Have you ever spent more than an hour to get dressed for an event? After changing your outfit, once, twice, then five times, you’re still not satisfied with how you look. Looking at yourself in the mirror makes you feel plain, uninteresting, sometimes, just plain unattractive. Walking out looking like that is scary. So we look for a sleeker outfit. We try to mimic the latest trends, look as classy as that model on that magazine cover.
We know appearances are powerful. They announce to the world our worth, our value. How we look mirrors back to us how likable we are, and rightly so. We are, after all, creatures with bodies. We mingle with other seeing beings. And as women, we feel called to make beauty easier to see. Beauty and femininity just belong together. Learning how to captivate is more than a casual pastime. It is a call that echoes deep in every woman’s soul.
What we lose sight of too easily, though, is that beauty is broader and deeper than our wardrobe. Its most inviting form is not really seen in what we wear or how we walk. Beauty is at its most magnetic when it radiates from somewhere beneath the facade.
I remembered this sweet, old truth at a breakfast I recently attended. There, I sat across a young mom, several months pregnant, dressed in a simple maternity dress, and no make-up. Beside her sat her homely husband. He wasn’t particularly handsome, but his eyes shone with kindness, and his smile was as charming as a little boy’s.
As we ate, I noticed how each time she spoke, she exuded a warmth that quickly made the wooden restaurant feel like home. Her loving spirit spilled out into the way she would speak to everyone. Even the waiters’ would change their tone of voice when talking to her. When you spoke to her, she made you feel like you were talking to your sister or your mom. She was someone who had mastered the art of welcome. All that seemed to matter to her was making each person in her presence feel valuable and cared for. Seeing people change in her presence made me realize how she had discovered a beauty that was unassuming, but still powerful, transformative and irresistible.
Now, on the other end of our table was another young mom. In contrast to the first mom, she looked like someone from a preppy clothing catalog. She was impeccably made up and even wore those stylish pointy ballet flats. Stunning and fit, you wondered how she kept her figure. But her beauty stayed with her. It didn’t spill out or warm the room like the woman across from me. She drew your attention, but her beauty didn’t make you want to stay.
Reflecting on what made these two women different, what came to mind was the beauty of light. The quiet radiance of the first mom mimicked how sunlight warmed and brightened a room. Her beauty had nothing to do with what she wore, but seemed to come from a secret chamber inside her. Like sunlight, her beauty did not call you to look at her. Instead, her presence was like a translucent yellow that made everything caught in its path glow. Watching how her inner radiance spilled out and made you want to stay gave me a glimpse of how captivating a woman’s dignity can be. Dignity’s beauty is so magnetic, it can outshine sophistication and style.
I’m telling this story not because I think dressing well no longer matters. But what she helped me see is that beauty’s deeper power comes less from how we look, and more from how we love. There is a stronger, more radiant beauty in letting those around us rest in our kindness, generosity, spirit, and joy, than in how closely we resemble our stereotypes of style. This kind of beauty, one that mirrors the soft allure of light, is hiding in each of us. Learning to unleash it by becoming an inviting presence is one way to be captivating, without worrying too much about wearing the right clothes.
Simone Lorenzo teaches undergraduate theology and interdisciplinary studies at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines. Her two graduate degrees reflect her eclectic interests: an M.T.S. from the John Paul II Institute in Washington, D.C., and an M.A. in Southeast Asian Studies from the National University of Singapore. When she isn't writing, teaching, or sitting in Manila's notorious traffic jams, she enjoys baking, running, and spending time with family and friends. She publishes articles once in a while for aleteia (http://aleteia.org/author/simone-lorenzo/) and blogs at Eavesdropping on Athena (https://medium.com/eavesdropping-on-wisdom).