When I was 14 years old, my sweet aunt gave me a book to help me feel more beautiful. More importantly, I think what she wanted me to see is the beauty I already had – what she saw in me – what she never could see in herself. She wrote “To my special niece Angela Marie Poole. From: Aunt Sue – Aug. 1988. Love always Angela.” The book was “The Way to Natural Beauty” by the very beautiful, super model Cheryl Tiegs. Up to that point I was always so very self conscious. Trying everything to be prettier – to hope others could see me as beautiful. I pored over the pages in this book – read them over and over to unlock the secret. The secret that freckles and gapped teeth, I felt, kept hidden. As I read through the pages, I realized that being “beautiful” was more than just the right makeup – especially the beauty that I was trying to achieve.
Beauty is defined in Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
1: the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit: loveliness
2: a beautiful person or thing; especially: a beautiful woman
3: a particularly graceful, ornamental, or excellent quality
4: a brilliant, extreme, or egregious example or instance <that mistake was a beauty>
But the dictionary cannot give us the definition of what exactly is considered beautiful – because the very definition of beauty is defined and re-defined by our culture. When reading through the pages, Cheryl talks of being a size 8 when she was a model and only alarmed when she was above a size 10. At that time, beauty wasn’t a size 0 – by definition. Marilyn Monroe was also a size 8 but she looked completely different than Cheryl – different times – different definitions – but no less a beauty.
Classic, Natural, Exotic, Alternative, Non-Traditional, Simple, Elegant, Dramatic, Romantic, etc. are some of the many “types” of beauty. But if you travel from one country to another what defines these “types” are all very different. We, as women, are always trying to hit an ever moving, ever changing target of the definition of the time and place. We tuck, we stretch, we shrink, we tighten, we fill, we cover, we uncover, we grow our hair long, we cut it short…and that is world wide in one way or another. There is no difference in what the Kayan women who stretch their necks to 10 inches or more to the women who inject collagen into their lips. However, it is the reason they do it that makes the difference. Are these women doing it out of self-loathing or self-love?
You see, no matter the definition of the time, be it blue eye-shadow or dark, black eyeliner, how you carry it, how you feel about yourself is what truly matters. That doesn’t mean we have to love every single thing about ourselves. I won’t tell you to learn to adore the zit you just got on your wedding day! But to learn to accept ourselves as we are and to do things out of self-love will create beauty above and beyond any definition that can be given to us.
We already know that we cannot all look like the models we see (or think we see). What we can do, is realize that “beauty” is but a passing notion. That lasting beauty goes beyond just vision. None of us should even look at the models we feel are too skinny and say they are not beautiful. They are – you are – I am – because that is what I believe.
“The Way to Natural Beauty” was filled with healthy eating tips, exercise, natural ways to care for our skin, our body, and our mind. When reading through the pages as a 37 year-old woman, who no longer has the gapped teeth, but now, embraces her freckles and the few small wrinkles finally gets it. I do things to make me feel more beautiful – regardless of what anyone else thinks. It’s ok if you decide to stretch your ears, tattoo your body, have a face-lift – but do it because you already love who you are. Otherwise the definition of beauty you try to achieve will fade as quickly as the next magazine cover lands in your hands.
Be Strong. Be Beautiful