What is beauty and how does the human soul recognize it? And why are we naturally drawn to it? Is it true that beauty is subjective or is there also a universal standard, a beauty that is recognized in every country and by every human…or at least all those who can still see beauty? Does there come a time in one’s life when we have seen so much ugliness that we forget what beauty looks like? Is it possible to not know it when we see it?
Beauty is such a powerful mystery. It has many layers, the first of which is physical – the beauty we see in the world around us.
In french they use the expression “il m’a tapé dans l’œil” literally meaning he hit me in the eye. This means we were struck by what we saw and it pleased us. Beauty reaches out and demands to be noticed. She slaps us in the eye, sometimes stopping us in our tracks.
Philosopher Simone Weil once said “one must first seduce the flesh to then be able to seduce the soul”. Beauty is often the door opener, the crack that leads to the breach of our guard which stands in defense of our emotions.
Beauty makes us trust, smile, follow. Beauty entices us to believe, to comply and to sacrifice. It inspires movements, rebellions, hope and oh so much art.
As a country, America is obsessed with beauty. Every child must have braces to achieve that perfect smile. We plaster photoshopped pictures of gorgeous men and women on the cover of every magazine lest we forget what we are supposed to look like. This bar of perfection can often leave us feeling “less than” and way below the commercial standard of beauty.
Recently I was at a weeklong vacation at the Jersey shore, where I would daily walk the dog up and down the little residential roads near the boardwalk. One day as I passed yet another beautifully manicured lawn I heard a whistle. You know the kind. Like the ones I heard when I was much much younger…before hyaluronic acid night cream and monthly hair dye. I looked around. Surely it wasn’t meant for me? And then I spotted the frog. He had whistled at me. He sat there with his plaster smile, eyeing me from under the bushy leaves. And no he did not turn into a Prince. As I walked back the other way he whistled again. There was a motion sensor.
But it made me smile and walk a little taller. How silly, I thought, he isn’t complimenting you. He is an automated little lawn decoration – and now you feel special?
Yes, as silly as it sounds I enjoyed being whistled at by the frog. And here’s why.
I knew he wasn’t creepy and trying to suggest things with his whistle. He couldn’t even see me.
It made me feel good because even with my uneven sunburn and my beach hair and my flip flops, he reminded me that I WAS beautiful. On the inside. And because the plaster frog couldn’t see my not so attractive dog schlepping accoutrement, he reminded me of that inner beauty. That is the only logical thing in that moment that his whistle could have been referring to.
For some odd reason we have a need to validate our idea of beauty. If we see a gorgeous sunset, or a beautiful gown, or a painting at the museum – we love to point it out and ask everyone “Wow isn’t that beautiful?”. Debates sometimes ensue. But the urge to label and share what we deem beautiful is always there. We just can’t keep it to ourselves. We snap endless photos and post them to be admired by as many people as possible. This leads us to often believe that for beauty to be real, it must be validated by others. When I hear a whistle, there is my validation. Someone sees beauty in me. And they are sharing that assessment.
So to hear it from another, for us humans, is oddly important and feeds a need we don’t even fully understand.
But can we learn to go without it? Absolutely. Many of us have to.
Maybe you are in a relationship with someone who never compliments you – never notices your beauty or calls it out. Or maybe on the contrary they call out what they see as a lack of beauty and make you feel less than. Some people might even have partners who call them names. I have had beautiful friends who have endured the most horrific names from their so-called loved one.
So here’s the thing: whether people are telling you that you are smoking hot or that you are an ugly cow, your beauty does NOT come from anyone’s assessment or validation.
Fact: You are beautiful.
Let’s just start with that.
Whether you have blond, red, black, gray or no hair – you are beautiful.
Whether your skin is olive, snow white, black, or any tint in between, bumpy, wrinkled or smooth.
Whether or not you are at your ideal weight.
Whether you wear make-up, designer clothes or real diamonds.
YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL
Because let’s be clear – real beauty has nothing to do with those superficial things. Sure they may be nice to look at, and they may attract attention and even admiration – but they do not constitute beauty.
Do you know what beauty is?
It is the creation, as it was intended to be, in all of its glory, being authentically and genuinely itself. Standing tall if it was made tall. Being outgoing if it was made so. Gracious, loving, funny, creative – however you were made to be – you are beautiful when you are fully being YOURSELF.
Nature doesn’t engage in our silly comparison games. Everything is simply, peacefully – and beautifully – itself. What it was made to be.
And it is breathtaking.
So are you!
So please stop comparing yourself to some unachievable societal standards of “beauty”. Look in the mirror and love what you see by looking deeper than skin level.
You are a marvel.
Your beauty shines from your eyes, spreads through your smile, echoes in your laughter.
Your beauty is unaware of anything else it is “supposed” to be. It simply IS.
Recognize that you are a masterpiece: a glorious and artistic combination of body, spirit and intellect.
Add to that a sensitive and caring heart – that kindness that shines through is one of the most beautiful things you possess.
And the strength of your soul, that you muster up when things are tough and use to carry others in need, that strength is one of your greatest traits.
That twinkle in your eye, proof of your inner spirit made up of feistiness, curiosity, adventure and humor – is another resplendent aspect of your beauty.
YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL in so many ways!
Never stoop to shrinking your beauty to something on the front page of a magazine.
Understand where your beauty lies, and delight in it.
So next time a frog whistles at you as you walk by, just smile and say “Thank you, I know.” and keep going. We already know we have it in us. It shines out in so many ways that it’s impossible to miss really. Anyone else noticing is simply frosting on the cake.
That unquenchable beauty that we carry inside of us is the quiet anchor that will keep us from chasing meaningless compliments and other people’s approval and validation.
Be strong in your knowledge that you ARE and will ALWAYS be an object of rare and glorious beauty.
And that deep, authentic and pure beauty is exactly what the world needs more of!