Surface Chic vs. Soul Deep: The Beauty of a Woman Blogfest

Posted by on Feb 21, 2013 in Inspiration | 86 comments



It’s time for August McLaughlin’s second Beauty of a Woman blogfest!

In case you missed it last year, it’s an event designed to celebrate beauty, however you define it.

I like to think of beauty as something sparkly within us, an inner beauty kind of thing.

But we live in a society where the media often portrays beauty as a surface thing, something based on a scientific balance of pleasing eye symmetries, body measurement ratios, color palettes  and potions.  Anything that doesn’t fit into that is ignored, discarded or carefully airbrushed into compliance.

Even if you don’t subscribe to that, it’s hard to argue that appearance doesn’t matter.

I watched a social experiment on TV a couple of weeks ago. Katie Couric sent a woman out on the street to ask for directions. The first time she went out, she was in full makeup and all dressed up.


beauty skin deep

This beauty had no problem getting where she needed to go.


She received a lot of attention. One passerby even said, I’m buying whatever you’re selling.

Then, the same woman went out a second time to ask for directions. Only this time, she dressed down in comfy clothes, without makeup.



This beauty didn’t get very far.


She didn’t get much help. In fact, she was mostly ignored.

So if surface chic gets immediate acceptance and preferential treatment, how do you NOT obsess over looks? How do you reconcile the inner definition of beauty with the outer standard?

I’m not sure. But I do think it’s important to take care of the inner beauty–our attitude, emotions, feelings, and spirituality.  Make time for a little heart and soul primping.


inner beauty quotes


Because what we focus on grows.

What do you think?

Be sure to check out more BOAW blogfest posts this Friday, February 22nd, at August’s site (and if you haven’t yet, be sure to check out August’s debut thriller, In Her Shadow).

All participants and commenters will be entered into the prize drawing to win win a Kindle Fire or equivalent Amazon gift card. The more blogs you visit, the greater your chances become.

Have a happy weekend!

Coleen Patrick

 **If you enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to my mailing list to receive my new posts straight to your inbox.  Just add your email in the space at the top of the right sidebar under my photo.


  1. OMG! Your pictures are awesome! You can’t see my but I have a big smile on my face. Too cute!

    I feel pretty when I’m dressed up and made up, but I feel beautiful when I’m laughing and someone is laughing with me. Pretty is “made up,” (from the outside in), beautiful “oozes up” (from the inside out).

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt
    Patricia recently posted..What Haven’t I? Valentine’s EditionMy Profile

    • Aw thank you Patricia! I had fun making them. And oozes–I love that description. :)

  2. I definitely feel better about myself when I go out in public looking like I care about my appearance. But when I’m home, I like to be comfy and in my pj’s or loungewear.

    Society does put unfair pressure on people to look their best, and society rewards the physically beautiful people.

    I remember a similar experiment was conducted, but by a famous violinist. He stood in the subway, playing music, but looking like a beggar. No one recognized him, everyone except a couple of people walked right by him. This goes to show you that beautiful music played by a professional musician isn’t appreciated if the musician looks and acts like a homeless person.

    It’s a very sad commentary on our society, frankly.

    I look forward to the blogfest. I think it’s a great idea.

    • This experiment intrigued me but also frustrated me, because I can’t see a solution. Other than working on our own insides. I also like to look my best, depending on the situation but I have to admit most of the time I am running errands in my yoga pants and without makeup. But besides it being easy and comfortable, I also am comfortable moving “invisibly” about my day.
      Thanks Kate!

  3. I saw the program Katie did. It was interesting. I think as we grow older and wiser, our view of beauty changes. I believe beauty eminates from the soul and spirit — the inner beauty you refer to. People I know who are truly lovely human beings, radiate beauty and you want to be with them. Lovely post.

