I’m not sure who coined the phrase beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A quick Google search generated at least five different alternatives and I’m not that enamored with the phrase to dedicate myself to finding a more satisfying answer. Someone said it sometime, a long time ago, and we’ve been parroting it ever since.
The problem is this: as good as that sounds and as much as most people like the idea most beholders have pretty narrow standards. Me, too. Brainwashing or human evolution, some characteristics just tend to rise to the top. I read somewhere that symmetry has been a constant sign of beauty throughout history. I thought that was interesting in its pure objectivity.
But, it’s not physical beauty that got me thinking today, it was inner beauty. Beauty of spirit that comes from not how one looks but how one lives. I was stunned by this quote:
She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible. She walked with the universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings.
It struck me as true because the women that I know who have beautiful spirits didn’t get that way without facing hardship. And remarkably they proudly share the experiences that have broken them as proof of survival. They share what they learned and what they lost freely with friends and younger generations as testimony and inspiration.
Occasionally, I will reach out to one of these amazing, strong women and tell them how much I respect them and what they have accomplished. “The fact that you made it through _________ is a reflection of the strong, amazing woman you are.” I have typed a version of that in Facebook Messenger so many times. It is one of my favorite things to do, to tell people how awesome they look from the outside. How my eyes behold their inner beauty.
The hardest part for me though is that most times they are surprised to hear me say it. The most common responses are self-doubt, embarrassment and incredulity. Sometimes, they turn the compliment back to me. Which (ironically) causes me self-doubt, embarrassment and incredulity.
Rarely do they send me the 😏 emoticon and reply, “Thanks, I am pretty kick-ass.”
So, when I saw one of the strongest, most awe-inspiringly amazing women that I know post this quote on her page to inspire others, I just had to do something. I had to say something. And here it is, what I want to say to every woman who has pulled her life out of some horrible cesspool of ugliness. Who has faced down a bad choice or a letdown or a lost dream. For every single one of you that looks in the mirror at a life that isn’t what you thought it would be and feels broken, I have this to say.
You may be broken, but that doesn’t make you ugly. It makes you beautiful and it makes you strong. You inspire me every day and you remind me that I too am capable of being both broken and beautiful. I promise to wear my wings not apologetically but fully aware that I built them through living. If you will embrace the strength of your beauty, so will I.
No matter who’s looking or what they see.