What is beauty? We know it when we see it and we utter such words as "wow," "incredible," "amazing," or "oh my God." What is beautiful for one person, may not be for another. According to Wikipedia it "provides a perceptual experience of pleasure or satisfaction."
In nature I find beauty everywhere I look. I am blessed to live on a lake where floral and fauna is all around me. The beauty of the eagle soaring above the water looking for his next prey; the heron which gracefully and slowly strides along the seawall; the alligator that glides across the water sometimes only showing his eyes; or the mockingbird who hops along the grass making his chirping sounds mimicking other birds.
The beauty I find in people comes from far more than their physical attributes. There may well be physical attributes that draw me to him or her, but if there is shallowness, egotism, or negativity then any perceptual experience of pleasure quickly disappears.
There are men and women in my life who are not "movie star beautiful" just from the physical sense, but their love, kindness, generosity, and gentleness make them more than movie star beautiful. They are the essence of providing pleasure because of who they are inside.
My great-grandfather wrote of his model and mistress (my great-grandmother) that she was the ethereal woman. By that she had not only great physical beauty, but also had the inner beauty coming from the depths of her soul. You can read about them in my most recent novel, Davida: Model & Mistress of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Avail. at Amazon. Here is the link: (goo.gl/68D6QT)
My memories of junior and senior high school might be similar to yours. The physically pretty girls and the good-looking boys were the popular ones. They were a minority but many flocked to be around them. They were the homecoming kings and queens, the jocks and captains of sport teams, and the rest of us often wished we could be like them.
Once I finished college, I quickly discovered that many of those popular kids did not do well in college or life after high school. Some got married too soon. Others had babies before they had themselves truly grown up. And time began to take its toll on their physical attributes of beauty.
Every great religion teaches the importance of the beauty of the soul. We are to bring love, pleasure, and happiness to others. That is what beauty is about. In my book, Outshine I write "...that the beauty of the soul, the real me and the real you, outshines the effects of cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation."
Every rainbow, sunset or sunrise, animal, flower, and tree bring great beauty to my life as does those people whether friends or strangers bring beauty to my life by letting love shine through them.