11/07/2014 10:23 BST | Updated 09/09/2014 06:59 BST

What Does Beauty Mean to You?

Being a tween or young adult can be rough, ridiculously confusing, and generally uncomfortable. (Hell, being an adult can be too.) Growing up, experiencing changes in your body, and feeling your crazy hormones running amok create a feeling of complete unease in your own skin. This summer, I ran a class called Girls' Lifestyle Camp for girls between the ages of 10 and 13. I taught them fun outer beauty how-tos about hair, nails, and skin care, but we also discussed health, inner beauty, and self-esteem at length. I decided it was important to figure out what the girls' perceptions of beauty were. I wanted to ensure that these girls were on the right path mentally and emotionally when it came to self-image and identity. Despite the awkwardness that they feel or will inevitably feel sometime soon, it's important that they know how beautiful and unique they truly are.

One day, we started class off by watching an episode of America's Next Top Model from season 18 in which the models paired up with adolescent girls to create a public service announcement about beauty. Each of the young girls discussed her own insecurities about her beauty, bullying or teasing she had endured, and what beauty meant to her. The models, as gorgeous and statuesque as we think they are, identified with the girls completely and admitted to their own struggles with their self-image as well. This posed the idea that beauty is all-encompassing and not simply what the naked eye sees.

After we watched this episode, I had the girls create posters describing what beauty meant to each of them. I was blown away by the results; I was pleasantly surprised that they recognized that beauty is much more than outer appearances. Here's a sample of some of their posters:


I realize it would be completely unrealistic for me to say that outer appearances have no bearing on how we view beauty in others; our natural instincts compel us to be attracted to certain features. Admittedly, I struggle with my own physical insecurities also. However, what I do intrinsically believe is that we can each see the beauty within by assessing our character, our spirit, our entire being. When we recognize that, our inner confidence emanates from the inside out. The fact is, each of us is unique, and though we may not feel so physically pretty at times, we each offer something special to this world that wouldn't be here without our individual spirit.

I'm proud to say that these young girls already recognized this essential and important dogma. It's my hope that adulthood doesn't jade them as it does so many of us. Witnessing their outlook on beauty was a much-needed reminder to me how amazingly stunning the human spirit is. They reminded me that how I see myself is overwhelmingly impactful on how I live my life, and that is what creates the security and glowing confidence that the world is able to see. Here I thought I was teaching them something, when, all the while, they were really teaching me.

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