Who told you that you weren’t beautiful? And why did you listen?
They were wrong, you know. Wrong in the way that you already know, but don’t dare to admit. Embracing your beauty is not something our society has ever been good at teaching. We teach flaunting and shaking and envious staring. We don’t teach embracing true beauty—the kind that nobody could ever see with their eyes.
We teach that beauty is only visual. How stupid is that? Think about it.
Certainly, beauty can be seen, but beauty can be heard too, beauty can be tasted, and, most importantly of all—beauty is felt. Not just with your hands or your skin. Beauty is felt in your heart, in your mind, in the places of your brain that you can’t touch until this beautiful act has occurred right in front of you and your eyes are suddenly filling and your cheeks are wet and there’s this odd but graceful silence that fills your ears no matter how noisy the scene in front of you and you know (you know, you know, you know) that this is beauty, here here here, right here.
But, instead, we all get this message early: you are not beautiful—he, she, or that thing over there is beautiful. But not you. We get this message that beauty is scarce, and somehow measured or allocated by some forces or mysterious tribunal that no one ever names or sees.
But we all get that message—and, sadly, many of us pass it on. We fail to tell others when they are beautiful. We bite our lips, we swallow our words, we hold it inside. Or, worse, we tell people by word or deed that they are not beautiful. We pass on the unkindness that was passed to us. We tell our kids, we tell our sisters, we tell our families. Oh, how wasteful. Just because someone passes the poison to you, there is no reason to sip from the cup and pass it to the next person. Push the cup away. Spill it. Break it. Bust it into one thousand pieces so no one else can drink the poison.
Because this is the thing to remember, to treasure, to carry with you like a small light in your pocket that you can pull out whenever the darkness rises and begins to obscure your path: you are beautiful. We all are beautiful.
True breathtaking beauty is earned.
This kind of beauty is not skin-deep. Beauty is not even close to being as thin as a layer of skin. True beauty is durable and sturdy and hearty and real, even as it is delicate and tiny and oh so breakable.
True beauty looks better with scars. Scars are lessons. True beauty has learned, and survived, with a bigger heart than ever before.
Is there any single image more beautiful than a heart that continues to open, despite the pain, despite the loss, despite the staggering sums piled upon the spirit by a cruel and often unforgiving world? To forgive those who would not forgive you: think of the ridiculous beauty that act requires.
This kindness. This beauty. These tears. This love. All of it is staggering and should make you catch your breath, again and again, like there is never enough oxygen in all of the world, like you are on some summit of audacious gorgeousness that none of us has earned, that none of us ever could earn. And yet we do.
Because, beauty is you, if within you dwells a goodness and a kindness that refuses to hide or give up or run screaming from the room, even though you would be justified, oh you would be justified. Beauty wells up from somewhere inside you, deep inside you, and it’s not something you’re willing to give up, to sacrifice, to cast to the winds because some vain and petty people tempt you with their ugly tricks.
At least I hope not.
Because, ugly is visible and leaves marks, but not the on the skin or the face like you have been led to believe. Ugly is unkindness. Ugly is selfishness. Ugly is mean. And ugly goes past the bones, ugly goes to the soul, and it’s hard, so so hard, to get out, like a stain that just can’t be lifted.
But a few lucky souls lift it.
If you are lucky enough to know someone who has gone from ugly to beautiful (and I don’t just mean physically, remember we are talking in a realm far beyond the rods and cones of your retinas), step closer.
Listen to the secrets of the person who has moved beyond the seductive frailty of ugliness and into the dangerously painful truth of beauty. Really listen, if they will tell you how they made this journey. This is a person who has wisdom. Spend time at their elbow and learn where and how beauty is grown from an unforgiving and parched soil. This is the key that unlocks the hidden door. This is sun itself. This is something closer to magic than many of us will ever know. If they can describe this process or even just give details of the winding, brambly path, shut your mouth, lean forward, and listen with both ears. You are in the presence of what some (the smart ones) might call greatness.
But, remember, even if this world has told you that you are not beautiful, nothing is lost unless you let it be lost. Everything is still right in front of you, waiting to be grasped, waiting to be embraced, waiting to be loved. This world knows nothing of you but what you show it, so show beautiful. This life has always been gorgeously and gloriously up to you. It still is. Show your beauty. Don’t wait one more moment.