How we define ourselves is determined, in part, by our perception of how other people view us and how we believe they value us. It includes appearance and body image.

People often say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder,but I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing youre the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves.”

—SALMA HAYEK PINAULT, Mexican American film actress, director, and producer

A quick internet search for the word beauty” returns a bevy of links that lead to information on cosmetics, skincare, fragrances, hairstyles, tanning, plastic surgery, fashion trends, weight loss programs, diet pills, and exercise regimens.

Men, women, and teenagers alike are concerned—some obsessed—with physical attractiveness and perceived imperfections.

Unfortunately, many people gauge their beauty based on how they think other people perceive them. Emphasized by the media, this line of thinking is based on externals—on physical appearance. The cosmetics industry banks on people comparing themselves to airbrushed models and falling short.

Beauty isnt about meeting a prescribed set of criteria. Beauty is subjective; its different for each person. But it cant be denied that inner beauty—a beautiful heart—makes a beautiful face.

Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick.”

—GWYNETH PALTROW, American actress, entrepreneur, and recording artist

The gemstones that shimmer in the crown of inner beauty include compassion, humor, intelligence, diplomacy, integrity, and trustworthiness. When these qualities are indwelling, the flow of beauty from the inside out is more effective than any work the most skilled of plastic surgeons can do.

I spend a lot of time behind a camera. Experientially I’ve observed that the younger and older people are more themselves. They dont try to appear different from who they are.

For her fortieth birthday, my client, Stella, received two tickets to see Kenny Chesney in concert in Las Vegas. She and Lily, her twelve-year-old daughter, flew off for a great weekend together. While waiting in line, they were selected by security and let in early.

Lily, what does it feel like to be special?” Stella asked, smiling, as they sat waiting.

No different, Mom. I always feel special.”

The world would be a very different place if we all felt special each and every day.

In the booth behind me at a restaurant, two women were having a conversation. One of them said, I tend to overthink how other people perceive me. But in recent months, Ive thought, be yourself. No one can tell you youre doing it wrong.”

What other people think of you is none of your business.”

—STEPHEN HOPSON, inspirational speaker, author, and the worlds first deaf instrument-rated pilot

I wanted to stand up and cheer. Being yourself is a powerful experience to have. Being who we really are—a unique expression of source energy—frees us from being held hostage by the opinion of others. Ive discovered that the longer I live, the easier it is to let go of what people think of me.

When we inhabit our own life—stop doing things based on the approval of others—we offload baggage and trade up to joy!

Personal power and self-definition work hand in hand with social wellness—our ability to relate with the people around us in a pleasant, honest, and authentic manner. It includes using good verbal and nonverbal communication skills, respecting ourselves and others, and participating in a supportive structure of encouragement that includes friends and family.

My client, Barbara, shared, For me, it seems to be that recognizing and exercising control of my own power is a decision. When I see it as a decision, rather than a reaction, it brings the power back into my court.”

People who experience social wellness value living in harmony. They actively reach out to cultivate and nurture relationships that are based on mutual commitment, trust, and respect. In turn, this fosters a willingness to share thoughts and feelings. One of the hallmarks of social wellness is being inclusive, rather than exclusive, with our friendship.

During a client session, I asked Celeste, Do you feel that anything has been missing in your life? Is there an area where you feel some sort of lack? If so, what is it, and how might you fill the space?”

She responded, Community. Ive searched for a sense of community for over five years now. In doing the homework of last months session, I had one of those aha moments when I realized that I dont belong to any groups. Ive been hitting my head against the wall, waiting for something to create community.

Im still searching, but I find myself putting up roadblocks: too much travel so I cant schedule time in groups; dont want to be out in the evenings, when my husband is home; why get started with a group if were retiring to some other location? The list goes on. I could fill this lack by joining a club, taking a class, or starting a circle. But I havent.”

In taking an active role, we come to understand and value that self-confidence strengthens our ease in being outgoing and in building a friendly rapport; it makes it easier to be open and approachable with others while maintaining healthy boundaries.

We all need relationships. The healthier our relationships, the better we feel toward other individuals and the global community as a whole. It’s important to note that the most important relationship well ever have is the one we have with ourselves.

“True love is healthy, respectful, and nurturing, whether it’s for ourselves or for another person. It’s positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing to those in our sphere of influence, including the person we look at in the mirror every single morning—ourselves.”

—LAURIE BUCHANAN, holistic health practitioner, life coach, speaker, and author