I used to have mixed feelings about beauty. Both when it came to myself but also when it came to the question of whether or not it really could be found in everything that exists on this planet. Whether or not it was OK to find it in everything. What part does perception play in the process? What is beauty anyway? Does it even matter? What do you think? Here’s how I see things now:
Beauty is a question of perception
A few years ago a close friend told me about her decision to undergo plastic surgery. The notion that the perception of ourselves differs from others’ perception of us was not new to me but still. Somehow the conversation struck a chord with me, and it made me understand first hand what that really meant. This friend of mine is one of the most beautiful women I know. If she could see herself through my eyes she would not find the surgery necessary, I thought. Clearly her own perception of her had to be different from how I saw her, for I had no doubt that the surgery was a good thing for her (and it still seems to have been the right thing to do for her to this day).
I guess this hit a nerve because it brought up the question what the status of my own self-perception was. I was by no means planning on undergoing surgery but to say that I was happy with my looks would have been a lie. In some ways my friend was being a lot more honest than me. For I was unhappy with my looks but far to proud to admit (especially to myself) that beauty/being happy with my looks mattered.
Others’ perception will never win over the voice inside
Is plastic surgery the answer to our discontentment with our appearance? I don’t know. I think that’s up to each and every one to answer for themselves. What I am sure of is this: Others’ perception of us will never be able to beat the voice inside us. It’s that voice that determines how we see ourselves, and thus: how we present ourselves to the world. If surgery can convince that voice for good, then it’s definitely a positive action. I just know this wouldn’t work for me. That voice of self-doubt would just move on to the next thing that needed to be changed. It is her nature: doubting and criticizing.
There is more than just one voice inside us – which one to we trust?
To be specific: it is the voice inside that we put our faith in which determines how we feel about ourselves and how we present ourselves. Since yes, there’s that voice that tells me not to get any ideas, that no way am I among the beautiful ones. There’s that other voice, too, though. A voice that only speaks of beauty when I look in the mirror. In other words: a dangerous voice, a seductive liar. What would happen if I ever fell for her?! Just imagining the humiliation if anyone found out I thought I was beautiful when really I am not is too much …
One body, so many different images. If it’s true about my friend, why wouldn’t it be about me? What if the liar in me is not a liar? What if everyone but me could already see my beauty, and I were the only one holding on to a different truth? Or, what if the only reason others couldn’t recognize my beauty was that I keep placing my trust in that voice that only believes the worst of me? If there isn’t just one single truth about my body, shouldn’t I be able to choose? What’s keeping me from choosing anything but the best version of my self-image?
Beautiful Women Vs. Intelligent Women
The reason why I was unable to accept my own beauty at the deepest level was this: I was convinced that there were two kinds of women – intelligent ones and beautiful ones. Intelligent women didn’t necessarily have to be ugly but they definitely couldn’t show that they cared about their appearance. That, I thought, would have been shallow, and being shallow meant being dumb, right? Respectively, beautiful women could definitely be “surprisingly” smart but not THAT smart because otherwise they wouldn’t be so shallow and put so much effort into their looks, right? … (The fact that all of my girl-friends were living proof of the contrary somehow didn’t count. There were obviously two different sets of rules – one that applied to me and another for everyone else.)
Jealousy – a hint at what we are denying ourselves
A little later I noticed that I had become jealous of a certain type of women. I had understood at this point that jealousy always shows up when we are seeing something in others that we are denying ourselves. So what was it with these women that bothered me so much? Easy: they were the kind of women who dared to be both. Intelligent and beautiful. They were women I had been following via social media, who touched me deeply with their writing. Not only could these women write, they were also posting pictures of themselves, showing off their natural beauty. They were not overdoing anything but there were little details in their style that left no doubt about two things: these women were aware of their own beauty, and they were letting the world know that they knew.
The Purpose of Beauty
No doubt about it, they both exist: the part of me that sees all my mistakes, that keeps telling me not to get any grand ideas about myself, and the part that sees all the good in me, including my beauty. Only one of the two parts allows for a light-hearted, joyful existence. And that’s what it’s all about after all, right?
I am not only concerned with my own beauty, though. Beauty in my surroundings (or lack thereof) affects my well-being just as much. Up until now I have felt ambivalent about this aspect of beauty as well. I always thought that this desire for beauty on the outside was a sign of lack of balance on the inside. Surely beauty couldn’t matter that much?
The other day I was listening to one of Insha Holz‘s power animal meditations (they’re in German but check out her world love meditations, they’re in English, too). It was the one where she led us to the holy white butterfly, who opens us for the world’s beauty and our own. During the meditation Insha said something that changed my perspective on the whole beauty thing: where we see beauty is where we find God. Within beauty there is God – that thought had never occurred to me. I knew instantly that it was true.
Recently I have often felt that I have gotten pretty good with getting in touch with myself. But what about God? Why didn’t I feel anything? Where should I look? When I heard that God was to be found in beauty, I suddenly understood why beauty mattered so much to me. Why it was so important for me to see beauty in me and in the world, and what it was I felt when I saw beauty. The joy and the lightness. Beauty is harmony, peace. Hi there God, so this is is where you’ve been the whole time! Suddenly it didn’t seems so pointless and dumb anymore to seek beauty in the world and in me, and to acknowledge it.
Whether it is out there in the world or inside us: they both exist, the ugly and the beautiful. Everything that’s wrong and everything that is good – just as it is. The holy white butterfly helps us to recognize beauty, the good. In other words: she helps us to find God. In the world and in us. Thank you dear Insha for bringing us together.
PS: When I look at the world through the eyes of the holy white butterfly, it looks and sounds like “Welt der Wunder” by Marteria. How about you?