It is next to impossible to fix the meaning of the term “beauty”. The reason is its sense is largely culture-specific and constantly changing. For long, the Eurocentric perception of beauty – tall, slender and fair-skinned – has been the dominant trend. Women across the world have resorted to skin treatments and corrective surgeries to match Western society’s standards of beauty.
But there’s been a slight digression over the last few decades. The concept of beauty has evolved to become more inclusive, with society and women embracing their unique, natural cultural features. This probably comes from the realisation that beauty runs skin deep; that true beauty goes beyond physical attributes of size, shape, colours and looks. And that it is directly contingent upon internal traits – confidence, grace and sensuality.
Going back to Greek mythology, Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, was a woman of surpassing beauty. But she was also revered for her power. History provides us with examples too. For the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, many regarded her looks as her greatest asset. However, she captivated men and the world around her with her sensuality, charm and wit. She is remembered as one of the most powerful female rulers.
Not going far, there are dozens of beautiful, powerful women belonging to this day and age. Forbes curates a list each year. They have risen through the ranks by using their knowledge of making themselves agreeable to all. From CEOs of multinational companies to lawyers to pop stars and actresses, these women prove that oozing oomph does not necessarily mean being unintelligent or ignorant. Their business acumen, intelligence and judgement coupled with their sensuality, elegance and grace make them the most powerful and desirable women out there.
It’s not all beauty and no brains …
And therefore, it would be wrong to say that for many successful women their beauty is their only merit; that their good looks give them an unfair advantage in the work sphere. Sass and wit are desirable qualities in a woman. Look at the women who made it to the lists of the sexiest and most powerful women in the world. They are self-made holding coveted posts and portfolios in an otherwise male-dominated world. They are known way beyond the mould of their job descriptions.
Powerful women like Amal Clooney have made a mark in their respective fields by putting up a bold fight for human rights. Federica Mogherini is an important political figure representing nations on hot button issues. Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo is one of the highest paid CEOs. The elegant Michelle Obama has championed several social causes both in and out of office. Musical artists like Shakira and Beyonce also show us that tapping into one’s sensuality can be beneficial. All these women have a net worth estimated at several billion dollars.
But what is elegance and sensuality?
In the words of the legendary fashion designer, Coco Chanel – “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous”.
Much like the oft misconstrued concept of beauty, we measure elegance in terms of physical attributes or behaviour – tasteful clothing, minding manners, knowing what cutlery to use or speaking courteously. Similarly, sensuality is often confused for the sexual. While it is one aspect of it, it is not the whole.
Elegance is a state of mind and sensuality is a powerful life force within all of us. We possess them irrespective of where we come from geographically, socially or financially. Being elegant and sensual means being in touch with our inner selves. It implies being confident in our skin. Such women have faith in their abilities. They are focussed on creating the best versions of themselves, by engaging in a process of constant self-discovery. They rise above meaningless chatter. Such women are not envious of others and neither do they care about emulating them. Instead, they take complete control of their lives without wasting time on unproductive things or those beyond their control.
For them, creating a unique identity for self is what counts. They determine their boundaries and won’t cross lines that compromise their integrity or values. They do not let past experiences dominate or impede the present self. Instead, they learn and grow from these experiences. They do not hesitate to say no to things that do not benefit their lives qualitatively. Nor do they have any qualms about asking for what they deserve and desire. Most important of all, they are not pretentious. They are positive and affirming. A sensual woman exudes confidence. She embraces herself. She outlines her priorities, is disciplined and attracts the best.
Speaking of sensuality, we rarely think about our sensual selves. It’s because of society and culture’s expectation of sensuality, particularly associated with a woman. We are expected to be passive and never the ones to put on an aggressive show. We are meant to be mere receptacles and made to feel guilty about it.
Women, in particular, need to exploit their sensuality if they are to establish a connection with self and others. Sensuality is not just a physical experience; it is tied to our emotions and desires too. It is sensuality that brings you in connect with your actual self. It is your only gateway to creativity and confidence. So, if you drown it out, you are limiting your ability to enjoy joy and pleasure. It is important that we listen to ourselves and focus and what makes us feel good. Thus, one needs to realise this core power and fall in love with it.
What also matters is being in the company of other powerful women, who have learnt to embrace themselves, who put themselves above others. Your sensuality is part of your charm. Together you can empower each other. Prominent and powerful businesswomen show us daily how sensuality and grace can be exploited to one’s advantage. And it’s time we learned that.