a beautiful project

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To me, feeling beautiful has never had anything to do with what I see in the mirror.  I’ve always seen beauty as something internal that connects me to the people and things that I love.  Feeling beautiful means laughing with my sister, snuggling with my husband, and being completed absorbed in a book where the author ‘just gets me.’  In essence, beauty is the thing that makes me come alive.  

I’ve never felt beautiful because of a little black dress, a new pair of heels, or a fresh manicure.  Those are all fine things, of course, but if I don’t feel confident and connected to others, then what’s the point?  I’m also a fashion-minimalist by choice.  I don’t want to spend time thinking about what to wear or wondering ‘if this matches that’ and so forth – I’d rather spend that time being creative or brunching with friends or biking the lakes.  We only have so many hours in the day: why waste any of them in the closet?

My beauty advisor is not Vogue or Glamour or Lucky, but Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  In The Little Prince, the author writes, “the most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched — they must be felt with the heart.” I have a similar outlook on life and think that beauty goes beyond appearance: it is the way we live our life, the way we interact with others, and the influence that we have on the world.  In essence, beauty is a lifestyle rather than an image.
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Don’t get me wrong – I’m attracted to a good-looking person just like anyone else.  The thing is, a sleek physique and dreamy eyes won’t impress me: I’m looking for a kind heart, a generous spirit, and a curious mind.  A good sense of humor gains bonus points.  But there is a danger in placing too much importance on appearance and associating beauty with an ideal image.  We must be cautious that we don’t judge more on appearance than on internal attributes.  And, perhaps even more importantly, we must be vigilant about promoting or accepting one look as a standard for beauty.

Kaitlyn and I were discussing a SoulPancake video about self-acceptance the other day, and, mid-convo, she asked what made me feel beautiful.  When I told her beauty was something internal, she pressed further – “what makes you feel beautiful when you look in the mirror?”

To be honest, her question made me uncomfortable because I didn’t know how to answer it.  I try to avoid mirrors as a general rule, and my morning routine is limited to cursory checks for toothpaste residue and t-shirt stains.  Kaitlyn asked again, “what do you like about your appearance?”

Why was it so hard for me to answer?  I wanted to reply, but I’ve focused on internal beauty for so long that I truly didn’t have a response.  For once, I was at a loss for words.  What did I find beautiful about my appearance?  I wished I had a ready answer, and I quickly realized that I shouldn’t have an aversion to mirrors.  I should be able to look in the mirror and like what I see.  Everyone should. 

With that in mind, Kaitlyn and I planned projects for our blogs that would, hopefully, encourage participants to think about what makes them beautiful.  In the spirit of The 1000 Journals Project, I made a traveling journal that asks people to answer “what makes you beautiful?”
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The idea is we can all use the anonymous journal to reflect on what makes us beautiful, both internally and externally.  Without identities, we can let our thoughts flow freely, and share with others what we love about ourselves.  My hope is that the journal will encourage people to expand their ideas about what beauty is, and to find new ways of associating themselves with the word ‘beautiful.’
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I made the first entry:
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Kaitlyn and Sarah are planning a similar project on their blog, and I recommend reading what these two wise ladies have to say about beauty.  And Kaitlyn, thank you for encouraging me to see beauty as something that’s in the mirror as well as the heart.

22 thoughts on “a beautiful project

  1. Not only is this post beautiful, but this project is as well! Absolutely perfect. How beautiful it is to be a walking tribute to your grandma and brother! I always love being told that I look like my two sisters…just that association and reminder of family makes me feel like a million bucks! 🙂

  2. I sincerely apologize if the comments made previously were misinterpreted. They were certainly not meant to be a reflection of any one in particular, but rather a generalization of what society portrays through the various media outlets (photo-shopped magazine images, commercials, etc).

    My sole use for a mirror parallels yours quite similarly. And this is a beautiful message, summed up quite well by a single thought in your post. Beauty is a lifestyle, not an image. Thank you for sharing such an important message.

  3. Pingback: A Beautiful Project | The Duck and The Owl

  4. I love how you have made a point to see your own physical beauty. The inner beauty is SO important, but it’s so good to see your outer beauty as well. And I love the things that you acknowledge about your beauty. Having your grandmother’s eyes and a smile reminiscent of your brother are both so sweet. 🙂

  5. I love this post. I have been… Struggling with myself to like what I see in the mirror. I’ve cut my hair many different times, each one completely opposite from the last, in hopes that I will finally like my wild hair. I haven’t found a style I like, yet. But my search for physical beauty has brought me down. Your post is so inspiring, because I believe that a person’s actions and thoughts show who they really are. Not what they look like and not what they where. True beauty is from the heart. I love this line that you wrote, ” I’ve always seen beauty as something internal that connects me to the people and things that I love.” Completely off subject but, I would also like to tell you that I have nominated you for the Dragon’s Loyalty Award! You can check my post about it at: http://theoddlandofme.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/the-dragons-loyalty-award/ Thank you for inspiring me with your words.

    • thank you for sharing this with me – i found it tough to think about physical beauty for a while too, but when i started thinking about beauty as a lifestyle – well – i gained all sorts of confidence. i hope that helps you too 🙂 and thank you for the nomination – i’ll head over and check it out 🙂

  6. I love reading the progression of your thoughts on how both can be so important. And, yes, I believe, ultimately, the internal beauty wins out–that’s what truly lasts, that’s what makes a real difference in the world. But we can take joke in surface-level beauty, too. I still remember meeting my childhood pastor for the first time in many years–he’s quite the exuberant person, and somewhere along his very happy “It’s so good to see you!” speech, he said, “And maybe it doesn’t matter that much…but you’ve grown up to be a beautiful lady.” And then another older lady, who’d known him and also me for a lifetime, punched him in the arm and said, “Of course it matters!” That whole exchange still cracks me up!!

  7. Oh, I just adore this (and this project). What a lovely way to think about beauty–both internally and externally. I’m also not one to really take a close look at myself in the mirror (mostly because I get up so early for work and get dressed in the dark 🙂 but I love how you framed what you see in terms of two people that made you feel loved. Being able to see yourself from that perspective is such a struggle but it’s an absolutely marvelous thing when you happen upon it. You are a beautiful person in every way!

  8. Pingback: I am Beautiful Because… A Beautiful Project! | The Odd Land of Me

  9. Pingback: Fav Finds: Hodge Podge Frames » Kathryn Farritor

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