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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What Does Beauty Mean To Me?

Nothing to Disclose

The question What is beauty? is asked frequently. By many people. It's discussed on mainstream media, goes viral on social media and is showcased in movies, music...basically, it's everywhere. But I'm just not sure there's one answer.

We see celebrities as "fair game" for disparaging remarks about their physical appearances and somehow have translated that to mean that everyone is fair game. It's one thing to judge a particular style choice of a celebrity and a completely different thing to judge their physical attributes. There is argument on both sides as to whether choosing the spotlight means choosing or encouraging judgment on their appearance. I think that's why we all seem to have fallen in love with Jennifer Lawrence. She refuses to allow what people say about her to determine her own self worth.

One thing is sure in my mind's never okay to make disparaging comments about the physical attributes of another, whether or not they're in that proverbial spotlight.

photo cred: Marquart Beauty Analysis

So what's the answer to that question then?

I was asked if I wanted to join some of my blogger friends and do a post on what beauty means to me and I jumped at the chance to answer that question - to tell you what it means to ME. But I'm not going to talk about what eyebrow shape is "in" or the ideal body weight or whether the key to beauty is symmetry. There are thousands of sites devoted to nothing BUT that. Heck, my own blog is devoted mostly to pretty nail polish! We all need to feel pretty. But pretty and beautiful are two totally different things to me.

Having super curly hair in a "straight hair is beautiful" world for the larger part of 5 decades is sheer torture if you don't learn beauty isn't that. Being a size double zero in a size 5 world? Same thing. Everyone has something about themselves that doesn't fit into what society has created to be the "physical beauty" mold. Symmetrical features? Large eyes? 36/24/36 measurements? Dainty hands? No wrinkles? Is that beauty?

The answer is just exactly what your momma told you as a child. It's in the eye of the beholder. I think Plato said it first. Well heck, who am I to argue with Plato? Or my momma for that matter. Especially my momma! It was exactly 22 years ago today, February 5th, that I lost her and she was the most beautiful person I've ever known.

But what does it mean?

Well, since I am a "beholder" (both of my own beauty and how I see the beauty in others) I guess that's up to me.

So what is beauty to me? To me, beauty is in the hand that caresses an animal with love - finds that sweet spot behind the ears. It's in the eyes that look lovingly at another. The ears that listen with care to a loved one. The lips that speak positive words of encouragement. The shoulders strong enough to cry on. The arms that wrap you in loving protection. The back that will carry you when you can't walk yourself. The feet that will walk a mile in another's shoes before passing judgment. The legs that won't walk away from someone in need. Beauty is the heart that will lift others up rather than tearing them down.

But no, really. Superficially, what is beauty to me? That's simple. It's not. There is not one single superficial, physical characteristic that means beauty to me. Some people are more physically easier to look at, of course, but until I know them, I can't know if they are "beautiful." I know a lot of physically attractive people who are absolutely ugly. I know some who are beautiful inside and drop-dead gorgeous on the outside. But real beauty? There are some people, to be frank, who are physically what society deems ugly who have such beautiful souls that you can't even see their physical bodies.  Beauty is in the confidence that comes from loving and accepting yourself.

Even though my mother tried to teach me that real beauty is on the inside, for the longest time, I tried to pin my beauty, my worth, on the physical. That's not easy when you're too skinny, the color of bleached flour, you have red, frizzy/curly hair and you don't look like any of the other kids. We're talking serious inferiority complex. You don't feel like you're worth much. And it shows. And in turn, you're treated as if you're not worth much. It wasn't until years later I realized what that saying I'd heard all my life really and truly meant. No one can see your beauty until you can see it and embrace it yourself. No one can love you completely until you can love yourself.

There comes a point where you hear a platitude so often, it loses all meaning. Or you stop trying to find the meaning behind it. That's a real shame because generally, those phrases became platitudes for a reason. Most of them are true! For sure that one is. Just ask Plato. Or my momma.

I see the lines forming around my eyes and you know what? I'm proud of those crow's feet because I feel like I earned each and every one of them. My hands may be starting to look older but those hands will never be raised in anger toward my dogs...or any animal. I can look in the mirror now and I still see my curly hair that's not the "norm" and I don't hate it anymore. And I remember when that happened. The exact moment. The epiphany, if you will.

I was about to start a job where the "uniform" was shorts. (No it wasn't Hooters LOL - I live in South Texas!) I was sitting in the cafe griping to my friends that I couldn't find anything to fit me and my legs were too skinny and white for shorts. I was really upset - on a right proper rant. I'd tried for many years to gain weight, unsuccessfully, and I was just at a boiling point. Mainly that afternoon I was hating on my skinny, white legs though. You should have heard me. Looking back, it was an entirely pathetic waste of time. Well, I walked out of the cafe right smack into a man in a wheelchair with no legs. BAM! It was almost cliché. I got in my car and just started bawling. At that moment, I became grateful for whatever life gave me. Skinny or not, pale or not, frizzy or not. Whatever I have and whatever I am, that is the beauty of me. And it's up to me and me alone to decide how I use what I'm given. It's up to me to decide if I am a beautiful person or not. To decide to BE a beautiful person.

This is me - curly hair and all.

So the next time I felt like complaining about my red, frizzy hair, I thanked God I wasn't losing it to cancer.

Talia Joy ♥

I double dog dare you to tell me Talia Joy wasn't beautiful inside and out. A beautiful, beautiful soul.

