What does i​t mean to be beautiful?

I’m Bellana Stratford, a twenty-year-old Māori-Pākehā student currently studying writing for creative industries, I work in a beautifully coloured clothing store and like penguins. This is all information you can find about me online, but what isn’t, is I currently believe my biggest flaw is my weak sense of character, and someone close to me keeps pointing out that I hold myself to a higher standard than I do to others. I’m not a perfectionist, but do I strive for perfection? What would perfection even look like?

My published post on H.E.L.P was from months ago where I got drunk in the afternoon and ranted about the want of effortless love. That rambling performed exceptionally well, becoming my most viewed and liked post. Even with its short-lived success, I’m happy to report I don’t day drink anymore. 
For several years, until late last year, my belief was that I was not a pretty person, my limits were clear and standards low. At the time of my effortless love post, I was transitioning from this perspective of clear ugliness, into a vast grey area.


Since then, I finished my manuscript (for the fifth or sixth time) and started studying, all the while being in a creative slump. Overcome by a meteor which collided with earth right in my path causing writer’s block. In the wake of this emptiness and loss of direction experienced recently, I’ve turned to self-reflection: Why can’t I write? Why is my worth measured by my ability to create meaningful and coherent sentences? Why do I feel like I write best when I’m struggling? When I’m at my worst, that’s when I creatively achieve the best, but is it worth sacrificing everything else? My self-worth, dignity, identity?

For everyone, we all identify what it means to be physically beautiful in a variety of different ways, just like the way beauty fluctuates between cultures, where being slimmer or thicker can make you more attractive, or how small your face is or how big your eyes are. All features help equate to a standard of beauty different to everyone, including non-physisal features. In a sense where beauty equates to some degree in attraction and in a general sense, many people are attracted and find individuals similar to their own parents, more beautiful; physical features or otherwise. This isn’t weird or unusual. For those who grew up with parents or parental figures, we spend multitudes with time with them and if we don’t, that still affects the way we love and are attracted to others too. Because their habits whether they are good or not, are something we to some degree accept or become comfortable with, they become normal. So attraction past looks in cases can make others appear more beautiful. We are creatures of habit and like familiarity— I may have mentioned some of this in my last post too.

At times, most hours of the day, night, and every moment in between, I can’t identify with my ethnicity, appearance or age, everything that physically makes up me, feels abstract. Not necessarily in a bad way, but I do struggle with my identity. I don’t think I’m ugly, nor do I believe I’m beautiful, my self-image resides in the same grey area, this doesn’t just apply to my face, but my whole body. Whenever I’m aware of these moments, the image of animals without consciousness that can’t identify themselves in a mirror is what I picture in these moments. So even more recently, I’ve turned to facts, my head is covered by long brown hair, brown eyes, a nose passed down from my father, lips where my upper lip is slightly bigger than my lower lip. I’m roughly 171 cm tall and currently 66 kg in weight. This sounds like the introduction to a self-published, fan-fiction character but these are clear facts of my features not many would dispute. 

‘I put my long brown hair up into a messy bun.’


All of this isn’t to say I don’t value myself, or have strong morals. In areas other than appearance I am much more mentally put together, not that I don’t have my moments of questionable sadness or overwhelming anxiety, but the many have lessened. I cope day by day much better than I use too. With support I’ve never experienced before, I am happy and grateful. 

This struggle with self-identity doesn’t stop me from identifying other people, places and things as beautiful. Sunflowers, beaches, my co-workers and friends, passing by strangers. But there is a difference between places, flora, fauna, and the likes of people: You can’t converse in depth with a flower or the sand beneath your feet and the water trickling between your toes, what you see is what you get. We as creatures who (most) can identify themselves in the mirror, see beauty past initial glances, and these are affected by interactions. By depth, a person may or may not have which connects with ourselves. How we as individuals react to other individuals in our own unique ways, affects our perception of beauty.

For me, character affects beauty. 

From a country singer whose face reflects her beautiful voice and heart. An extremely talented and well-renowned photographer who captures the most excellent images of people on their brightest days. A quiet girl steadily building her confidence every single day in even the smallest act of taking care of herself, which is a big feat. The friends who are struggling yet still perusing past their own limits. There is also a brilliantly strong individual with an exceptional life story and capacity for understanding exercised daily, who continues to amaze and exceed expectations. My personal measure for beauty comes of achievements based in self-fulfilment. Individuals striving for self-excellent appear more beautiful to me.

When will I consider myself beautiful?

This is all just my opinion and how I personally and currently perceive beauty, it is neither right or wrong, good or bad, basically in the same way I view myself.


This blog is part of the NMIT Blog Network. The articles and comments in this blog are the opinion of the authors and not necessarily those of NMIT.