What makes you feel beautiful? What’s helped you embrace your body/appearance as it is? What area are you still working on—or should you? What makes you feel sexy? What helped you embrace, rather than shame, your sexuality? What’s stopping you? How do you define real beauty or sex appeal? Who epitomizes beauty and sexiness, IYO? What advice would you give your younger self or a girl in your life about beauty and/or sexuality?
I’ll admit it. When I say that I know I’m beautiful, I still find myself resisting the urge to turn around and look over my shoulder. You see, I was raised to believe that it was immodest, and therefore undesirable and maybe even wrong, to compliment myself. I was told that it was bragging or ‘fishing for compliments’.
Well, I am beautiful. And I don’t think it’s bragging or unseemly to say so. My beauty is an accomplishment, a tribute to years of learning, work, healing, and self-discovery. I’ve delved beneath the layers and levels of conditioning, drained and stitched festering old wounds, and adjusted my inner and outer vision until I could see not only the beauty all around me, but also that which has been within me, all along.
Yes, I look back now at pictures of me as a little girl, and as a young woman – and I see someone beautiful – without the confidence to see or know her own beauty, or her own strength.
I first realized it by accident, a few years ago; I was at my parents’ house, when my attention was caught by one snapshot of a lovely young girl with long wavy blonde hair, sitting on a picnic table with her legs drawn up beneath her. I stared at her for minutes, trying to place her.
She was me. I’d been about sixteen then, and deeply insecure about my appearance. That wavy blonde hair? Wouldn’t do a thing I wanted it to. This was the 80s, the decade of big hair and oodles of hair spray to hold it. Only, my thick hair simply would not be tamed, insisting on doing its own wild thing…
I thought I was too skinny. I’d been a late bloomer, and held onto the image that I was a scrawny girl, long after I wasn’t anymore.
When I saw that old picture, I saw a beautiful girl smiling or laughing at something long forgotten…
Caught in that unguarded moment of not caring how I looked, I was beautiful. And that was the beginning of healing, for me.
As I’ve healed and grown and explored my own inner terrain, bits and pieces of it rise to my surfaces. No, I’m not sixteen anymore – but there’s more light and love and life in my eyes now. I don’t spend a lot of time considering how I look to other people – there’s too much else to think about, and see, and do. I’ve found not only my beauty, but my strength. I spend my time in a way that delights me, surrounded by people I love.
Sure, I’m no longer the thin young girl I once was – but the thickening of my body is the result of nearly forty-six years of life, almost eighteen years of being married to a mighty fine chef (I don’t just mean that he cooks for me; he actually IS a professional chef). It’s a consequence of having carried and given birth to three children in the space of four years. To some extent, I’ve been thickened by grief – the grief that comes with the loss of our second child twelve days after his birth.
I’ve found joy, and purpose, in the aftermath of that tragedy. There’s something beautiful in that – in embracing love and life and possibility, when I might’ve chosen a different path – one of bitterness, or rage, or betrayal…
I’ve found a beauty that comes from my deepest places, my most intimate self. And, by bits and pieces, I’ve given it the space to shine through. The more confident I grow in myself, the more beautiful I grow.
My hair? It’s darker, now, and scattered liberally with silver. It’s still as wild – but now, I see that as a reflection of a more elemental part of my own nature, and I love it. It suits me. So do the new lines in my face, the roadmap of my own personal history I wear with pride of ownership.
Mine may not be a ‘classic’ beauty – but it is my own, born of my history and my personal journey, and I claim it for my own.
What makes you beautiful?