Our bodies are temporary, really. And they age. Whether you started out life as a physically beautiful person or not, if you live long enough, the body starts falling apart. Physical "beauty" fades. There are so many body shapes and colors and sizes that the idea there is one physical body type that is "better" is ridiculous.

I honestly think we should take a cue from dogs on this one. They are who they are and they're all beautiful...from Great Danes to Teacup Chihuahuas. Long hair, short hair, stubby legs, fluff balls, black, white. We look at dogs objectively with no problem and I can tell you for sure that they are their personalities and not their physical appearances. Why can't we do that with each other? Don't believe their appearance or size doesn't matter to them? Just watch a Chihuahua make a Great Dane cower. Attitude and self-confidence, Bay-Bee!

And when that physical beauty fades, what you are left with, inside yourself - that is either beauty or trash.

I choose beauty. I would rather be beautiful on the inside than the outside and I definitely can't say that was always the case. The pressure is so great, from all sides, to look a certain way, wear a certain fad, have a certain look. SO true for females, less true for men, but still true.

Don't get me wrong, I want to look as good as I can. I wear makeup and love pretty shoes and bags. I don't like my love handles anymore than the next person. And yes, I still find myself having to fight not to gripe about this or that.  But now I think I have a much better perspective about beauty and just life in general. I have a loving heart. I am kind and thoughtful. I'm smart and funny and a myriad of other things, unique things, that make me really like who I am as a person now. And I can finally say: I am beautiful.

Once again, it all comes back to that one word. That word I've always said was the most important word in the English language. Perspective. It's everything.

And I wish each and every one of you who made it to the end of this post the proper perspective. To appreciate your own unique beauty. Embrace your differences. Have that confidence that comes from loving and accepting yourself.

Because that, my friends, is beautiful.

If you enjoyed this post, please take a second to "like" it! Thanks!



  1. I continue to remind myself that I need to be a mommy just like yours so my girls eventually will grow into women with the exceptionally amazing self image that you now hold!!!

    1. Aw, thank you! I think you're an awesome mom to those beautiful girls!

  2. This was beautifully written, Sheila. Wear a badge of honor that you keep your fair skin nice and creamy in the south Texas sun, and you rock that red hair, because nobody can push a redhead around!

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  4. You are an amazingly beautiful person inside and out and I am honored to call you my friend. ♥ This was perfectly written.

  5. Thank you, for a truly beautiful post <3

  6. Thank you for sharing your perspective :) You are truly beautiful AND your hair is fab ;) <3

  7. Sheila! Forever and still now I wish I had curly hair. I love yours and I love your post! <3

  8. Fantastic article. You are spot on. And your red hair is gorgeous.

  9. Beautiful post, my beautiful friend <3

  10. Beauty is in the confidence that comes from loving and accepting yourself.
    That to me sums up the entire topic. I loved reading this -- very well said.

  11. So, beautifully written, Sheila. Brought tears to my eyes. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of our own beauty and you definitely did that for me!

  12. *applause* fabulous post Sheila!

  13. AMEN!!! I love you, Sheila!!! What a great post that everyone should read! I at least shared it with my little world on FB. :)

  14. Thank you - all of you! - for such awesome comments! ♥

  15. Beautiful post - yes, also words have a beauty that can pulsate through your mind after you've read them and yours certainly not only inspired my thoughts but also touched my heart and this is beauty to me - thank you for this pleasure of sharing your thoughts!

  16. Absolutely beautiful. I too was harassed and teased for my curly hair. I have since learned to embrace it but hated it for most of my life. It was down to my knees, heavy and I always pulled it back. I loved reading this... and Talia was such an awesome and beautiful person inside & out!

  17. This really resonated. YOU are beautiful, Sheila! <3

  18. It is a beautiful post.

    (but "the world of straight hair"? indeed? I have straight hair and I always wanted them to be curly )))

  19. Thank you very much for this beautiful post, it brought a tear to my eye

  20. Thank you for writing such a beautiful and insightful post. Been down in the dumps recently and this post reminded me of the importance of self-love and acceptance. Thank you.

  21. What a fantastic post! And something I need to be reminded of as well. You put it beautifully. Talia Joy was one of my heroes, btw, and I wish I had half the attitude she did.

    Love your picture! Such a pretty lady! :)

  22. Hi Sheila, I had an epiphany once, too, though not about beauty. I was also feeling sorry for myself one time -- it was Mother's Day about 10 years ago and no one in my family remembered. Any lady out there who is a mother understands that this is a more than 24/7 job and if you take it seriously, it takes a LOT out of you. We'd all like to be remembered on the one day of the year set aside to honor us. Well, there I was, boo-hooing for myself, when I happened to look out my back window and see my neighbor with his cerebral palsy daughter (who is now 21 but basically like an infant), and he was putting her wheelchair out in the sun so she could catch some rays. I dropped down to my knees right at that moment, and not even being a religious person (I didn't really know to whom I was addressing my thoughts at that point), but I thanked God or whoever for my own three healthy, happy, "ungrateful" and "unthoughtful" boys and husband. I felt so ashamed and your story about the man with no legs reminded me of that. There is more to life and we all need to be reminded of that every now and then!! Thanks for this insightful post. =) XOXO PS: I love your nail polish posts, too!

  23. PPS, Sheila: somehow I missed this post when it originally was published! I don't know how -- but it was great to come across it now. =)

  24. 3 years later and this post still makes me cry. When you write this I can say I didn't love myself. I loved pieces of me and was trying to love the rest, but I couldn't. I can say now I do and it's a very freeing feeling. I'm a more beautiful person because of you and I'm grateful for that every day. ❤️


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