I have been thinking a lot about beauty lately, and what it means…to me.
My understanding of beauty has been altered, through the years.
Beauty used to almost exclusively entail generally accepted good looks paired with near bodily perfection.
When I was young, beauty was a source of awe, aspiration, and great pain. I was, like most of us: never beautiful enough. Then, when I referred to someone as “beautiful,” I meant physical beauty, almost exclusively.
Things have certainly changed!
Throughout my adult life, I have been told that I am beautiful. Often, by those who love me…and intermittently, by those who do not, really, even know me.
Being told you are beautiful is a dicotomy.
On the one hand, it is a compliment to be accepted with humility and grace. On the other, it represents a burden:
What does my “beauty” mean to you?
To some, it has meant free reign to proposition me for sex. In these instances, when I reject the label, I am admonished and immediately dismissed as a, “whore.”
To others, my beauty has represented a mark of belonging. Being beautiful created a connection that attached me to a shared culture. When I first arrived in NYC…being told I was “beautiful” by another Latin person made me feel like I belonged. I was a finally accepted as a part of something larger than myself that measured beauty in terms of ethnic identification, which challenged my previous views…and connected me to the beauty of a people, and not just one person.
Still others have understood beauty, in me, as confidence and comfortability with my-self.
To me…beauty was ephemeral, undefinable, the source embrassement and pride, but ultimately an unstable experience as it always existed OUTSIDE OF MYSELF. Beauty was a label, and not me.
More recently, beauty has come to represent a wider definition to me. Perhaps this only occurred through my own mindfulness and personal growth. But, I can’t help but think that it also has to do with aging.
Aging has not typically been understood as synonymous with physical beauty; at least not by mainstream society’s definition. I do think that health and medicine has played a large part in slowing the aging process today. But, in truth we are all aging and if you are over 30, you know the truth in that statement.
And while I have released my previously held ideals about beauty…I find I am embracing a very different definition; one that encompasses the entirety of the person.
Now when I say to another, “You are beautiful,” I mean a multi-dimensional kind of beauty: mind, body, and soul…and far from perfection…in fact I find fault, struggle, and conflict…very beautiful.
Basically, what I now define as beautiful is a quality that does not fit specific standards or accepted definitions. It cannot be seen in a mirror. It is ever-evolving and very particular to each person…as unique as you are, as is your beauty. And trust me, your beauty doesn’t have a thing to do with your appearance…unless I consider…the way you smile, just a little bit crookedly. Yeah, that makes you beautiful, too.
And now, when I am told,
“You are beautiful,” I accept it.
Because now…I am beautiful…and you, you are too. We have earned our beauty…yes, we have.
And I didn’t even need to look in the mirror.