Finding the Beautiful

I’ve touched on this before and it’s part of the whole idea for this blog, so I wanted to do a post specifically about feeling beautiful. It seems that feeling beautiful and being beautiful are completely different things. You can see a woman in a fashion spread in perfect make-up with glossy hair and thousands of dollars worth of designer clothes, but if you ask her, there is a pretty good chance she will tell you she doesn’t feel beautiful. She might be dying to get home to her cooking, or her husband, or her dogs, or somewhere else that turns the world into a place where she feels like she fits into it, even if she is wearing sweats.

That’s the funny thing about beauty, it happens in the most unexpected of places. I’ve had days when I spent hours trying to make myself look beautiful so I would feel confident (see yesterday’s post), sometimes it works, but it’s an external form of “beautiful”. Then there are days I’ll be working for hours on a project, I haven’t showered or even noticed my hair, and I’m probably still in my pajamas, maybe with a dirty painting apron thrown on top, and I stop to look in the mirror, before my brain even lets me think something else, I feel beautiful. Of course that is a rare occasion, usually I take a whiff of myself and march right into the shower, but it happens. When I have that rare moment of beauty, I know it has nothing to do with the actual face staring back at me, it’s that I’m at a point where it doesn’t matter, because I’m more concerned with something else I love doing.

I think if you asked most women “when do you feel most beautiful?” they would give you responses that didn’t have much to do with physical beauty. After hours of plucking, curling, dyeing, brushing, and smearing on makeup we often feel like we’re in a costume, but we don’t truly feel beautiful, it’s more like playing a part. I’m sure actresses must feel like this all the time, and when they actually might be feeling beautiful, like when they’re walking around with their kids or something, then they get slapped on the cover of Us weekly for the regular “Gross: Celebs Without Makeup” article.

We are conditioned to think that we can’t be beautiful if we don’t meet certain criteria, or at least try our hardest to look like we’re making an effort, but what sucks is that it keeps us from noticing when we actually do feel beautiful. That’s not to say that it doesn’t help sometimes. I’ve watched What Not to Wear and been so moved when you can see someone finally getting to feel beautiful, and it’s all because of external stuff. I don’t think there is anything wrong with feeling beautiful because you’re all dolled-up, there are situations where that is exactly what we need, but I think we tend to forget that there are other things that make you feel beautiful too.

I posed the question to myself, and it can be a hard one to answer. If I have a new outfit that I think looks awesome, or I just got my haircut, or found a great lipstick, it can give me a huge confidence boost and it’s easy to feel beautiful. I feel the most beautiful though when I’m in my element, when I’m doing something I love, creating something, or just singing to myself in my own world. When you notice moments like that, it’s like you catch yourself, and it’s perfect. You don’t need a mirror, or a good picture, or validation from someone else, because you know how you feel, and that’s all that matters.

I know this seems like a small thing, but feeling beautiful is something that everyone deserves, I hate that we narrow down the definition so much that I can’t even remember what it’s supposed to feel like if it isn’t attached to a product.

It’s weird because all these studies show that what really makes people attractive is confidence, and I bet it’s probably true, but that isn’t what anyone is actually selling, it’s just a gimmick. Magazines, TV shows, what they’re really selling are tools that will help you think you’re confident, or give you confidence that is tied to something external. Real confidence is the feeling that what you have to offer is valuable, and that you’re crucial to this world in some way, even if it is small. I think that is the real “beauty” everyone is always talking about, it’s self-worth, and I think so many of us are really lacking in it.

I don’t now what makes confident people confident, I truly believe a lot of it is genetics and personality, but I do think confidence is a journey. It doesn’t happen overnight, it shows up in fits and starts, always being punched back down by our nasty inner voice. When I’m doing what I love, or with the people I love, that voice just drops away.

When you paint or draw, you have to be confident. If I think about that line before I draw it, it’s going to be sloppy. When I just give in and turn off my mind, that confidence kicks in. I think at times we even take that confidence for granted because it comes so easily. I imagine that’s what it takes to be a tight-rope walker, you just have to release all that fear and know that you can do it. There is so much beauty in being able to let go, to give in, and let yourself have the freedom to feel that gorgeousness that can come rushing in. Beauty isn’t something you need to get, or make, it’s something you already have, you just need to find it.

Ok, so that last bit is a little cornball, but I don’t mind. My point is that we need to shift our idea of “beautiful”, because it keeps us from noticing when we actually do feel great about ourselves. I know there is that old adage that if everyone is beautiful than no one is beautiful, but sorry, beauty doesn’t work like that. The whole idea of beauty is something that is pleasing in any way, it has no absolute definition, and it exists in each one of us—old, young, man, woman, tall, short, chubby, or slim, it doesn’t matter.

So I ask, what really makes you feel beautiful? There is nothing to be ashamed of if it is a product, but I want to know for real, what makes you feel like there is beauty everywhere and that you’re a part of it, inside, outside and all around?

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4 Comments

Filed under acceptance

4 responses to “Finding the Beautiful

  1. haren

    Fabulous picture, that is beautiful!

  2. Sometimes I feel like our blogs are paralleling each other.

    I felt incredibly beautiful the other day, when I was standing in front of a big mirror with my fiance, right after we woke up. We were rumpled and sweet-looking. I feel completely comfortable around him, and feel more beautiful when I feel comfortable.

    Also, where do you get the illustrations for your blog? I love them

    • Justine

      Kate, I think you’re right about the parallel blogging! Your post today rang true with me as well—but I’ll tell you about that over on your blog.

      Sometimes I feel like I look the best when I just wake up, there is something so beautiful about sleepy, well rested faces and bed hair!

      The illustrations are my own, I’m glad you like them! Four years in art school and a mountain of debt later and I’m glad that I actually have a forum to show them here, so thanks for noticing! I also have a portfolio site:

      http://justinezwiebel.com/

      and an etsy store too:

      http://www.etsy.com/shop/SweetGumandOak

      Sorry for the information overload!

  3. Megan

    As usual, a very good point. Our conceptions of beauty are often limited to the outward and the physical. Thinking about it, recently, I’ve felt most beautiful kneading dough and singing to myself in my kitchen. Sure, I was covered in sweat and flour, barefoot, wearing a dirty apron, but lovely all the same for many more reasons than just the way I looked.

    The illustration is just gorgeous on this one.

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