As a child, I felt I was an ugly duckling. You know, the kid no one would play with. Who was considered odd. Too skinny. Did nothing athletic. My few friends and I constituted the outcasts at my grade school.
Later, as I began to develop a figure and a smile, I still never could shake the feeling that I was substandard. When the prettier girl got the guy, I figured that was only fair - she deserved to be happy. I didn't.
When a guy did give me some attention, I figured he was doing me a favor, so I reciprocated obsessively until he got tired of me. Even when I looked in the mirror and saw something pleasant looking back at me, I figured it was a fluke.
Years passed, and I went through some bad relationships, up-and-down weight loss, extreme self-hatred. Then there came a time when I was living in Los Angeles, the land of "everyone looks perfect." In my own contrarian way, I decided to differentiate myself.
I stopped coloring my hair and let all the gray show. I stopped wearing makeup. I stopped wearing clothes that I thought would make me look attractive to men. For about three years, I stripped away all the disguises I'd been using and tried to show only myself.
And I discovered something. I am beautiful.
When I couldn't rely on my externals to communicate my beauty, I had to turn to internals. I think of internals as spiritual qualities. These qualities are linked to our Creator, Spirit - qualities such as love, patience, caring, listening, fun-loving, joy, creativity, peace. Since these are spiritual qualities, each one of us has access to them wherever and whoever we are.
And what was fun to realize is that no one has any more or less of these qualities. I had been thinking of myself as not having enough beauty, as being deprived somehow. But when I began to express those spiritual qualities, beauty became natural and effortless. I don't think you can help being beautiful when you're being loving or when you're at peace, when you're having fun or expressing creativity.
I could see then that worrying about my appearance and how it rated compared to that of others was a form of self-obsession. Expressing spiritual qualities was self-less, because it's about expressing Soul (another word for the Creator, God).
Check this out: "The recipe for beauty is to have less illusion and more Soul, to retreat from the belief of pain or pleasure in the body into the unchanging calm and glorious freedom of spiritual harmony" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pp. 247-248).
"Less illusion and more Soul." What a great recipe.
I knew I was making progress when one day, while I was reading in a park overlooking the ocean, a man approached me and just appreciated how at peace and pretty I looked. I really felt like one of the "beautiful people" in my own way.
These days, relocated to New England, I'm back to coloring my hair and wearing makeup. But that's not what makes me feel beautiful. The smile on someone else's face shining back at me gives me the glow of beauty, and I feel blessed.
You are beautiful, too. So are all the people around you. When you see spiritually, the world becomes a place of beauty.
Let the beauty
of the Lord our God
be upon us.