One of the biggest hang-ups people have about themselves is what they look like. I can understand that. You should see my hair right now. I think it’s perfectly fine to be interested in what you look like – it’s the first thing people see, and you want it to be a good representation of who you are. You can gain a lot of confidence from feeling like you look good.

But the problem comes when we think we need to look a certain way, or when we’re never happy no matter how many people envy our looks. (This never happens to me.) It seems like the confidence you get really does depend on whether or not you feel like you look good, and not just on whether anyone else thinks you do. If you don’t think so, you won’t be happy.

Listen. When they say ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ it’s not just something they say to ‘ugly people’ to make them feel better (which it usually doesn’t anyway). It means that if the people you are trying to impress don’t know how to see you as beautiful, they are doing it wrong, and you need to choose some better beholders. Because you are beautiful.

You are beautiful when your face lights up when you’re doing what you were made to do, or talking about something you care deeply about. You’re beautiful when you are sad and vulnerable and people can see the real you. You are beautiful when we can see the depth and joy and sadness and potential in your life story reflected in your face. And usually, you are most beautiful when you aren’t trying so hard to be beautiful in an acceptable way. Even the most classically ‘beautiful’ face can look harsh and uninviting when the person behind it is putting on a mask, figuratively speaking, or when you know they have no care for other people.

I was watching people walking in the park today, looking to see if I saw anyone who wasn’t beautiful. It must have been a good day because I didn’t find any. And when I do, it’s always to do with what they are doing or the way they choose to project themselves, and never about how their face or body is arranged. And a lot of these ‘not beautiful’ people are what you might normally call good-looking, but they’re so cold and harsh – and this makes the beauty go away. Of course, Roald Dahl says it better than me:

“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

Roald Dahl, The Twits

Beauty is so much more than the arrangement of bits of your face. By all means try to be healthy and improve yourself. But let’s remember to give a lot more time to the things we can change, rather than the ones we can’t, or don’t need to. And please – stop comparing yourself. If there are almost 4 billion people of your gender in this world, do you really have to be the most beautiful of them all in order to be happy? If that’s so, then nobody should ever be happy. And that doesn’t make sense to me.