a beautiful project

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.
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?”
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.’
I made the first entry:
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.