Want to know something ridiculous? I used to be afraid of my beauty. Actually, I was carefully instructed to do this by people in my life who loved me, although imperfectly. Their own fears had taught them that I should beware the power of my beauty and they made sure I knew not to become vain.
Here’s the thing, though. Fear of beauty, like fear of all things, is a shallow illusion designed to hide the truth that comes with full and complete acceptance. Lately, I’ve been on a fear-ridding kick, and I don’t know that I’ll ever stop. Here’s my most recent conquest.
My mother was a lovely woman. She really was. When she was young, she had this gorgeous, unassuming beauty about her…the girl-next-door appeal, you know? Freckles, long, straight hair, an enigmatic and genuine smile. No wonder my dad was so smitten.
But things didn’t go as planned, and their marriage ended in a nasty divorce that left me wounded up until this point in my life. But that’s another story for another time.
I think my mother denied something in herself after that. She constantly fought this internal battle, pushing back her perceived “vanity” and trying to not be disappointed…the result? She covered up her loveliness. She quit wearing her hair long, and curled it like a woman twice her age. She began wearing these horrible pants that went well above her midline, the elastic band screaming “I’ve given up!” Once in awhile, she would do herself up really nicely, and we’d go out to a play or something. I remember watching her apply her makeup and hoping she would grace my eyelids with a thin layer of her teal shadow.
She taught me to be on guard against the “peacock syndrome.” Anytime she saw a woman dressed in something bright or eye-catching, I would hear a lecture about not being like “that” lady who clearly just wants attention. I actually grew up thinking peacocks were bad birds!
Once, she told me that she had quit painting her nails because she noticed how she would admire her own fingers when they were adorned with a shade of rouge, and it’s bad to appreciate your own beauty. Feel free to point out the beauty in your friends…in fact, do that often, but don’t look at yourself in the mirror unless you’re fixing something. Don’t just stare into your own eyes and make friends with the lovely girl looking back at you. Don’t behold your gorgeous self.
I bought it, for a long time. Even took the mirrored doors off of my girls’ closet, so they wouldn’t be tempted to look at themselves in vanity. I told them their true beauty is inside, so don’t worry about what you look like. Both of my girls are stunning creatures, but I rarely told them how much I loved to look at them. My dad’s family was always commenting on my physical beauty, and I had suspected that this was the root of much of my evil. So I was very careful not to make my daughters aware of their loveliness.
That’s not all bad, admittedly. Our true beauty does come from within. And to focus only on the outside is to look at a well while parched, and never drink.
But the well is lovely, isn’t it? Why should we not pause a moment to take in the whole scene before lifting the glass to our cracked, flaking lips?
I recently spent the weekend with one of my oldest and dearest friends…a woman who has always known me as I am, not as the fear-filled coward I became for awhile. When I picked out a flaw of mine in a photo, Serena gently said,”Well, that’s not what I see when I look at you!” She reminded me of something important: we’re all beautiful, both inside and out. Some of us have more to work with in the glamour department (I was gifted with long legs, much to my mother’s disapproval), but we are all marvelous creatures. Each of us has unlimited creativity to offer the world, and we are all capable of bringing positive things to ourselves and one another.
So, today I make a new pathway in my mind. I know my true beauty comes from the light within me. So does yours. AND, how we treat ourselves on the outside will mirror who we are on the inside.I’m not afraid anymore to look, really look, at myself. To see what everyone else sees when they look at me. Sometimes, I might just put on some eyeshadow (though likely it won’t be teal), and try to catch your eye a moment. But then, once I’ve done that, I won’t stop there. I’ll look back, into your eyes, so we can see the truth behind the facade of physicality. And I bet we will both be pleased at what we see.
As for my daughters? I’ve told them to go look in the mirror a moment…not to find a flaw to fix or a hair out of place…but to see how breathtaking their faces and bodies are. What could that lead to? Well, for one thing, beautiful women who know who they are have always made the world a better place…and they usually have a wonderful time doing it! I am just so excited to be in their stories, so I can watch as the world responds to their power and beauty.