Page Thirty: What is Beautiful?

I’ve been following Sometimes Sweet for a few weeks, now, and it’s a little part of the internet that I like a lot. Danielle comes up with “journal prompts” where she asks her readers to write about a specific subject.

Similarly, I’ve been wanting to write on my blog but I just wasn’t feeling inspiration hit or anything. I’ve been wanting to write on Danielle’s prompts, but what else? Not feeling inspired, I’ve just ignored it. This morning, I happened upon this quote by Anne Lamott in which she said, “Don’t wait for inspiration to hit. Inspiration has not been much use to me over the years.” Of course that makes sense.

So, we’re off. Maybe you’ll want to fill me in on your thoughts on the prompt, too! I hope so.


How would you say your upbringing or background has shaped your idea of beauty? Were you taught to apply makeup or do you hair by your mother or friends? If not, where did you observe what is now your norm as far as beauty practices? And although most of us have been inundated by different cultural beauty “norms” via the media, would you say that television and magazines have had a strong impact on shaping what you think of as beautiful? This week, write about your idea of beauty- how your background has shaped it and what that means for you today.

It’s funny because this is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, actually. What sort of idea of beauty was instilled in me as a child? I don’t really know.

Of course, the first beautiful woman that you ever know is your mother. It feels like for most of my youngest years, my mom was the person who set the standard and everything about physical beauty was held up against her. This was the woman that I was to become, right? And then you see the diet pills and the way that she never really eats much and the way that her weight always seemed to fluctuate drastically. I think that once I learned that my mother wasn’t pretty (at least according to her but she was also the smartest person I knew, too), I learned that I wasn’t ever going to be pretty, either. And it wasn’t something that I grieved or anything. It was just a fact. I’m not a beautiful person and that is how it is. Some people are pretty and some people are not. That’s fine.

When I was a teenager, a friend of mine became the new, most beautiful woman I knew. She was a few years older than me and she really was so pretty. She was so tall and strong and I really admired that. Once, I saw her in a swimsuit and she had these fabulous hips and a little bit of a tummy. I always admired her and loved her. She’d always tell me that I was so beautiful. Of course, I knew she was just being nice and so I never gave that much thought. After a few years of admiring her for her strength and grace and beauty, she admitted to me that she’d been struggling with an eating disorder for years and years. I thought about it for a minute, replaying all those times that we hung out and she ate and ate and I thought we were having so much fun but she wasn’t. And that’s why she always told me how beautiful I was–so that I wouldn’t do what she’d been doing. And I thought, in that instant, maybe she really meant it this whole time. Maybe she believes that I’m beautiful. Maybe, probably. Nothing is beautiful. If she isn’t, and I’m not, and my mom isn’t. Maybe no one is. Maybe?
She’s still one of the most beautiful women that I know in real life. She’s still strong and graceful and smart and has used her body to create beautiful children and care for them. That’s a lot of beautiful.
Maybe its not that no one is beautiful. Maybe it’s just that no one has any idea. That is more believable.

I think that since I never thought that being a pretty girl was even remotely within the realm of possibility for me, it really did kind of protect me from a lot of things. It sounds sad, of course, but because of that I never looked at the girl in the magazines and thought, “if only I did ___, then maybe I could look like her.” It wasn’t that I had a healthy view of myself at all. It’s just that my idea of myself was so off the mark that I just knew there was no help for me. I was an ogre and I had no business looking in magazines or talking to boys or working hard in life. Because I just wasn’t the kind of person who got to dress pretty or have a boyfriend or nice things. I just wasn’t that person–and I accepted that. But I really shouldn’t have. Because I am beautiful. And I don’t know when or how I learned that but it’s true.

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And all of my friends are beautiful, too. Everyone is so beautiful. I don’t know what I believed about beauty when I was younger (only that it did not describe me), but I know what it is to me, now. And now, I think that intelligent women are beautiful. I think that men who work with their hands are beautiful. Kids who laugh at everything and ask questions are beautiful. The old people that I see at my work, who have lived through the better part of a century and are happy to get up in the morning are beautiful. I think that people who forgive are beautiful and people who try hard are beautiful. I think that I’m beautiful when I sink into a yoga pose and kind of lose myself in meditation. I think my boyfriend is beautiful when he crawls under my car in the driveway before I take off on a long drive by myself. I think that my friend Katie is beautiful when she asserts herself. I think that Jamie is beautiful when her face is all scrunched up because the baby inside of her is preparing to make her way out. I think that The Boys are beautiful when they’re playing songs that they wrote with their minds and their hands and their ears and their instruments. I think my sister is beautiful when she talks about her family.
I don’t mean that it is beautiful to be kind or to forgive (though it is). I mean that when you are kind or when you forgive, it makes you beautiful. My friends–we are actually beautiful and it’s because we are humans. And I like that a lot. 

xoxo, Lib

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