    • Yes! Radiate, that’s exactly how I feel about it too. Thanks Patricia. :)

  4. Where am I and what have you done with Coleen’s blog? (Love the clean look and that pretty border on top!) And love that quote – “Beauty is a light in the heart” – so lovely, and so true! I can’t help with the dress-up thing… I live in blue jeans :)

    • Thanks Susanna! I’ve been doing some sprucing up around here–well my husband has, with my input of course. :) Appearance matters in the website world too. *sigh*
      And I hear you about the dress up thing. That’s pretty much why I made a collage of me dressed up instead of taking a photo. Didn’t feel like it. LOL

  5. I love your example, Coleen. It sucks that society is like that. Imagine if it was something more important than directions. Great post!

    • You’re right, Catherine. It would probably be scary to see if the experiment had been something urgent.

  6. Ooooh! I love your collages. Those are waaaay cool. And you are right. The happy, sassy chick gets more attention — but she is smiling! The other chick isn’t. I wonder if we would have had the same impression if you put the same face on the second photo. Hmmm.

    As I have gotten older, I notice it takes me L O N G E R to get ready to go out. Ugh! I used to be able to wash my hair, pull it up in a pony and go. Not so much anymore. I walked around in yoga pants a bunch of days and other days a dress up a bit more. I still feel like me. Under it all, I am always smiling in my dorky hat! People probably don’t even notice what I’m wearing! That’s my theory anyway! :)

    • Thanks Renee, I had fun making them. It’s funny you mention the smile, because once I put the pic on the blog I could see that, but it was too late to change it. It’s interesting that the original photo of me didn’t look so mean and brooding, just annoyed. It’s almost like the baggy outfit dampens the mood even more.
      “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” It’s a great accessory no matter what you’re wearing. :)

    • Hi, Coleen – I’ve always been impressed by your “artsy” side and love when you share it with us! As human beings, we definitely see surface first and have to really stretch ourselves to look for more. As a writer, though, I find I’m doing that more and more with people. I feel self-conscious when I go out in my yoga pants and no makeup, too – but when you’re just going for t.p. and milk and then getting right back to work in your writer cave, it just seems like too much effort. Until you run into someone you know who’s always dressed and made-up so perfectly. But you know what? I think Renee is right about the “smiling” thing – even when I look grungy, if I’m smiling, people will respond positively.

      Thanks for a cool post!

      • Thanks Kathy! I think you’re right about the stretching, and how it relates to being a writer. I find myself thinking about people’s insides a lot–what makes them tick kind of stuff. I think being aware of that can sometimes release judgmental feelings from getting in the way.

  7. I’m in awe of your collages, Coleen. Thanks, too, for the thoughtful message from your sparkly-on-the-inside self.

    • Thanks Pat!! The collages were so much fun to make. I thought it would be more fun than photos of me, but also I was too lazy to get dressed up. Ha ha. :)

  8. First off, those images? Frameable. LOVE.

    I really wish that beauty was more about the inside. I don’t always get “done up” (and my version of done up is still pretty dressed down compared to many) and I can’t help but hope I won’t run into anyone when I’m sans makeup and perfect hair.

    It’s certainly not my focus, but I’d love for there to come a day when it’s not everyone else’s focus either.

    Lovely post – so looking forward to checking out many more!

    • Yeah it would be nice if there could be a collective agreement in terms of inner/outer beauty. When I was writing this post I was thinking about my kids and how I could come up with a way to help them when it comes to this. It’s weird knowing you believe that the inside matters the most but yet still walk around the world feeling the opposite. The only thing I could come up with is to focus on doing our own inside work. It’s the only part we can control. Thanks Amber!

  9. Love the photo collages! So cute – and such a fun way to illustrate a serious topic. My BOAW topic is similar, but not so cutely presented. It is indeed a sad truth in our society how outer beauty is given so much precedence over real beauty.
    Jennette Marie Powell recently posted..Beauty of a Woman: Don’t judge us by our covers!My Profile

    • Thanks Jennette! You’re right, it is a sad truth. But even reading posts like yours might help some realize that snap judgments about appearances will only hurt. I think people don’t even realize they’re doing it.

