Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Inner Beauty Secrets: A Manifesto Worth Considering

“Personal beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of reference.”

Beauty is a concept which countless poets and philosophers have sought to define. It appears that their passion to clarify it, however, may be rooted in faulty thinking: If we know what beauty is, surely we can harness it, shape it, make it our own again and again, as if we could hold onto it forever.

In fact, isn’t this what we as women often do when it comes to our own beauty? We focus on the physical and spend extraordinary amounts of time and money to make ourselves a work of art? We strive to find our ideal style; arranging face, form, hair, nails, and wardrobe just so. And when we do, we’re certain to present the perfect version of ourselves to the world. 

And, yet, deep inside ourselves we know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is not a constant. It changes with time and from culture to culture. According to Horace, the Latin lyric poet, “Nothing's beautiful from every point of view,” yet we act like it is.

In the spirit of expanding our notion of personal beauty, I’d like to offer a new manifesto of “inner beauty secrets” for us to consider. It is inspired by some of the great thinkers of our day, but tweaked for modern women like us. 

“Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depends on simplicity.”

Just imagine the women of Plato’s day. Simple, elegant, refined; wrapped in togas, hair atop the head or in cascading ringlets, bejeweled or not. Their posture and presence exuded beauty despite the simplicity of their attire. Envision goddesses carved from marble and you’ll find a classic notion of beauty that we still admire today. True, our world is different. “Be a Fashionista!” is the call we heed and we may over-value the trendy and outrageous in terms of appearance to call attention to ourselves.

Would you feel more at ease and at peace with yourself if you “settled” for classic, for the timeless? Think Audrey Hepburn. Princess Grace. Goddesses in their own right. Simple and elegant can be a better “look” for many of us. If we let go of societal pressures to look 18 when we’re 60, for example, we may not just be making a wise beauty decision, but engaging in good emotional self-care. Trying to be something or someone we’re not can be exhausting. And self-demeaning. By letting go of the “shoulds,” we invite graceful living in and embrace our inner beauty as reflected through simplicity. 

“In life, as in art, the beautiful moves in curves.”
~Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton, British politician, poet and critic.

How often have we been embarrassed by our body’s curves? I love the mantra, “Real women have real bodies,” and yet we continue to punish ourselves for having them. We idealize the tall, lankish (and boyish) form in terms of fashion models and yet most of us are as round and luscious as fruit.

We can do ourselves great emotional harm by comparing ourselves to others with super slim runway bodies. We add insult to injury when we also buy into air brushed images of celebrities whose faces and figures appear perfect and unflawed.

In the spirit of emotional well-being, let’s move toward loving our bodies as they are: shapely, full-figured, buxom; stocky, short, or amazonian; spindly or shapeless. Self-acceptance is a powerful energy and one that many would call attractive. I know I do. A self-assured woman, one who loves herself as she is with head held high, is a sight to behold!

“Exuberance is beauty.”
~William Blake, British poet and painter

Does an enthusiastic, vibrant attitude toward life count as beauty? Absolutely. When we focus so much on outer beauty, our inner loveliness can suffer. I try to live by the maxims, “What we focus on expands” (James Allen) and “With our thoughts we make the world (Buddha). I have seen it played out countless times in my own life: what I place my attention on becomes more prominent. If I focus on what I’m lacking, I’ll get more of that. If I focus on what is good, right and true, I’ll receive more of that. I know beyond a doubt that what I think about myself will become my reality, and the lenses through which I view the world. This is true for every human being. It is a universal law affirmed by physics.

Consider turning your attention inward and focusing on cultivating your inner beauty: “the virtues of the spirit,” so it expands. Some of these virtues are: patience, trustworthiness, loyalty, open-heartedness, kindness, hospitality, generosity, courage, and more. When you think of the most beautiful women you know, I imagine you would describe them by using some of these words. If they are peaceful, they emanate that and people like to be near them. The same it true if they are generous or kind. We are attracted to people who are exuberant, as Blake said. Lighthearted and joyful women know who they are and how they wish to live, authentic and true.

This, to me, is a fitting image of the most beautiful woman in the world. I have little care for who “People” magazine says she is. She may look picture perfect on the outside but who really sits on the throne of her heart?

Perhaps Shakespeare himself summarized our manifesto of inner beauty best. “To me, fair friend, you never can be old. For as you were when first your eye I eyed. Such seems your beauty still.”

Time passes. Our physical appearance will change. As we age, we may no longer fit societal standards of youthful beauty, but the timeless beauty and legacy of a life well lived, of an inner life finely honed, will last forever.

May your inner beauty shine through and may it bless those around you with its radiance!


Good news! 20+ smart and savvy women have chosen to join me for my new
"Writing for the Health of It" summer program. 

In this fabulously fun 30-day program, we're not going to learn how to write or to get healthy as the title might suggest. You will be invited to sit down and spend precious time with your self. And, in as little as 5-minutes a day, befriend yourself, get to know yourself, as you are now. 
If you've been feeling caught in the revolving door of life, going round and round, join me and a very cool group of women, beginning June 1 for 30 days of 5-minute pauses, self-exploration, and "around the campfire fun" on our private Facebook page. We'd love to have you! Learn more.

*The above article was originally published in Women's LifeStyle magazine, May 2012 edition.
©2012, Janice Lynne Lundy.

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