September 30, 2013

Most Beautiful When...

Beauty means so many different things. It's an ideal that changes over time, cultures, individuals, and trends. Ultrathin, curvy, "toned," pale, tan, tall-- I can't keep up with it, and that doesn't even take into account fashion trends that say what the right look is, how I should wear my eye make-up, and how I need to wear my hair in bouncy yet contained waves. All of these "shoulds" start to pile up in haphazard piles in my mind, and as they threaten to topple over and skid across the ground, taking out a few chairs along the way, I start to wonder when the heck we're going to stop "should"ing all over ourselves. 

Sure, I felt totally glamorous on my wedding day as I floated around in my sparkling, body-hugging gown and batted my enhanced eyelashes at my new husband. I was especially proud of my giant hair and of how my stylist had created those perfect curls we see in the bridal magazines. I felt pretty hot, to be honest, and also romantic and beautiful. I was a happy bride, and I know that I resembled the image of what a bride "should" look like on her wedding day. It didn't bother me then, and it doesn't bother me now.

But the thing is, I can't put in the effort to fit some sort of beauty ideal on a day-to-day basis. Perfect outfit, perfect make-up, perfect hair? That sounds exhausting. And since the idea of putting that much time and effort into my appearance makes me feel dizzy, I have to believe that maybe that idea of "perfect" isn't really for me.

Wedding day aside, I think that I feel most beautiful when the outward stuff doesn't factor into my mind. I might be wearing jeans and the green Chucks that I've had since I was 18, or I might be wearing my chambray and Minnies-- but it just doesn't matter. What matters is how I'm feeling, and when it comes to beauty, that feeling is simple: I'm beautiful when I feel happy. Sure, I probably won't feel particularly alluring when I've just woken up in the morning and have crazy hair or if I've been working out and have sweat dripping down my beet-red face... but other than the extremes or anomalies, I really don't think that my day-to-day "look" should be a factor in how I view myself and my beauty.

I am my most beautiful when I let stress slide away forgotten under the floorboards, and I can throw back my head and laugh loudly up to the sky. I am my most beautiful when I smile and look into the eyes of the people I love and know that we understand each other. I am my most beautiful when I practice kindness and love and feel that curving back towards me and out into the universe.

My beauty is about being consistent with my values and honoring the people I love. My beauty is about letting who I am, not what I look like, shine through. My beauty is about smiles, laughs, and happy sighs. My beauty is about being empowered, not belittled. My beauty is about being true to myself and not having some clumsy external standard placed over my self-worth. The physical stuff will change over time, and if I let myself believe that beauty is dependent on something so fickle, then I would never find happiness. I've had enough with those lying "shoulds" and am making my own rules: Beauty is about values, kindness, relationships, and actions. Beauty is who I am at my core.

That's a standard I can live with.

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