  10. Oh, Coleen, can I come over to your house and play! I want to make collages with you. I’ll bring my own glue and pretty colored scraps of things.

    Definitely a smile is our best accessory, and that’s what reflects that inner beauty. If we are genuinely smiling because we are happy inside, that happiness tends to be contagious.
    Kassandra Lamb recently posted..You Are Beautiful and Strong, Sweet Child of AbuseMy Profile

    • I will make collages with you Kassandra!! :) We will cut and paste and glitter and SMILE. :)
      Thanks for coming by!

  11. Those photos are AWESOME. They make me smile so much. Not sure why, but they do.

    The experiment you mention (and I haven’t watched it myself, just heard a lot about it), combined with that quote “Beauty is a light in the heart” makes me wonder about the girl who was actually out on the street. I’ve personally never had any problem getting help from someone (even guys) when I’m “dressed casually” (IE: my paint-stained shorts and a baggy t-shirt) and make-up-less than when I’m “dolled up”.

    Perhaps it had less to do with the clothing, and more to do with how much of that “light” could be seen?
    Rebekah Loper recently posted..2013 Beauty of a Woman Blogfest – Comfortable in My Own SkinMy Profile

    • It’s my secret you-can’t-look-away-until-you-smile glue. lol
      Yeah, there probably is a bit of a control factor missing in the experiment. There are definitely people that have such a bright heart light you can’t help but want to be around them no matter what they’re wearing!
      Thanks for sharing Rebekah. :)

  12. Love this Coleen!
    I think there are some behaviours in society that are so primal. When realizing this we are horrified. Survival of the fittest sounds so ridiculous and yet it is still imbedded in our genes!

    • Survival of the fittest, primal. Those are good explanations for that initial urge we possess to scope each other out first.
      Thanks Susie. :)

  13. I love how you define beauty, Coleen, as something sparkly inside of us. So true and so you. :) I’m with Amber—fantastic images! Your whole post feels light and sparkly. Thanks so much for participating in the fest again!
    August McLaughlin recently posted..The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest II!My Profile

    • Thank you August! Love the thoughtful and fun posts that I’m getting to read because of your fest. You rock!

  14. Not to sound like I’m on repeat with everyone else, but WOW with the collages. They really added something special to this post. You bring up an interesting and sad point. But I like how you talk about heart and soul primping. Letting our inner light shine is important. I think if we are happy inside, it shows and that makes up more beautiful on the outside. Just a theory.

    • Aw thanks Debra! And I think there’s GREAT truth in your theory. Happy inside shines outside. :)

  15. At the risk of being redundant, your collage images are smashing! Well done.

    I think it’s so sad that ‘good looks’ or perceived beauty gets help more than what might not appear as the beauty-standard. It’s the sort of thing that makes me feel all angry and indignant. *sigh*

    • Hhmm … not sure where my gravatar is! Much search for it. :)

      • I just figured you were protesting appearances today. LOL :)
        Thanks for coming by and sharing, Ginger!!

  16. I love this line: I like to think of beauty as something sparkly within us, an inner beauty kind of thing.
    I agree wholeheartedly, but it’s a tough world out there for women and men who don’t agree. Media does play such a big part of this. I wonder if that’s why young women’s self-esteem suffers more often these days. xx

    • Thanks Barbara. It is tough! The only part we can control is our own thoughts. Even that isn’t always easy. :)

  17. ‘What we focus on grows’. I love that quote! True beauty isn’t bought in a bottle, but apparently the bottles and jars of goop will help get a gal where she needs to be. Hmmm. Interesting experiment by Katie. Your pictures are hilarious. You’re so good with photoshop! Seriously. But anyway, I can’t help but wonder if the make up gave the woman an inner confidence that she exuded and people reacted to that, as well as her looks. I know when I go out in my sweats and such, I don’t really want to be ambushed by the paparazzi, so keep a low profile, but if I’m all dolled up, it’s action time, baby!

