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A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM UPWORTHY
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beauty

Identity

57-year-old former model Paulina Porizkova had the perfect response to ageist comment online

"We have earned our beauty, we understand what it is, and we can see it so much better."

Photo by Malin K. on Unsplash

Paulina Porizkova took on a commenter who said she was in "pain" being "old and ugly."

Aging is a weird thing. From one perspective, it's something we should be grateful for. Few people would wish for the kind of short, uneventful life that would remove aging from the equation completely. The longer we live, the more we grow and learn and experience life, and "aging" is simply the mathematical sum of those experiences. All good, right?

On the other hand, our society does everything in its power to hide the fact that aging happens. Especially when it comes to women. According to Statista, the global anti-aging beauty market is estimated to be worth $58.8 billion. People will try all manner of creams, serums, masks, acids, lights, technologies and surgeries to try to prevent wrinkles, lines, sagginess, spots and other signs that our bodies are changing with time.

Most of us live our daily lives somewhere in the middle of these two realities, wanting to embrace our aging selves but also hoping to stave off some of the more obvious signs that we're getting older. It's natural to resist it in some ways, since the older we get, the closer we get to the end of our lives, which we certainly don't want to hasten—especially if we actually love living.

It can be helpful to see people who are embracing their age, which is why it can be inspiring to see someone like former supermodel Paulina Porizkova confidently sharing photos of her 57-year-old self.



In posts on social media, Porizkova shared a photo of herself in a bikini and a screenshot of a comment made by a person who felt the need to comment on her aging body. And phew, was it something. The commenter wrote:

"You must be in so much pain to keep posting bikini pictures at your age. I've always thought that getting old and ugly is hardest on the pretty people. The fall from grace is so much farther when you were beautiful. Ugly people were always ugly so getting old and ugly isn't a change. In summary, I feel your pain. I pray you can come to terms with your mortality. We all get old and ugly…you just had to fall from a greater height than the rest of us. Tears Times Infinity!"

So many things to unpack here.

Porizkova shared her thoughts on the comment on Instagram.

"Here’s a good follower comment- echoing a few others," Porizkova wrote. "A woman of 57 is 'too old' to pose in a bikini - no matter what she looks like. Because 'Old' is 'Ugly.' I get comments like these every time I post a photo of my body. This is the ageist shaming that sets my teeth on edge. Older men are distinguished, older women are ugly."

"People who believe prettiness equals beauty do not understand beauty," she continued. "Pretty is easy on the eyes, partly because it’s a little bland, inoffensive. It’s easy to take in and easy to forget. Not so beauty. Beauty can be sharp. It can wound you and leave a scar. To perceive beauty you have to be able to SEE."

"This is why I believe we get more beautiful with age," she added. "We have earned our beauty, we understand what it is, and we can see it so much better. There is no such thing as ugly and old. Only shortsighted and ignorant."

On Twitter, Porizkova was a bit more sarcastic, writing, "Thank you for feeling my pain, rickaroo777. As you can see, I’m suffering indeed."

That tongue-in-cheek response prompted others to share their aging selves in photos, sharing how their "old and ugly" phase of life is going. The thread turned into a veritable celebration of middle-to-late age, with posts about how much more comfortable people feel in their bodies as they get older and the freedom that comes along with not caring what other people think.

You suffer beautifully

There are two big ironies with the original trolling comment. Most obviously, Porizkova obviously looks freaking amazing in a bikini, so the whole "ugly" and "fall from grace" line of thought is object and off base. The second is that if you look through Porizkova's Instagram feed, she doesn't pose in bikinis very often at all. It's not like she's plastering her bikini selfies all over social media trying to make herself feel better about herself, as the commenter implies. She just…sometimes wears a bikini. Whoop dee doo.

People don't have to wear bikinis if they don't want to. But to tell strangers what they can wear crosses a line. All bodies are bikini bodies, and if the person in the body wants their body to be in a bikini, more power to them.

The "suffering" and "pain" in the posts were so funny to see.

