How many times have you wished you looked better? How many times have you watched a movie, read a magazine or even been out in a crowd of people, looked around you and thought “if only… if only I were taller/shorter/bigger/smaller/my hair were different/my face was another shape/I could do my eyeliner like that/I could wear a catsuit and look more like a fashion model than a toddler in a romper suit” (or maybe that last one’s just me)?
If the answer is more than you can count then you’re not alone. Although you undoubtedly know that already.
It’s a myth society – and that evil overlord we call patriarchy – has been telling us for years now: that in order to be happy we must look good; in order to be happy we must be what they call “beautiful”.
And you know what? I don’t disagree with that last part. I just think this idea of “beautiful” is a very different one to what we’ve been told to believe.
I recently read a book called Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton.
It’s an amazing book; not only is it a #1 New York Times bestseller, it was also one of Oprah’s picks for her 2016 Book Club. Although I have to admit that put me off for a while…
I’m never one for hype, and although I love Glennon on social media her life on there seems so happy and bright and shiny and what can I say? I love a bit of darkness in the books that I read!
Oh how shortsighted I was… because actually the shininess is what comes after the grit and the darkness.
Actually, I loved this book. Not only because of the story it told but because of the way it resonated so deeply with me.
Love Warrior begins with the story of Glennon Doyle – bulimic, alcoholic and general enemy to herself and how the breakdown of her marriage leads her on a journey to unbecome, and to fall in love with herself again.
Do you ever feel a certain way, or know a certain thing about yourself but struggle to put it into words? This book spoke the words of my heart.
Because while I’d never go so far as to call myself an addict of either thing, I’ve definitely had problems with using food, alcohol, work and even books (thanks, Glennon, for that heads up!) to medicate when the world got all too much and I felt nowhere near enough.
To read Glennon’s journey was inspiring, especially with the background knowledge of her story since – the marriage she writes about didn’t turn out to be a happy ever after after all, but a happy marriage is now part of the beautiful bright live I see on social media. But her words resonated so deeply with me too that they helped me to see how far I’ve come, where I still need to heal, and they even did some extra healing for me along the way as they sank into my consciousness (you know it’s a good book when that happens!).
One of the biggest things I gained though was right at the end of the book, at the point when Glennon’s two young daughters ask her if “sexy” is a bad word, leading her to a conversation about sexiness, prettiness and beauty.
She defines “sexy” as “a grown-up word to describe a person who’s confident that she is already exactly who she’s made to be”, and tells them that “fake sexy” is hiding behind costumes and things you’re led to believe you should be and do, while “real sexy” is about stripping off the layers and letting your true self come out and find love.
She explains that “pretty” is a forever changing concept decided by people in boardrooms, and the only way to be eternally pretty is to continually change yourself to fit those concepts. And although prettiness isn’t necessarily a bad thing to enjoy from time to time, she tells them that the real goal – what she wants for herself and for them is to be beautiful.
Because beautiful… well let me quote Love Warrior fully in telling you what she says:
“Beautiful means ‘full of beauty’. Beautiful is not about how you loo on the outside, beautiful is about what you’re made of. Beautiful people spend time discovering what their idea of beauty on this earth is. They know themselves well enough to know what they love, and they love themselves enough o fill up with a little of their particular kind of beauty every day.
“You will meet plenty of people who are pretty but haven’t yet learned to be beautiful. They will have the right look for the times, but they will not glow. Beautiful women glow. When you are with a beautiful woman you might not notice her hair or skin or body or clothes, because you’ll be distracted by the way she makes you feel. She will be so full of beauty that you will feel some of it overflow onto you. You’ll feel war, and safe and curious around her. Her eyes will twinkle a little and she’ll look at you really closely, because beautiful wise women know that the quickest way to fill up with beauty is to soak in another human being. Woman who are concerned with feeling pretty think about what they look like, but women who are concerned with feeling beautiful think about what they’re looking at.”
And as I read those words fully I began to cry.
Because just like that I realised that in the last few years while I’ve been on my journey of empowerment, I’ve inadvertently also realised that I am something the geeky teenager who always felt a little too big, not confident enough and nowhere near pretty never thought she would be.
I’ve realised that I am beautiful. Or as the wonderful Lisa Lister says, beauty-full.
Because isn’t that it? Being beautiful isn’t about how we look or what we wear, it is – as Glennon says – about the beauty we embrace and fill ourselves with.
Beauty-full is something we should all be striving for, and it’s about what makes the world a better place.
Because to be beauty-full is to fill ourselves with the things that make us happy, content and fulfilled. It’s about immersing ourselves in love, about celebrating our joy and about appreciating every little moment of wonder this world has to offer us.
And it’s that type of beauty – the sensation of being in love with our lives – that makes us truly attractive; to ourselves, to the job interviewers we meet, the potential partners we talk to and the opportunities that come our way. And not just any people and experiences but the right ones – the ones that fit well within that beauty.
When we immerse ourselves in the beauty of our lives – choosing to dwell on the things that make us happy rather than those which don’t – and learn to let it fill us, life is better all round, and not only from the inside but for those looking in too.
I think now about the ways I used to feel about myself in the past; back when I felt stuck and thought that I wasn’t enough, was too much, or should stay small.
I knew those weren’t feelings I wanted to stay in but had no idea of how to get out of them. So I made the decision to change… bit by bit and step by step I took control of my journey, I focused myself on healing the experiences I’d had before and I stopped to focus my mind on the good bits of my here and now – on what I loved and what I wanted to invite more of.
In doing that I remembered the me that I actually loved; a me that I wanted to shower and fill with the things that made her happy, and the things that she considered to be filled with beautiful; and a me who deserved to have the life that she loved built and created for her.
Yes I’m using all the words I use when I talk about my work with clients. Why do you think I do this work? Because I know that it’s possible, and because I know the benefits it can and does bring! Because even before I was qualified and experienced to help other people, I was my own first client!
But I don’t think I’d realised until I read Love Warrior quite how much this work has changed my view of myself.
I look back now on that little girl who didn’t feel small enough, that teenager who wasn’t popular enough, and that woman who wasn’t confident enough (unless she had a bottle of wine inside her) and realise that somewhere deep within there was always enough – it was just about training myself to stop ignoring it and instead and instead focus on the things I needed to do to make my enough grow – until it filled me.
Because now I am full of life; full of the truth of who I am; full of the wisdom I was too afraid to call upon and share; full of the vibrancy to take on the world and go track down and live my dreams; full of power over what I do and yes, full of beauty.
I am beauty- full. I am beautiful. And I know you are too… it’s just about giving yourself the best conditions to allow your enoughs to grow and to flourish.
So do the work, be beautiful. No lotions, potions or surgeries required.