    • I wish I was tech savvy to do that with Photoshop–that was all manual, cut and paste with paper and glue. LOL.
      I think you’re right about confidence, it definitely can be a factor.
      Thanks Tameri :)

  18. Love your title, “Surface Chic vs Soul Deep.” There is certainly no law against having both, but like you I find it sad that what is most important–our inner beauty–is not given anywhere near the importance that outer beauty is given. Putting real beauty in it’s proper perspective is a way of thinking which we must individually take responsibility for and teach it to our sons and daughters.

    • Well said, Reese. There is a lot we can control ourselves. Thanks so much for coming by! :)

  19. I love those pictures, but I love your definition of beauty even more. I’m happy so many beautiful people are participating in August’s Beauty of a Woman blogfest!
    Marcy Kennedy recently posted..What Would You Trade to Look Young Forever?My Profile

    • Thank you Marcy! It’s been great reading the posts–so much inspiration!

  20. You’ve hit the crux of the struggle: how do we just be ourselves when we seem to have more success when we wear the costumes? I have needed up living life on a pendulum and sometimes dress it all up and sometimes dress it all down. Makes it hard to know just what I would LIKE to be if left to my own devices and didn;t have to rely on others. Know what I mean?

    • Yes, it’s that struggle to get comfortable in our skin. So, so hard when we’re confronted with conflicting messages!
      Thanks for stopping by Kelly. :)

  21. This is exactly the type of message that we all need, especially our younger generations. So many women strive for happiness and fulfillment, but go looking for it on the surface, or in a superficial object. Great perception of beauty, Coleen, and great post, as always. :)

    • Thank you ladies! That means a lot coming from your sparkly hearts. :)

  22. What a wonderful post, Coleen. This is my first stop in the BOAW fest. I had planned to participate this year, but it didn’t work out. Your pics are outstanding! And I love the quote, “Beauty is a light in the heart.” That says so much right there!

    • Hi Lynn! I’ve missed seeing you around the blogosphere. Thanks for popping in. :)

  23. Your creativity just sparkles. What a beautiful contribution to a blog fest about beauty.

  24. I completely agree. It has to be a balance of the two! And nothing wrong in wanting to doll yourself up, that’s for sure ;)

    • I agree! Balance and being true to what our hearts want–and sometimes that’s something sparkly! Thank you Ingrid!

  25. Great post! I really enjoyed the line about “heart and soul primping.” That was what inspired my post for the blogfest, too!

    • Thanks Kristine–I love what was at the heart of your post too–finding your joy! :)

  26. Wondering…to what extent did the woman’s demeanor match her dress? Like, was she confident and forward the first time, more gloomy or reserved the second? I’d think that’d be natural, and that if so it’d have at least as much to do with the responses to her as her appearance itself did. But obviously I didn’t see it, just wondering. :-) Great post.

    • I couldn’t tell from the short bit they showed on TV, but it would be interesting to know if she dressed up on a regular basis, because then I imagine her dress down moment would make her feel pretty self-conscious. I think attitude plays a major part.
      Thanks Bill!!

  27. Love the collages and the insight really made me think. I had the same thoughts that Bill Parker did – I rarely wear makeup but if you approach people with a smile and confidence, you can get most people to talk to you. At least that Ida’s been my experience. It’s when I am shy or unsure that I tend to go unnoticed. So wondering if she felt less confident in the frumpy clothes .

    • Sorry-forgot to include my info.