The thread brought inspiration to those who may fall prey to the idea that people shouldn't wear certain things after a certain age or that only people with certain body sizes or shapes should wear certain things.

The hashtag #oldandugly started trending as people responded to Porizkova's call for a celebration of aging beautifully.

"Todays thread has been my absolute favorite of all time," Porizkova wrote on Twitter. "Thank you all you 'old and ugly' women (and a few men) showing the world how much we 'suffer' at in our old age. You’re all breathtaking!"

May we all age beautifully and gracefully in whatever way those words are meaningful to us, and show those who think that aging means "suffering" and "pain" due to being "old and ugly" that they have no idea what they're talking about.

(And here's an extra shout-out to Porizkova for using her beauty and her age to make an important point—not only about celebrating getting older, but also about how propaganda works. Brava.)


This article originally appeared on 05.03.22

Health

Reimagining what 'beauty influencer' means: an expert in the psychology of beauty weighs in

Dr. Rhett Diessner's research points to beauty being so much more important than we might think.

Photo (left) by Megan Ruth on Unsplash, Photo (right) by lucas wesney on Unsplash

Let's take a deep dive into how beauty influences us.

When you picture a "beauty influencer," you probably don't imagine a balding, bearded, bespectacled retired psychology professor surrounded by piles of papers. But I would put Dr. Rhett Diessner up against any TikTok creator on Earth when it comes to beauty, as he's spent over two decades deeply studying the subject and has a profound understanding of how it influences us.

Around 1998, while teaching at a small international university in Switzerland, Diessner had an epiphany. As he explored the villages, lakes and mountains in the area, he found himself enamored with the picturesque landscapes, soaring cathedrals, incredible art and soul-stirring ideas that surrounded him. In moments of meditation, he began to see appreciation of beauty as more than just an enjoyable pastime.

"It dawned on me that beauty has spiritual roots," Diessner tells Upworthy. "That it's really a foundational aspect of being human, a very important aspect of our soul." Searching religious scripture confirmed this idea, and he decided he would focus his academic research on the human trait of attraction to beauty.


We know beauty when we see it—or perhaps we knowit when we feel it—but how do we define it? What exactly is beauty? What are the qualities that make something beautiful?

Diessner chuckles at this question. "Notable philosopher of beauty in America Crispin Sartwell says beauty is famous as a concept that not only should not be defined, but perhaps cannot be defined," he says. "But then, of course, I go ahead and define it."

Beauty exists in three places, Diessner explains. It's in our mind as the beholder when we perceive something as beautiful, it's in the object we're beholding as it provides a stimulus for our brain, and it's in the interaction between the two.

"At the same time, we want to know what these things that we find beautiful have in common. And this is where it gets pretty cool," Diessner says. "Most of the world's most famous philosophers, starting with Plato and Aristotle, say that what everything beautiful has in common is unity in diversity. They have different phrases for it—they might call it unity in variety—but basically it boils down to the concept that when we see a variety of elements organized and unified, this almost always appeals to our mind as something beautiful."

sunset over rolling hills

Sunsets are a universal example of natural beauty.

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

Diessner has focused his studies on four categories of beauty:

Natural beauty: The beauty of nature. Humans are attracted to sunsets, mountains, the ocean, flowers, the patterns on a butterfly's wings, etc. The beauty of the natural world is recognized universally. "Even in towns and cities, we see it in the green spaces. We hear it in the birds next to our house," Diessner points out.

Artistic beauty: Human-made beauty. Art, architecture, dance, theater, music—all the beautiful things people create. Diessner explains that even the make-up tricks "beauty influencers" demonstrate while supporting the billion-dollar beauty industry have their roots in artistic beauty. "Applying paints and textures to our face and body—we've been doing this as long back as thousands and thousands of years, and there's clearly some artistic skill involved," he says.

Moral beauty: Also known as "inner beauty," this is the beauty we see when a person displays virtuous qualities—kindness, compassion, altruism, honesty, caring. "When people are in difficult circumstances and have hope, when somebody stands up for social justice when other people are oppressed, when somebody opens their heart with love for people that might be difficult to love. We're like, 'Whoa, that's beautiful,'" says Diessner.

