What is beauty?

“We can ask and ask but we can’t have again what once seemed ours forever — the way things looked, that church alone in the fields, a bed on a belfry floor, a remembered voice, the touch of a hand, a loved face.  They’ve gone and you can only wait for the pain to pass.” JL Carr

For most, this quote is both relatable and beautiful. How love is so fragile and fleeting. The underlying message of how nothing lasts forever, the melancholy, the very items Carr exemplifies. It’s funny how beauty can be both glorious and painful. Its eclectic nature, it’s very subjectivity is what allows beauty to take on any form it pleases. Which is why I took it upon myself to ascertain what beauty meant to those around me. I was interested to see whether the conventional notions of beauty in the 21st century resonated with the respondents I questioned. Reminding those who I asked that there was no right or wrong answer, the responses I collated were funny, insightful, thought-provoking, profound, and above all, beautiful. Some definitions were short, some were long.  All of them, though, were fascinating. Here they are:


For me, Beauty is being completely free and unrestrained- a sunny sense of being at ease with imperfection and difference. Like someone who has wrinkles from laughing.

An appearance or a quality that causes delight and pleasure to yourself or to others

It definitely has nothing to do with aesthetics. True beauty is in people.

Beauty is the balance between competing aspects of human appearance

Personally, I think beauty is to do with appearance or how something/someone looks to an individual person. It encompasses the whole image though not just certain features.

When you talk about beauty it makes me think about photography because when I take photos I’m looking for something beautiful, I most often see beauty in nature and in certain kinds of light and empty spaces.

Beauty is the honesty, tenderness and virtue in one’s soul

For me, it’s something that either has an immense aesthetic quality or just something that I find incredibly impressive

Maybe just the love between people, like family, friends etc. That’s what I’d say is beautiful

Beauty in its purest form = comfort in one’s own skin

Milan Kundera once wrote a very lovely thing on beauty. I’m not sure of the exact quotation but I believe it amounts to ‘Beauty is a product of circumstance’

Beauty for me is being in the pub with my best mates, with not a care in the world all because we are with each other, making each other forget the problems we may have going on at the time

Off the cuff, I suppose I would define beauty as a sort of harmony. It is all about joining…

An aura, created by great perceived attraction

I believe that beauty isn’t just a superficial thing. A lot of people think that if someone is “beautiful” it means their face or their body is nice to look at, but I think that if someone is “beautiful” then it’s about how they treat others, how they respect other people

That which requires no amount of thought for it’s appreciation and which leaves you with the feeling that all is well in the world

Deciding if something or someone is beautiful is just a feeling, not something you deliberate over

A pleasurable feeling in the mind or senses that is radiated from an object

I think you can find beauty in anything regardless of appearance, but in terms of appearance, I tend to find someone beautiful for their unusual traits, something unique

I identify beauty as a deep sense of satisfaction that transcends the individual sense involved (sight, audio, etc). Its a confluence of pleasure that reaches critical point at an innate level, so not something that could be quantified or known in advance

I think that what you perceive as beautiful in other people is often something that you see as lacking in yourself, particularly in the case of outward or physical ‘beauty’

My definition of beauty in a person would be their qualities which shine through in everything they do. I also believe that a smile can transform the face of just about anyone and how it lights up their face is what I would say defines beauty.

Beauty in terms of other objects or nature would be aesthetics which are pleasing to oneself, the serenity of nature and something totally different to what you’re accustomed to in everyday life. For example, living in a surrounded by skyscrapers and then being elsewhere and witnessing a ‘beautiful’ sunset.

I feel you have objective and subjective beauty, objective beautify is a sort of collection of ideas built by the social context/society you live in. This varies around the world and varies for different contexts like if you looking at the beauty of an individual or a specific landscape or anything. There’s then subjective beauty, something completely different. This is something personal and internal. It goes beyond just thinking something positively stimulates your senses like seeing a picture you like or reading a poem you may like, it’s something internal that you feel inside that something that’s the next step up in intensity from merely liking something. It is that which makes you yearn for more of whatever it is, it’s very personal and just makes you feel a little bit more than usual. Often it’s this objective idea that is portrayed probably because it’s easier to describe and easier for people to understand than the uniquely personal nature of the alternative

My perception of beauty is anything which maintains its most natural form! That can be geographical or cultural or personal! Keeping to your real state of being if that makes sense!

Nice face and a nice smile

I’d say for me beauty is very much linked with simplicity, like the beautiful views in Scotland where all you can see is the sea and a couple of mountains. It’s not masked by too much detail. Also in maths how extremely complex theories and concepts can be represented by an extremely simple looking equation. There’s a quote from Leonardo da Vinci which says ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’

Wild horses running together

Beauty invokes intense feelings of awe and pleasure, which arise from experiencing the intrinsic or extrinsic qualities of something, or, indeed, both simultaneously

Beauty is, in my mind is the ability of an object or person to fascinate and intrigue the beholder. Beauty can be superficial and devoid of any substance, however, true beauty is that which resonates with you on more than a purely aesthetic level.

I think, beauty revolves around how someone treats others in person. It shows selflessness, care, compassion etc which in today’s world, is a much more beautiful trait to have than to “look beautiful”. I say in person because the use of things like Instagram etc provides a forced perception of what beauty is which people become fucking obsessed by, showing a more ugly and quite sad trait. Moreover, I think beauty is realising that being oneself is probably the most beautiful thing a person can do and shit like Instagram creates a competition to be “beautiful” when realistically there wasn’t one to begin with.

We made beauty up to justify all the objectively arbitrary reasons we find ourselves attached to things

I would say for me personally beauty is a combo of feeling  an attraction to someone or even something, and a feeling of emotional well-being that derives from that attraction eg happiness, contentment

If something possesses beauty, it evokes a deep sense of awe within me, almost like a primal feeling

When something’s enjoyable to look at

Beauty is in everyone. it’s seeing how far we have come together and looking further than the ‘picture’ itself

Tits for a one night stand and arse for a relationship

My definition of beauty is something that evokes a primordial sense of the sublime, something that words cannot express truly, yet we can all recognise when we see it

And there you go. My conclusion? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder….

Written (partly) by Joe Tomsett

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