I loved the title of Michelle Obama’s autobiography, Becoming. It speaks to the process that we all enjoy or endure as we grow into adults. Most of us feel a bit uncertain about ourselves during those often painful years of adolescence and teens and early twenties. It can take time to fully appreciate ourselves for who we are. I’ve written about the moment when I looked into the mirror and was honestly able to say that I liked the woman I saw in the reflection. I was twenty-five years old and had two small children and the makings of an unfinished college degree. Suddenly I knew that I was on the right track and that I was a beautiful soul in my own right.
Up to that moment I had tended to focus only on the flaws that I saw in my hair or my face or my personality. I wanted to look like and be somebody else. Finally I realized that as imperfect as I was, I was still pretty darn good. Over time I watched myself get better and better. My confidence soared and as it did there was a twinkle in my eyes and a smile on my face that overcame any deficiencies that I might have.
I don’t exactly know how I came to that point in life. I attribute much of it to the love that friends and family showered on me. There is something life-changing about knowing that there are others willing to support you in whatever you choose to do or say or be. When others don’t care if your fine hair is flying all akimbo or if you gain a few pounds, a new sense of freedom from insignificant worries takes over. It bolsters your feelings about yourself and only gets better as you grow older.
I like that I can walk around in my bare feet working on my garden with dirt under my fingernails and the people that I care about smile when they see me, not even noticing how sweaty and disarrayed I am. Reaching a point of feeling beautiful from the inside out is glorious! It allowed me to concentrate less on myself and more on others, even though now and again I catch a glimpse of myself and think that I really do need to eat fewer sweets or get my hair trimmed a bit more often. I suppose that the most negative feelings that I sometimes have involve feeling that there is so much more that I might do for people.
I was reading reflections from a young woman who had lost her mother. She pointed out how we take life for granted. We get busy doing unimportant things and put off going to see the person who is feeling alone or making a quick phone call to check on someone. She urged everyone to live their lives without regret, a tall order, but one that we can improve if we set our priorities and then stick with those plans.
Those weeds in the garden can wait. The silly television program is not that important. Buying a four dollar cup of coffee may not be the best investment. Instead we might stop our work to talk to our neighbor. That money for the cup of coffee might help a child to get a pack of paper or some pencils for school. Passing on television watching to write a note to a sick friend is a much more wonderful use of our time.
When I think of the most beautiful people that I know, compassion and generosity are their most outstanding qualities. They may not be deemed attractive in the widely accepted sense, but everyone sees them as being gorgeous. It really is the content of our hearts that makes us attractive to others. People are beloved because they love.
I have a friend who recently died. All of us who knew her agree that she was a stunningly beautiful woman. She herself was embarrassed by her weight and sometimes avoided going out in public because she was ashamed. I wish we had told her over and over again that just being with her made us feel good and whole again. Her smile healed our wounded hearts. We never saw an overweight woman. We saw one of the most beautiful people who ever walked on this earth. We hope that from her heavenly perch she now sees how much of a gift she was to us.
Look in the mirror and gaze beyond the superficial. Know and love yourself and your heart. Each of us is precious to the world. We have love to give that someone desperately needs. Therein lies our beauty. Let it shine!