I’m reading a book these days called “Your name and other heresies” by a Romanian writer, Ilinca Bernea. At some point in the beginning she talks about what makes a woman ugly:
“What is ugliness? It is something that happens to you. You are told: you are a smart girl, since you are small you are conditioned, like a lab rat, to be a prizewinning pupil and to despise all the airs and frills of a woman. For once. It is the way others see you by dint of what you were programed to convey. It is the way you come to see yourself through the self education you got from the outside. It is a blend of shyness, inhibition and shame of your own image and physical identity.” […] “To resume: ugliness is taming”
And I was wondering how many women feel like that? How many of us have been told in childhood or early adolescence that we are not beautiful, but we are kind, or smart or whatever. Bottom line, we are not beautiful. There is no sense in pursuing such an unachievable goal. But, it isn’t about physical beauty. Any of us might be quite beautiful, if not conditioned to believe otherwise. I always though of myself, not necessarily as ugly, but as unattractive because I’m to skinny. Even when I wasn’t too skinny anymore I still thought of myself the same way. I knew I had beautiful eyes. That was the only beautiful thing I thought I had. And I wore the wrong clothes and I tried to be as dull as possible, not to draw attention to myself because if one would see me, they would notice how skinny I am, and turn their heads immediately, whispering: “Oh, my God! Did you see how skinny that girls is?!” Years have passed and things have happened.
Now I’m still skinny but I consider myself to be a beautiful woman. I walk on the street with my head held up high, the way I dress is complementing to my shape, I love my long legs and small breasts and I look people in the eyes when I talk to them. I built self confidence and I learnt how to use my mind to be seductive. It was actually my mind, the way I think about the world and about myself, about my self image that changed. My body is still the same.
This is why Ilinca Bernea’s words caught my attention. Because she is right, beauty or ugliness has nothing to do with the way we actually look. It only has to do with what we were trained into believing, about how stuck we are in that or the inner resources we have to get out of this conditioning. Most times, it’s the outer resources also. Because, whether we like it or not, we do need a lot of validation from the outside. This is how we learn how to be in the world, how we grow up and form a personality. We are conditioned since childhood to rely on the outside world’s opinion of us.
A few months ago I saw this movie called Eulogy in which an older man falls in love with a young very beautiful, very sensual woman. And towards the end, the man’s friend tells him:
“Beautiful women are invisible […] we never actually see the person. We see the beautiful show, we’re blocked by the beauty barrier, we never make it to the inside.”
This got me thinking. If one is ugly, he\she is not happy, if one is beautiful there’s still no happiness to be found because people don’t actually see the person. That one is an object to be admired but not given very much credit to. It seams there is not way out of how people see us and act around us. Or is there?
There is a whole industry telling us we need to look good, glossy magazines not only give you advice on how to lose weight, what to wear, the kind of make up is suitable for your face shape, but they also keep showing you gorgeous women, setting up an unrealistic standard. The image of that gets into our brains like a parasite and we are no longer able to see natural beauty, the diversity of forms and shapes in people, the body that was transformed by motherhood is not worshiped anymore because the place was taken by that of an adolescent girl. How is that natural in any way? All men should be tall, have wide shoulders and wear tight clothes and a beard. And they all have to earn a lot of money. And if they really want to be The Man, that money has to come from something very special and unusual and interesting and rare, and…. Bullshit! We are conditioned to function in boxes, to think in boxes, to put ourselves in boxes.
We’re not happy. I have given this a lot of thought and a lot of practice. Years. It takes all the courage one can muster and some more to throw away everything that one knows about themselves and look at their naked image. Who are you? Not who you hope to be, who you want to be, not who you think you should be or who you were thought you should be. No. Who are YOU? Strip and look at yourself. Look at yourself as if this You was a new person that you started seeing and you are just starting to know this person after you swore to yourself never to put people in boxes again. And you are watching and observing yourself when you are doing that with this new person that you are getting to know and with everyone around. You will see that in a relatively short period of time you will discover a lot of new aspects and facets and behaviors in the people you thought you new. They will start feeling more free around you, more themselves. Further more, they will start seeing you very different from what they thought and from what you thought.
We are and we act as other people see us, as other people think of us. We take the shape of the vessel they think we fit. And we do the same to them and to ourselves. It’s how we think about ourselves that make people act in a certain way around us. See? It’s a vicious circle. Someone important in my past treated me as if I’m ugly, I think about myself as ugly, I act as an ugly person, others see me and treat me as ugly. Someone important in my past made me feel unimportant, I think I don’t matter, I act as if I don’t matter, other people will disregard me all the time because I’m not important. You got the point.
So strip of any image that you were conditioned into and look at yourself. At first there isn’t much there to be seen, because you don’t know what to look for or how it’s supposed to be. Do you really like reading the news every morning or you’re just doing it because you were told it’s important to know everything that is going on in the world? Do you really admire strong, achieving people, or you look up at them because you were thought you have to achieve, to have power? Do you really like red lipstick or you’re wearing it just because your were told that red lipstick is the only sexy lipstick there is? Do you really want to have 50 pounds less then you weight now because that’s what others made you believe, or you actually feel good and comfortable with your body if you would only lose 20 pounds? Listen to your body, it knows a lot.
Look in the mirror, straighten your shoulders and really try taking a loving look at yourself. You’re not ugly, now are you? No, you are not. It will take time for things to change so shield yourself with patience. There are no shorts cuts. But little by little everything will come and pieces will fall into their places. The real beauty of it, you will discover, is that the places are not fixed. Nothing is. You are fluid, you are changeable according to mood or situation. Let yourself be. And you will become who you really are.