      • Yeah, I think that smile and attitude can make a huge difference! Thanks for stopping by, Sue. :)

  28. Lovely, expressive artwork, Coleen. This really made me think and I love this line: “Make time for a little heart and soul primping.” Maybe another piece of artwork to express that? :)
    Debra Eve recently posted..Beauty of a Woman: An Ode to Erma BombeckMy Profile

    • I will think about that creative prompt Debra! Thanks. :)

  29. Working in retail, we actually talk about appearance and how we never want to make assumptions about a customer based on what they look like. I like to remind my associates in training by having them raise hands when I ask “Who’s ever gone out to the store for one thing when you’re wearing scrubs?” Majority of us have done that. Oh, I had to get pantyhose for the wedding, I needed milk for my cereal, I wanted coffee after my workout. We’re stressed for time, and we can’t spend every minute in a perfectly ensembled wardrobe. It is important not to judge others just by what they look like. Who knows, that person wearing their college alma mater just may be your biggest sale of the day! (at least in my world) :D

    • It’s funny because there are certain stores in the mall I’m hesitant to walk into if I’m not dressed a certain way. It could be me being self-conscious, but there’s one store in particular where I’ve felt like I was getting the “Pretty Woman”(the movie) brush off when I went in not dolled up. I think it’s great that you are training associates to look beyond the surface, Jess!

  30. I think as much as we blame the media for how much value is put on a woman’s looks, we also have to take responsibility for our role in perpetuating that. There is not one easy fix, but everyone shifting and changing. It will take time. But awareness is a first step to changing perspective. :) At least I hope so.

    • I hope so too, Kourtney. I think it starts with the individual and then fans out from there. :)

  31. “Make time for a little heart and soul primping.” What good advice, Ginger! That’s something women often put on the back burner when it should be front and centre. Great photos! Your services are going to be in great demand now that we know it was your artistic talent that created them and not Photoshop!

  32. I take good care of my teeth & my skin, because those are the outer things that matter to me. Once I took care of the inside, however, is when this pleasingly plump frame seemed to matter less and i stopped being ignored. I’ve stopped trying to suppress the slightly crazy part of me that was trying to get out onto pages my whole life, and embraced her. It turns out I like her way better. It feels fantastic!

    • Embrace the crazy–sounds fantastic to me! :) Thanks Kim.

  33. Sobering, but true. I’ve noticed the difference myself – I’m not a big fan of wearing makeup, but it sure does help when you’re out in the world! Still, nothing beats the “light in the heart” if you ask me…

    • It really is sobering, especially after focusing on this topic throughout the fest. But I too think, the hope is that light in the heart. :)

  34. I really liked the collages illustrating your points here, Colleen! So creative. :) It is true we are hard wired to scan for attractiveness, which we equate with health and therefore good genes. This of course gets taken too far in the sales media, but I think we can easily see beyond that initial scan to the person within and “what they’re selling” if we want to. What exactly was Katie Couric trying to get across here? Maybe justification for her extensive plastic surgery? Thanks for this thought provoking post.

    • Yeah, I think they did the experiment because of a study that said “beautiful people” get better jobs, better pay, and overall better treatment. It kind of proved it, only because even though we know the inside counts, I think its easier or maybe safer to not take the time to see that. I agree, definitely thought provoking, tangles my brain a bit. :) Thanks Kecia!

  35. That “something sparkly” you mention at the outset… I brought that into the lens of performing arts, and auditions, specifically. There is a reason an actor is chosen for a role over another who is otherwise their equal in terms of character-appropriate physical attributes and talent. It’s that “special something”; that “it factor” that shines above and beyond the good looks and triple-threat abilities.

    I love your scrappy paper dolls! They’re fabulous, as is your thoughtful post.

    • Thanks Ellen! I wonder if an actor has that IT factor because he/she nurtures something inside of themselves, or has more of an inner awareness? Very interesting!

