Saturday, February 26, 2011

Beauty Survey #7: Honor

Forty women were surveyed about beauty. This blog explains the reasons for the survey.

The last question to be answered is this:

#7. Essentially, I want to know: How do you honor your beauty without letting it define who you are?

One woman told me about a woman who is defined by her external beauty: “I have an ex- sister-in-law who has turned this into an art form -- she will never rise up and take over the world, as she is too busy in the bathroom mirror counting the pores in her nose, or in the gym working out and trying to keep certain things in the same place they were when she was 18 years old (she's now forty five). Ugh.”

So since I don’t want that, what can I do? I received many responses like this:

“When I feel like I’ve figured that out…I will let you know!”

“I'm honestly not sure.”

“No clue. Let me know when you find out.”

We’re perplexed. The more women I talk to, the more I realize there is a common thread among us. We’re trying to balance self-respect with self-loathing because there are too many reminders of everything we are not. So we wonder:

How do I look past half-naked women on every TV show, billboard, and advertisements (and the men admiring them) and not think I should be competing with that?

How do I accept who I am with Botox-ed, suntanned, plastic surgery-ed versions of women walking around?

How do I honor my beauty without letting it define me?

Women said:

“I honor my beauty by letting it be a part of me. But only a part.”

“By surrounding myself with people who cherish me and think I'm beautiful no matter whether I have an acne breakout, last season's boots, or a 20 pound weight gain.”

“I get myself involved in causes and activities that are meaningful and joyful, and invest myself in relationships that uplift and challenge me for the better. I think good friends help keep you in check, and remind you to always strive for that balance.”

“I radically accept myself as I am, rather than believing I need to change. I am beautiful and I am enough-- just the way I am.”

This really is radical. I’ve never met a woman who loved everything about herself. We’ve always got a grocery list of reasons why we are not good enough: pounds to lose, cellulite, wrinkles, blah, blah, blah.

Acceptance is key. Focusing on the good.

One woman writes: “I have bigger thighs, but they’re strong, they help me run fast, they help me kick box, and play sports well, they might not be as “pretty” or slender or as “perfect” looking as some other girls thighs, but their beautiful nonetheless and I like them for what they are. I accept the fact that my hands are short, and stubby, and scarred up from all the scrapes, but they’re strong, they help me give people massages, which makes others feel better. That I’m not petite, I just wasn’t built that way, I won’t ever be petite. I’m athletic, I have a bigger build, but it’s okay, and it works for me.”

And another woman wrote about internal beauty:

“Of course my beauty defines who I am--but, while I struggle with my body image every single day, my beauty has very little to do with my dress size or my pretty face. It has everything to do with my pretty soul. It's because I knit gloves to warm his hands. It's because I make his coffee every morning. It's because you can break my heart, and I'll survive, thrive, and keep on loving. It's because I'm open and generous and kind. It's because I know him. It's because I can talk politics intelligently over a pint. And It's because I've seen the world and still think he's the best thing in it. That's my beauty, and yes, it defines me.”

Here’s what I’ve heard:

-beauty is part of who I am

-I carefully choose friends/partners who love and support me no matter what

-being passionately involved in something helps to create a life worth living

-acceptance is a daily choice

I want to focus on having a pretty soul.

And I so appreciate those who have helped me remember that.