Beauty or Ugliness – Which do You Choose?

Television, films and the media insist that we have to be beautiful or handsome in order to be a successful human being. But what if we’re not? And what is beauty anyway? In some countries being fat is seen as beautiful; in others being thin. In some country stretching necks with rings is considered beautiful; in others stretching ear lobes. There is no absolute definition of beauty and yet it is something that most of us crave because it makes us not only acceptable but also desirable.

The story of Beauty and the Beast tells us that it is possible to find beauty if only we look inside ourselves and each other.

Image by Donald Teel – Unsplash

Once upon a time, Beauty lived with her father and two sisters. After their father lost all his money, he went away to try to recover it. When he asked his daughters what they would like as gifts, Beauty simply asked for a single black rose.

On his way home, the father became lost and wandered into a castle, seeking shelter. When he saw a black rose he picked it for Beauty but, as a result, was captured by an ugly Beast. The father begged for his life, explaining that the rose was for his daughter but the Beast would only let him go on the condition that she would come to the castle to be his companion.

At first, Beauty was very frightened of the Beast, but over time she realised that he was kind. When she dreamed that her father was dying, she pleaded with the Beast to be able to visit him. Reluctantly, he let her go and her father began to recover.

But whilst she was away, Beauty dreamed that the Beast was dying and returned to the castle only to discover that he was indeed gravely ill. Realising the depth of her emotions, she declared her love for him. Her words broke the curse that had entrapped him when he had been young and foolish and he immediately transformed back the handsome prince that he had been before he had been unkind to an old woman.

They fell into each other’s arms and lived happily ever after.

Love – Image by Mayur Gala – Unsplash

The tale, written by the French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve and published in 1740, was specifically intended to prepare young girls in 18th century France for arranged marriages to much older men. It told them that they would be kept in a castle where they would dress up for dinner and do little else apart from having children. Villeneuve wanted to reassure the girls that the husband did not have to be handsome or even immediately likeable and that the situation could be turned round if only the bride took the time and courage to get to know him.

However, the tale is about far more than romance. The moral of the story of Beauty and the Beast is that we should value inner characteristics such as kindness over other superficial qualities such as vanity. The Beast is symbolic of the ugly behaviour we are all capable of. Originally, he was a handsome prince but he was unkind to an old lady who then put a spell on him which could only be broken by love. We are all potential princes but if we don’t act kindly, then wisdom (the old woman) will put a spell on us and we will be forced to see our inner and external ugliness.

Image by Reimund Bertrams – Pixabay

Each of us has light and shadow characteristics and it’s up to us which we develop. Psychologically, we can divide ourselves up into male and female but this has nothing to do with gender. Male light qualities are assertiveness, courage, analytical thought, strength, vitality, decisiveness, focused attentiveness and a desire for achievement whereas male shadow characteristics are cruelty, tyranny and authoritarianism, being opinionated, aggression, ruthlessness, argumentativeness, domination, mechanistic behaviour and withdrawal.

Female light characteristics are feelings, emotions, tenderness, relatedness, commitment, fidelity, friendship, love, compassion, imagination, gentleness, romance, creativity, intuition and a sense of aesthetics whereas female shadow characteristics are moodiness, sentimentality, hysteria, bitchiness, disempowerment, possessiveness, vanity, smothering and a fear of intimacy.

As humans, we all have a choice: do we put our energy into the light or the dark? Unfortunately, it is easier to live in the shadow. Look at the book – Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Given free reign and anarchy, the shadow personality wants power over others; it want to be the best at all costs. In the end, it’s all too easy to become a Beast.

 Image by Andre Tan – Unsplash

What Beauty shows us however, is that being in the light means being more concerned with altruism than power. For example, she only asks for a black rose when her father goes away whereas her sisters ask for jewels and clothes; she agrees to live in the Beast’s castle as his companion to save her father’s life; she nurses her father back to health when he is ill; and she returns to the castle when she realises that the Beast is ailing. She doesn’t do any of these things for her own pleasure but because she wants to help others and this is the true message of the tale.

Image by Peter Pyw – Pixabay

Beauty and the Beast tells us that love has a different type of power and that, when it is turned into service to others, it has the ability to shine light onto the shadow and thereby change it. This is why Beauty is ultimately able to turn the Beast back into a Prince – light is always stronger than the shadow. She lives by values not her desires and embodies courage, energy and commitment; self-discipline, determination and, at times, discomfort. Beauty learned to love the Beast despite his frightening appearance and she shows us that we can all learn to love our shadows, too, and turn them into the light.

All it takes is perseverance, love and compassion. Then the prince reappears, we are released from our prison and at last free to become our true selves.

Image by Jill Wellington – Pixabay