Beautiful ideas: "Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men" is a beautiful idea. Philosophical, religious, spiritual concepts can be beautiful. For mathematicians, even certain math equations are seen as beautiful. "Einstein is recorded as saying that the beauty of an equation was more important to him than whether it actually corresponded with physical reality," Diessner shares.

Some of our attraction to beauty can be explained by evolutionary psychology. As Diessner explains, we are at least partially attracted to water and greenery in nature because they mean food and hydration, without which we wouldn't survive or reproduce. We are attracted to vistas and sweeping landscapes because being up high meant safety and the ability to see predators coming as well as being able to find food and water sources more easily.

Some of what appeals to our attraction to beauty trait is also culturally influenced. This is particularly true of artistic beauty, but moral beauty can also be appreciated differently by people based on what is valued the most in their culture. However, people are universally attracted to these four kinds of beauty, even if their individual preferences within those categories differ.

someone holding an older person's hand

Moral beauty includes kindness, compassion and caring for others.

Photo by Saulo Meza on Unsplash

Is one kind of beauty more important than the others? Not necessarily, but Diessner does refer to moral beauty the "big prize." He cites a not-yet-published study from Berkeley's Dacher Keltner—"the world's greatest researcher on awe" according to Diessner—in which researchers asked 100 people from all over the world what makes them feel awe. The top answer was moral beauty—a result that surprised Keltner and Diessner alike.

"He expected, just like I did, for it to be natural beauty—'Oh that mountain!'—but no, the number one cause of awe cross-culturally is seeing people's virtues in action," says Diessner.

The problem in the modern age is that is when you search for "beauty" on Google, social media, or stock photo sites, all you see are beauty product ads and tutorials. So where where does all of that fit into this picture?

Diessner says there is power in being seen as physically beautiful. "Physical looks give you a higher income at your job. They help get you the job," he says. "There's a lot of research that shows that people actually judge physically beautiful people as more morally good. That's been found over and over and in multiple countries."

However, he points out, "the reverse is also true. The more we notice somebody's inner beauty the more physically beautiful we start to think they are. Isn't that great?"

Not only does beauty have the power to transform our minds to see things differently, but Diessner's research shows that engagement with these four types of beauty might actually help change the world. In fact, one study he led found that the appreciation of beauty trait predicted pro-environmental behavior and moral elevation—caring for the planet and striving to be better people—better than 23 other character strengths did, lending support to the idea that broadening how we think of and engage with beauty is far more important than we might think.

"When we put everything in the physical beauty bag, we often, at some point, feel like we don't have anything," Diessner says. "Whereas being engaged with natural beauty, artistic beauty or especially the beauty of virtues, we build up a lot of inner resources."

"We live our entire life in only one place, and that's our mind," he explains. "We think we're touching stuff and smelling stuff, but all that's happening inside our mind. It's the only place we're ever going to be, and when you engage with beauty, you make your mind a more beautiful place to be. The research also shows that the more beautiful our mind is the more likely we are to serve others, the more likely we are to engage in prosocial behavior, the more likely we are to start thinking of the common good and not our own little selfish desires. This is really one of the most powerful things about beauty."

Finally, Diessner says that a person's appreciation of beauty trait can be enhanced, like improving a skill, both with practice and by seeing engagement with beauty being modeled by others.

So what if we reimagined what "beauty influencer" meant based on Diessner's research? What if a "model" was someone who showcased the beauty of engaging with nature, art, virtue or beautiful ideas? What if we encouraged people to hone their appreciation of beauty trait in service to humanity and created more opportunities for engaging with beauty? What if we celebrated beauty more in our interactions with each other and viewed it not as a superfluous extra in life but as a genuine necessity for us to collectively thrive?

Diessner's conclusion after over 20 years of research is that human appreciation of beauty can actually help save the world. That definitely seems like a "beauty tutorial" series worth creating and sharing.