  36. I got a lesson in recognizing beauty from my grandson, Tim. We were in Rome about ten years ago, sightseeing and having a good time. We did a lot of walking, and we frequently ran into a homeless woman. Her clothes, of course, were shabby, her hair matted and uncombed and her feet were dirty and crusted from walking too many miles. After about the third time we saw her, she nodded at us. We got back to the hotel and I thought nothing about her again. Tim, on the other hand, raced madly about the room collecting a comb, a bar of soap, a pair of socks, and some food. Having shoved all this in a bag, he asked if we could please go out to try to find ‘that lady’ again. We left the hotel and in a few minutes he spotted her. He ran to her and proudly handed her his gift. She looked down at him, gently touched his face, and smiled. Was it a smile with perfectly straight, white teeth? Far, far from it. Yet it was one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen.

    • Mary, that is a touching story! Thanks so much for sharing. :)

  37. Wonderful post, Coleen, and I completely agree about inner beauty. I love fashion and makeup and all those girly things, but one thing that I have learned is that a pretty exterior can never take the place of inner beauty. It’s that self-confidence and love that translates into outer confidence.
    Lena Corazon recently posted..Beauty of a Woman Blogfest: The Power of NaturalMy Profile

  38. Hey Coleen, good post, interesting to read the comments, too.

    I think a lot about how actions match up with words. The phrase “you are what you eat” is true when it comes to how we consume and understand what’s beautiful, what’s “normal” and what’s important. Men and women that I know often say they are disappointed with unreasonable cultural expectations, but turn around and reinforce them. And yet, we all know we can’t live up to these “ideals” so why do we keep consuming them?

    I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that providing alternate models on an everyday basis makes a difference. Learning to disagree while keeping the stakes low is key. As an example, I’m an average looking guy that fits in a crowd and fairly sociable so I find myself in situations where men think it’s easy/ok to make generalizations about how men or women should act. Even though I’m sometimes boiling mad on the inside I’ve learned to calmly / measuredly say “How do you know that’s true” or make a joke that makes them laugh but turns their assumption on its head.

    For example, if someone makes a comment about my appearance being messy – “Ah, I apologize, next time I’ll remember to text you a picture to check if it’s ok that I go out in public….I hope you have a good text messaging plan” and move on. The point to me is not to let cultural assumptions go unchecked. E.g. if people want to be petty and vindictive around me they’re going to have to own it. No one’s got the energy to fight 100% of the time but building the practice into daily life seems to help.

    Lastly, because it can’t be said enough, what’s important about women is the same thing that’s important about any human: who they are and the quality/character of their soul. Most of the bloggers and audience taking part in BOAW have said something like this and I hope we’ll all reaffirm that in our thoughts and actions on a daily basis, and not just once or twice a year.

    • Thanks, Joe. I agree, it’s got to be a combination of attitude AND action. Appreciate your thoughtful response. :) Thanks again.

  39. Oh, I wish I had heard about this blogfest in time to participate. Aw heck I might write a post on this anyway. such a good (and scary) question:

    “So if surface chic gets immediate acceptance and preferential treatment, how do you NOT obsess over looks? How do you reconcile the inner definition of beauty with the outer standard?”

    And I loved your answer about the inner beauty. And it also implies that hey, folks, maybe immediate acceptance and preferential treatment aren’t the most important things to be going after???

    • I hope you post something, Margo! It’s been so thought provoking, heart warming and just awesome reading everyone’s take.

  40. It’s sad but true, isn’t it?! I missed that episode of Katie, but I’ve seen similar things. There was an episode of What Would You Do where they had an actor “stealing” a bicycle. When it was a kid stealing the bike, passersby called the police. But when it was a beautiful woman, passersby actually helped her steal the bike. Amazing.
    Ruth Schiffmann recently posted..A Thousand FibersMy Profile

    • Wow, that is kinda crazy! However, I am not surprised. I think that’s the preferential treatment the Katie experiment was trying to illustrate.
      Thanks Ruth!

  41. Well said, Coleen. Well said.

    There are way too many shallow people in this world. I just ignore them. Or failing that, I introduce them to my fist of fury.

    • Fist of fury. I’ve seen the pictures, Kristy. Be afraid shallow people, be very afraid.
      Thank you Kristy! :)


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