of all women around the world because just 2 percent actually consider themselves to be beautiful.

In 2004, the worldwide beauty brand Dove conducted a global report called “The Real Truth About Beauty.” In collaboration with various specialists, including Dr. Nancy Etcoff, a Harvard Psychologist and author of “Survival of the Prettiest,” the goals of the study were to determine how women define beauty, their level of satisfaction with their own beauty and the impact of that self-perception on their sense of well-being.

Dr. Etcoff was asked why she, as a prominent female theorist, would be willing to team up with a beauty brand who manufactures products such as firming lotion. Dr. Etcoff commented on her participation with the campaign by saying: “The default definition of beauty has shriveled pitifully. In a society where women compare themselves to the idolized images of pop culture icons such as Britney Spears and Victoria’s Secret models, it is logical for women to have a narrow definition of beauty. … It is this narrow idea of what is beautiful that must be changed by redefining beauty.”

In 2009, my husband and I started dreaming about a way to expand the definition of beauty. Noticing the tremendous emphasis on physical beauty in the media and the affect that it would likely have on the lives of our three daughters, we developed a project entitled “Beautiful Women Of …”

Our goal was to highlight stories of beautiful and inspiring women from our community and give to their “inner beauty” the same exposure and recognition that usually is awarded only to those who possess the outward beauty according to our society’s standards.

The project started by our family cramming into a motorhome and traveling throughout the state to interview women who were nominated to be included in the book “Beautiful Women of North Dakota.” Many times, when we knocked a nominee’s door and exclaimed: “We are here to interview a beautiful woman!” we received responses such as: “Are you crazy? I am not beautiful!” or “I believe you are in the wrong address, my neighbor on the other side of the street is beautiful, not me.”

I felt as if our society had robbed us of the magnitude of the word “beauty,” and that we have been using the term only to define a strictly external beauty according to excruciatingly narrow standards.

I am so grateful that today, with the support of the Forum Communications Company and a team of truly beautiful people, the project grew and we were able to proclaim this mission from other platforms such as TV, websites, newspapers and schools all over North Dakota.

I know that we have a lot of work to do in our society when comes in redefining beauty, but as a self-proclaimed dreamer, I have a lot of hope. I believe one day my daughters are going to live in world where 100 percent of women will feel beautiful.

It seems as if my 6-year-old daughter is learning this lesson pretty quickly – this week when I picked her up from school, she said: “Mom, my friend told me that she is cute and I am not cute.”

My Latin crazy-mama- psychologist side began fretting: “I hope this experience won’t affect my daughter’s self-image on a deeper level. What if this simple comment qualifies as childhood trauma?! What if this moment will affect her self-worth and, someday, she will end up in rehab with Lindsey Lohan’s kids, talking about ‘The Day I Learned I Wasn’t Cute Enough?!’ ”

I pretended that my crazy-mama thoughts weren’t plaguing me and even incorporated some Dr. Phil by calmly asking: “Honey, how did you feel about this comment?”

With no hesitation, she casually responded: “Oh, I didn’t feel anything, Mom, because I knew she was lying; I know I am really cute – you always tell me that.”

When I see such evidence of my daughter’s confidence, I can’t stop thinking about that 98 percent of women – including myself – who, oftentimes, feel we are not beautiful enough, we are not good enough.

When I reflect on the many times I am harshly critical of myself, I can hardly believe I once was a little girl who wasn’t ashamed to accept compliments and who didn’t waste her time comparing herself with others, who allowed herself to feel beautiful without second-guessing.

This is why I have a lot of hope – because I know this precious little girl is still inside each one of us and, one day, we will find the key to free her to be exactly who she is ... Beautiful!

Chris Linnares is an international author, Brazilian psychotherapist and creator of Diva Dance. She is the founder of Naturally Diva and Diva Connection Foundation for women’s health and empowerment.

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