“You’re so beautiful Zoey.” It was a late night, and we sat looking out at an abandoned field and the city below. The cool spring air had brought us together. The stars had emerged from their hiding places and it was then that he told me I was beautiful.
As much as I wanted to I couldn’t bring myself to believe him—a tendency not uncommon for us women. We shake our heads in denial, blushing, pretending those words weren’t said even when it means the world to us. We look around for someone else as if to say, “You don’t, you couldn’t mean me,” when in actuality we know exactly who he meant. Nights passed, and continue to pass, and those words are said in moments of quiet solitude. They are spoken from the heart and I am beginning to believe them. So I smile, look into his eyes and say thank you.
It is the first time that I have felt remotely beautiful. I have always felt that beauty had a timeline—when I get my braces off, when I lose ten pounds, when I can afford to buy nice clothes, and the list continues. I have pushed off feeling beautiful. It has been a far-off destination based upon unrealistic and circumstances out of my control.
Believing beauty is difficult. Sure we believe in the beauty of others but for some reason we cannot find it in ourselves. We spend hours poring over fashion magazines, searching Pinterest for the perfect ensembles and comparing ourselves to others in hopes to obtain this illusive ideal. We ask our hairstylist to “make us look like her,” always ending up disappointed that we look like ourselves with a hairstyle that fails to flatter our own long, round or heart-shaped face. We buy clothes because “she wore them first.” We try to lose or gain weight to look like the girl next door who has “the perfect body.” We imitate the beauty of others because we believe we are incapable of “being as beautiful as she is.”
We focus on the seemingly perfect definition of beauty, futilely striving to live up to the unobtainable standards we set based off observations of others. We put others on a pedestal while resigning ourselves to the fact that “we will never be as gorgeous as they are,” demeaning ourselves in the process. We ignore the cliché but true adage that “beauty comes from the inside out.”
And I am guilty of this attitude. Even this morning as I assessed myself in the mirror I caught myself wishing I was skinnier, fairer, and prettier. But beauty is not a destination that will come when we finally live up to someone else’s criterion of beauty. Beauty comes from becoming. It comes from self-love. We come to love ourselves, not in vanity but in our acceptance of our imperfections. We embrace our frizzy hair, flat chest, and unshaved legs because when we wash away the makeup and trade our formal garb for sweats, we left with ourselves, uncensored. It is that minimalist state of self that will either be our biggest enemy or truest ally. If we dig deep down, we can find seeds of belief in ourselves. We can find it in the beating of our heart, the wonder of our eyes, and the capacity of our ears. We can find it in the knowledge that we are a child of God, that we are created in His perfect image, by His perfect hands. With this divine parentage there are no mistakes. Our bodies are not only perfect, they are beautiful. This earth is beautiful, in part, because we are on it and as we improve the world in which we live and improve ourselves, we can only become more beautiful.