You can watch Rhett Diessner's TEDx Talk, "The Psychology of Beauty and Love," here.


Pop Culture

TikTok's scarily precise, too-real beauty filter has people rightfully freaked

Women should not feel 'devastated' by their real faces, yet here we are.

The Bold Glamour filter on TikTok takes social media filters to a whole other level.

First, allow me to introduce myself—and my "Bold Glamour" alter-ego—via TikTok:

Freaky, right?

Normally, I'm good with the way my face looks. (One of the gifts of your late 40s is fully embracing your face in all its glory.) But I was surprised to find that the longer I used that filter, the more…well, homely my real face started to feel. There's just no way for my real face to compare to the model-like one in that video, because this filter isn't just a faux makeup job. It basically gave me plastic surgery, botox and a Photoshop airbrush to boot, and as overdone as it is, looking in the mirror after making that video really did trigger some insecurities about my real face that I didn't think I had.


If a beauty filter can make me start to feel "meh" about my looks, I can only imagine what it's doing to the psyches of young women who don't have decades of life experience and confidence-building behind them.

Visual artist Memo Akten shared a thread on Twitter illustrating how scary these unreal-yet-too-real filters are, with examples from women illustrating how they do a number on our brains.

“I don't wanna be known as the TikTok filter guy, but ICYMI after attacking GenX w teenage filter, TikTok just dropped a new filter to take out Millennials & GenZ," he wrote. "'Beauty filters' are not new, but the precision on this is beyond uncanny. This is psychological warfare & pure evil.”

Women are sharing how a hyper-real filter like this breeds and fuels insecurity, which is the last thing we need when we are already fighting body image and beauty standard battles on multiple fronts.

@meghan__lane__

Yall gotta take this filter down i dont know her SHES A WHOLE DIFFERENT PERSON

Video filters in general can be a lot of fun. My teens and I have a blast playing around with Snapchat filters that make everyone look like they're crying or turn people into cartoon characters and all kinds of silly things. But this is not that. This is leaning fully into Kardashian-esque beauty culture and creating an illusion that impossible beauty standards might actually be possible. Seeing is believing, after all.

Consciously, we know it's an illusion. It's just a filter. It's not real. But that doesn't change how our minds process seeing our filtered faces, nor does it change the very real impact they have on our self-image.

"I definitely see a new theme to body dysmorphic concerns," Dr. Josie Howard, a board-certified psychiatrist who specializes in psychodermatology told InStyle. "People begin to expect themselves to look like their filtered self and can become obsessed with achieving that in the real world, which leaves them depressed, anxious, lonely, and disappointed."

Experts have been sounding the alarm about the link between augmented reality filters and body image issues. As Harvard Business Review reports, "Physical appearance is a key component of identity and as such it can have a substantial impact on psychological well-being. Studies have shown that virtually modifying appearance can provoke anxiety, body dysmorphia, and sometimes even motivate people to seek cosmetic surgery."

But we don't even have to tap professional researchers to tell us all this. Just ask any portrait photographer about the changes they've seen in their clientele since the advent of social media filters. Here's one photographer describing how she sees beautiful women feeling "devasted" by how they look in photos because they want to look like what they see in their filtered social media posts.

@coffeetillvodka

This filter is INSANE! Its so real, and i can see how damaging this could be. #filters #women #aging #youth #beauty #reality #photography #womensempowerment #mentalhealth

Photo editing and filters have been around for a long time, but that doesn't mean they haven't gotten more ubiquitous and more damaging. A shift in lighting to get rid of unflattering shadows is a very different beast than a filter that changes your entire facial structure and texture to look like a magazine ad.

I would argue that this too-real video filter, which allows you to see yourself in real-time with a model-perfect face, is far more problematic than already-problematic-enough photo filters. Having your face altered that way and having your own movements and your own voice attached to it…it messes with you, even when you know it's not real. I experienced it myself in just a matter of minutes, and I consider myself fairly immune to such things.

