What makes her behavior surreal is that Maria will be downright attractive in about a week. Her figure is coltishly slim yet buxom, her face is dominated by high cheekbones and clear hazel eyes. Her physical bruises (from plastic surgery) will be gone in a week. The bruises to her psyche are another story.

I've seen this kind of thing before, though never so dramatically. Most of my clients don't realize that the way they look and the way they think about their looks are two separate issues. Most strive for physical beauty without directly addressing the second concept, assuming that once they "fix" themselves, they'll be filled with peace and self-esteem. But reshaping their appearance is never enough, because although beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, the feeling of being beautiful exists solely in the mind of the beheld. I want Maria—and you—to have that feeling. But getting it requires a few important internal changes.

The cold, hard facts

Self-improvement books, friends, and polite strangers often tell soothing lies about our physical appearance that prevent many of us from facing, discussing, and solving our real problems. So let's get a few things straight right now.

Fact: Not everyone is equally good-looking. I've attended many a self-help seminar where everyone pretends that the 400-pound acne sufferer is as physically appealing—and has as easy a life—as the swimsuit model sitting next to her. "Just put yourself out there," the model will say earnestly. "Join a book club. That's how I met Jim."


Fact: Good-looking individuals are treated better than homely ones in virtually every social situation, from dating to trial by jury. If everyday experience hasn't convinced you of this, there's research that will.

Fact: Beauty is not wholly defined by culture. Yes, there are fads—tiny crippled feet, huge boobs on skinny bodies—but some elements of beauty are almost timeless. In all cultures, people judged beautiful have bodies that exhibit the divine proportion, or golden ratio, of 1 to 1.618. (For some reason, this ratio is found in multitudes of biological forms, from the spiral of a snail's shell to the markings on a tiger's head. In beautiful humans, the golden ratio turns up all over: in the distance between the eyes relative to the length of the lower face, the height of a front tooth relative to the width of both front teeth, the length of the arms relative to body height. Google it and you'll be amazed.) Attractive people are also very symmetrical—in fact the more symmetrical a creature is, the more likely it is to attract mates, from scorpion flies to...uh...I'd look it up, but I can't see out of my lazy eye.


Next Story