December 8– Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different and you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.
As a young(er) woman, I think I got a little caught up in the common mindset that beauty equals perfection. When you had achieved physical perfection (as defined by a very unclear, semi-unrealistic set of standards) and could do everything and be everything to everyone, then you were beautiful. And it turns out, attempting that and inevitably failing, is exhausting. Sorry Chaka Khan/Whitney Houston, I’m not every woman.
Happily, I can report that at the infinitely wise age of 24, there are a million things I haven’t learned and that I don’t do well (yet), but I have learned to recognize that I am beautiful. And further, I have recognized that it’s not immodest to know that I am beautiful and to act with the confidence and poise of a beautiful woman.
Let’s pretend that junior high never happened, am I right, ladies and gentlemen? There was very little about my awkwardly morphing (and yet still chubby) body, my good (but occasional backstabbing) group of friends, or the fact that I was smart and did well in school that screamed ‘beauty’ to my junior high self.
The earnest journey towards discovering my beauty really started when I arrived in Fargo, North Dakota as a wide-eyed and semi-panicked freshman at North Dakota State University. As the mature ‘adult’ I thought I was at hardly 18 years old, I was determined to take all the best parts of me and fashion them into the young woman I really wanted to be. She looked sort of like a mix of Oprah Winfrey, Katie Couric, and Mother Theresa, except probably a little sassier and less organized.
And then I fell for this boy. And the independent, strong woman in me cringes at the idea of giving any mere man credit for anything I have done, particularly a journey so focused on self-discovery. But the honest, realistic woman in me knows that our relationships give dividends far greater than our investment, including the opportunity to look at ourselves the way someone else sees us. And for the first time, I really looked at myself through the perspective of someone who thought smart was sexy, saw my creativity as true talent, and understood that my
rare occasional somewhat frequent emotional outbursts (whether it was manic joy, crushing devastation, or red-hot anger) were simply part of being human and he tolerated me with patience and grace, the two qualities I most severely lack and most desperately need a partner. Above all, that relationship taught me that I deserve to be treated well, especially by the men who are lucky enough to capture my attention. It also taught me that those things that I was most self-conscious about were the best parts about me because they weren’t perfect (yet) and my flaws were the most human part of me.
The journey towards discovering beauty within myself didn’t end on the same crisp, fall day that that relationship ‘ended’.* It actually intensified, as I was left (and now feeling a bit alone) to redefine my adult self without that other person reminding me of all that I had accomplished, all I was capable of, and how fantastic I looked in a black dress with heels. I was going to be responsible for my own self-assurance and for maintaining my own confidence.
And it turns out that wasn’t so hard (although, I will give College Boyfriend some serious credit for helping to lay the foundation). And I could probably list for you several things I think are beautiful about myself: the ability to feel emotion super intensely, to talk to anyone about anything, to recognize that, sometimes, the one thing I need is my famous one woman dance party, an undying desire to give more, and some wicked blue eyes and out of control curly hair. But, like most things, the journey to beautiful has been much more meaningful.
Occasionally I pick up on hints that some of my friends might be in the throes of their very own journey to beautiful, and I hope that my openness and honesty about truly feeling beautiful and love love loving my flaws is shedding some light on their journey as well. And this is not to suggest that my journey is over, by any means. It is a constantly evolving process of learning to first accept and then appreciate the things and situations and people that were not as you expected or wanted them to be. When I let go of my expectations of things, they often turn out better than I could have imagined. And when I let go of the expectations of myself, I am turning out better than I imagined!
*It didn’t really end, but simply officially became what it was turning into for some time, which was a ridiculously supportive and fabulous friendship.