For young women and girls who are just in the early stages of forming their self-image, it's an extremely dangerous social experiment. Parents, please talk to your kids about the psychological impact beauty filters like these can have, and maybe encourage them to stick to ones that turn faces into horseheads or make flowers fly out of their mouths instead. Those who profit off of women's insecurities aren't going to altruistically change, so it's up to all of us to make sure young people internalize that filters are phony and their faces are fine, just as they are.

Photo by Trevor Buntin on Unsplash

My daughter asking me why I wear makeup led to big conversations about beauty.

"Mommy, why do you wear makeup?"

I don't remember how old my first daughter was when she asked me that question, but I do remember feeling unprepared for it. Such a simple and reasonable question seems like it should have a simple and reasonable answer, but as I looked at her young face, I thought about how my answer could shape her entire view of women and beauty and her own self-image.

The full truth of why I wear makeup is complicated, as I'm sure it is for most women. I started wearing makeup mainly to cover up acne as a teen, but I remember being younger and feeling intrigued by eye makeup on magazine models. I started to mess around around with eye shadow and eye liner because it was fun to "paint" my face.

I like wearing makeup and always have. It truly can be fun, but I'd be fooling myself to believe that societal standards of beauty don't also play a significant role in my choices now. I wear makeup because it makes me feel prettier and more "put together," even when it's just a quick five-minute routine. It makes my skin look better and brighter and it brings out my eyes. I think of it as enhancing my beauty rather than creating it.


There's nothing wrong or unusual about that, but everything gets viewed through a different lens when you're explaining something to a child—especially our own child.

I've never wanted to put society's arbitrary and unattainable beauty standards on my daughters. I wanted them to reject anything that told them they weren't good enough just as they are. I didn't want them to feel like they needed to wear makeup to feel beautiful; I wanted them to choose how to define beauty for themselves. I wanted them to feel comfortable enough in their own skin to go without makeup, but also confident enough in their own choices to do whatever they wanted with their faces.

How could I explain why I wear makeup in a way that conveyed all of that to my young daughter without prematurely planting those pressures in her mind?

If this all sounds overwrought and overthought, it is. Welcome to womanhood, where every choice we make about our bodies is a mishmosh of historical patriarchy and corporate marketing, with some constant self-judgment and overanalysis thrown in for good measure.

My husband and I wanted to do what we could to ease those pressures for our girls, so we tried to talk about beauty in a way that was authentic and healthy as they were growing up. From the beginning, we talked a lot about beauty being about your inner state, not your outer presentation. We wanted our girls to internalize that message deeply before years of ads and billboards and magazines and Victoria's Secret told them otherwise.

That was a solid parenting choice, but I couldn't help but wonder if me putting on makeup felt like a mixed message. Was I being hypocritical, preaching that beauty on the inside is what matters, but trying to make myself more beautiful on the outside? One could take that argument to an extreme, not engaging in any grooming at all because outer beauty is just a facade, but that just seems silly and wrong. Ultimately, I told her the truth in all its complicated glory.

"Because I think it's fun," I said, realizing that would probably just make her want to wear it when she was still way too young.

"And because it makes me feel more 'put together,'" I said, hoping that wouldn't make her view women who don't wear makeup as not put together.

"And because it highlights my natural beauty," I said, knowing that the constant questions about what counts as beauty would soon begin to bombard her.

It wasn't a perfect answer, but it was honest and sometimes honest is the best we can do.

My daughters are 22 and 18 now, and since that initial question we've had many more conversations about makeup, beauty, personal grooming and how society and individuals judge such things. Thankfully, I found it easier to talk about beauty as they grew older, as they started to understand how pressures from people we know and people we don't can impact the choices we make.

Those pressures can go both ways, they found. One of my daughters felt pressure not to wear makeup and had to navigate her way through doing what was right for her. I'm happy to say that they have grown into young women who question beauty standards and challenge people's judgments from all sides, ultimately landing on what makes them feel best in their own skin. That's really all I had hoped for them.

Phew. Being a woman in this world can be complicated, but raising women in this world is entirely next-level.