“A beautiful woman looking at her image in the mirror may very well believe the image is herself. An ugly woman knows it is not.” Simone Weil
Simone Weil states that without the affirmation of perceived value, a woman must look within to find the true self. What a statement! You mean a woman should not look in the mirror in the morning and decide her value by how she looks on any given day? Ladies, you have all been there. After exclaiming, “I look amazing today in this outfit” you have an extra spring in your step for the remainder of the day. Your confidence is strong and you feel worthy of attention and ready to take on the world. Then there is the other days when after looking in the mirror you grumble, “I hate how I look today, I look so fat and my face looks tired”. The rest of the day will most certainly find you feeling down about yourself and unworthy of others attention. These are the days we all hide in our homes or offices, not feeling up to any social interaction. It is far worse when on these days, there’s a big meeting or presentation. Finding the confidence to have pictures taken, speak in public and meet a copious amount of people is impossible when feeling unworthy.
I have had my share of these days, probably more than I would like to admit. I remember some high school friend tapping me on the shoulder during a class and happily telling me that they had all decided that I was pretty if I would just wear some makeup…Not the best of friends, but hurtful nonetheless. By all outside standards, I fall squarely in the “average looks” category. This has never really bothered me. It has forced me to look inward for self worth far sooner than one who is blessed with exceptional physical beauty. One could even go as far to say that physical beauty is a distraction from the inward work required on a spiritual path. I believe this is what Simone Weil is stating above. There is so much more to a woman than her physical beauty. We are complex creatures and anyone worth their salt should be mesmerized with the challenge of figuring us out.
With social network firmly ingrained in our society, it becomes even more difficult to discern what really matters and what doesn’t. We are constantly assaulted with what others believe is beautiful or ugly, later qualified by a barrage of hurtful and ugly comments on postings. When did it become more important to look like a Kardashian then to work on ones heart? You see, beauty does not come from designer clothes, expensive makeup or plastic surgery. Beauty comes from inside. It rises up from one’s soul and makes itself known in the quiet moments of connection with another. No matter how much society tries to tell our young women otherwise no one, and I mean no one, has the right to label another unworthy. Beauty shows itself in the way one interacts with others less fortunate, or difficult by nature. Beauty also makes itself known in the level of empathy that one can show another, whether they deserve it or not.
I myself have been guilty of not speaking up when I hear someone verbally putting another down. My fear of confrontation and angry exchanges has silenced me more times than I would like to admit. Sitting quietly on the sidelines is a statement of agreement with the offender and not the brave and appropriate way forward. How are we to teach our young women today about true beauty? One way is by example. As teachers, we have to put less emphasis on our physical beauty thereby demonstrating to young women that we are still of value regardless of outside appearances. This can be a struggle, especially when in our hearts we do not fully believe it completely ourselves. We can also compliment women when they have shown some level of kindness, courage or empathy. These are all beautiful attributes and should be celebrated as such. As a mother of a daughter I know that it can be very hard to teach loving kindness to our daughters when living in a “say whatever you feel like” world. The brave response is sometimes no response at all. This is not a sign of weakness, far from it. To be insulted and remain quiet is a display of great discipline and patience, a true earmark of beauty, beauty of the heart.
Lets celebrate these skills, embrace them and share them. Even when the celebrity personalities and politicians of the world continue to demonstrate a complete lack of character and self control, we can continue to plant the seeds of loving kindness and beauty with each choice we make.