Monday, July 25, 2011

On Beauty

When I Googled "beauty", then clicked images, the following photo was the first to appear among hundreds of other close-ups of smooth skin, wide sparkling eyes, glossy-pink lips, blown-out hair, and mostly pouts with just a smile here and there:

I do think this woman is physically beautiful, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a little makeup to highlight your face, and while I don’t necessarily wear tiaras out on the town, I’m all for moderate sparkly bits like diamonds and pearls.

But, I want to challenge Google, and I want to challenge you, and I want to keep challenging myself on how beauty is defined. In college, particularly surrounding the time of sorority rush, I repeatedly heard the phrase “she doesn’t work well with what she’s got.” I think you know, but that meant she wasn’t beautiful enough. Maybe she had a little acne, maybe she forgot to reapply her Mac Lipglass each hour, maybe she was curvier than what was accepted for a particular group, and maybe – God forbid – she didn’t own a strand of pearls to casually wear with her jeans and letters around campus.

I’m first to admit, I fell for wanting to fit in with how beauty was defined on my college campus. I ate tuna with yellow mustard straight from the can night after night for a period during my sophomore year. I smudged on dark eyeliner and stroke after stroke painted my eyelashes thick and black. I worked out twice a day and finally skipped my period for a couple months one summer which made me say “oh shit”. Slowly but surely, I started pulling back. I started asking the questions that led me to a new definition of beauty.

What do I really want? Who do I really enjoy? What and who exhaust me? How do I want to spend every day? Do I really like running? What if I simply say no to her request? Do I want children? Do I want a boyfriend right now? Why am I still subscribing to that belief? Etc. etc. etc. I spent the rest of my college career and my 20s single life experimenting with what truly felt good to me – not what was supposed to feel good to me. And, hey, I am still bobbing around with many questions – by no means am I done!

In no particular order, my new definition of beauty involves the themes:

Moderation – Moderation in pretty much everything – Personally, that would be exercise, sweets, social media, sundresses from Target, lululemon tops and pants – all those little cheap thrills!

ToleranceBold – Live and let be. I think that covers it. By the way, New York has recently become a Beauty-full state.

Flexibility – Aim to live in the gray and be flexible about your views and choices. What works for you works for you. I love the bumper sticker “Go with the flow.”

Truth – You’ve got to want to know the truth more than you want the fix, the instant gratification, the applause, the Bandaid. The truth works.

Leadership – Lead by example. Practice what you preach. Why not?

Unapologetic - Be unapologetic for the real you. Surround yourself with people who live this way gracefully and daily.

Authenticity – Keep asking the questions. Keep listening to your body, your belly, your breath, your spirit. Your answers lie within, be patient, stay true to yourself.

While the default definition of beauty might stir up visions of untouchable Victoria’s Secret supermodels or even a sprawling mansion among the cliffs of La Jolla, I challenge us to let our beauty initiate from our insides. We still don’t need to aim for perfection or being “right”. We don’t have to figure it out overnight. We can even enjoy some fruity lipstick colors and treat ourselves to a luxurious manicure here and there. The main idea is enough. See the quote below, then one last thing….

Lastly, as I write about beauty along the lines of self development and inner peace, I have an inkling that when it comes time to write about beauty again (see here as to why I’m writing about beauty in the first place), I will have a few more things to add to the list. Remember those questions I asked myself above? Well, I did want that boyfriend, and I met him, and I married him. And, we’re having a baby in about 3.5 weeks. Some people say you don’t know love or beauty until you become a parent. So, I’ll keep you posted.

I was inspired to write about Beauty due to the monthly Self-Discovery Word by Word Series started by Dr. Ashley Solomon over at - Check out the details of this monthly blogging series here, and join if you'd like! This month's Self-Discovery Word by Word host is Valerie at - Love her writing - honest with beautiful photos to capture her truth!

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