Monday, 25 April 2016

Beauty....musing on its myriad forms

Today I saw a wonderful little short film about perceptions of beauty, it was narrated by a wonderful actress, an indie darling, who if I may say so is beautiful. For me the best part of the film was not her narration, but the fact that the camera focussed on several regular women who were shown to be extraordinary in their own unique ways. The film made me smile.

I went and stood in front of the mirror and gave myself a look-over. Am I beautiful? I kept asking this question. You see I have never believed that I am beautiful....well at least conventionally beautiful. When I was a little girl I would play dress up in my mother's clothes and preen. I used to think that I was a princess...that I was so pretty. Not once did I see my flaws...I only saw beauty.

And then I grew up..... As I grew older, I began to realise that I had flaws, like all those around and the reality of my appearance began to creep up to me. What made my situation worse was the face that I was born into a family of exceptional looking people on both sides. It was also, helpfully, pointed out to me, that I would and this is a direct quote "never be the family beauty". That statement, made to a 7 year old me was one of the defining moments of my life.

Many people say that beauty and appearance define who you are. For me, my very ordinariness became one of the things that define me. I confess, that I was really upset afterwards, but I never shared it with my parents. You see, even then, at the the back of my mind; somewhere, there was this fear that I would disappoint them; and so the person that I went to was my 2nd grade teacher. What she said to me really shaped my perceptions of beauty.

When I told her, that I was plain, and that all I ever wished for was to be beautiful, she replied.... "Beautiful??? Would you rather not be the best? When I asked her what she meant, she told me that beauty was never skin deep, she said, "Snow White's wicked stepmother was the most beautiful woman in the world, even the magic mirror said so, yet she was pure evil. Always remember that a beautiful heart and mind will be with you forever."

I remember these words even now as clearly as if she had spoken them 5 minutes ago. I will not lie to you, I am a normal young girl, and through certain points in my life, I have felt the desire to be beautiful physically. I suppose I am attractive in a certain way. I can even look nice if I take the trouble of really dressing up. But I have always tried to be kind and courteous. I recognised early on that I had been gifted with intelligence and I have tried to improve my mind by indulging in constructive pursuits, like reading, painting, music, dance and sports.

In the film, the narrator muses about what, she would tell her younger self? Just that she is beautiful..... I love that thought...What would I tell my younger self? Nothing.... All my experiences, the good, and the bad....the painful and the blissful ones have shaped me as an individual. I found that, my inner beauty made me shine. Do I consider myself  beautiful? No... I have a long way to go...I will only ever be truly beautiful when I have the strength and empathy to understand the suffering of others and give comfort.

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