Faith / Life Lessons / Spiritual Bondage

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

I once had a most peculiar ambition as a teenager, to be the most beautiful girl in the world.  Yes, as embarrassing as it may be, that is what I thought I  wanted.  So I labored for hours before school, when darkness still covered the land, to make sure I looked like a super model about to take the runway.

Yes, I remember the tired eyes and cold mornings, I would wake for my daily 15 minute shower at 5:00am:  the washing of my hair, the drying, the curling, the coiffing, the spraying, not to mention the proper application of makeup.  Out came the bag:   the concealer (for all the pimples), the mascara, the brow pencil,  foundation,  rouge,  eye shadow,  lip pencil and of course the lipstick.   After an hour or so of meticulous grooming, I would head for the bedroom to don my clothing, which was picked out with careful attention to detail the night before.

Public Domain
Photo: Karen Arnold

Complete with color matching each item, the adding of playful accessories and the right purse and shoes, I would look like I was dressed to attend an imperial wedding.     Am I sounding shallow?  Anyhow, I usually felt pretty dapper as I headed out to board the high yellow bus that habitually showed up at 7:00am on my cul-de-sac;  except, per chance, the day I looked down in first period study hall to find I accidentally wore two different shoes on my feet:   pure mortification!

Perhaps I can blame my superficiality on playing with barbie dolls,  airbrushed magazine covers or just plain youthful insecurity.  Regardless, it was a useless endeavor.  For outward beauty is fleeting, and there is always someone more beautiful, more talented and trendy.  Beauty is also subjective.  Lets take a piece of artwork for example:  Picasso’s, Dora Maar au Chat.  Now to Picasso and perhaps others, the painting is that of a masterpiece, depicting his lover seated on a high chair;  Some however, may think it resembles the Wicked Witch of the West who turned green after drinking a  glass of drano.  My sentiments exactly.

So the saying goes:  “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

But true beauty comes from within.  It stands the test of time, it endures the ebb and flow of life, it preservers.  It’s there in the laughter even when the heart may ache;  It’s there after a long day to make dinner or read a story to a child.  It’s there amid the wrinkles and the extra belly fat.  It’s seen on the face of a middle-aged woman, through a New York window, feeding her Mother with dementia.    Beauty twinkles in the eye of the paralyzed vet crossing 5th avenue;   and it’s been the favorite topic of poets and writers throughout generations.  Even the Bible mentions how one should view beauty:

“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious,” 1 Peter 3:3-4.

What I didn’t know at the time, was that when God makes us he throws away the mold.  Every person is beautiful because we are a work of art, unique and complex, in his eye’s.    I’ve learned that being beautiful is not about trying to look and act like someone else, but by discovering the meaning of life and the distinctive qualities that make me different from others.  It’s what they call in french, the cachet, “the stamp”, or mark.  It’s the very thing that makes us different which makes us beautiful, in addition, to the outflowing of what comes from our heart.

Public Domain
Photo: Karen Arnold

I once heard an interview, given by Bette Midler, over the radio.    It has always stuck with me.  She recalled how insecure and unattractive she felt growing up;  how she always felt that her big nose and quirky ways didn’t “fit” the mold for an aspiring actress, singer.  Until one day, she realized that the very things that made her feel different and awkward, turned out to be the very things that made her famous and loved.  She was able to embrace who God made her to be, her differences and all.

Let me leave you with a few of my favorite quotes on beauty:

“The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eye’s, because that is the doorway of her heart, the place where love resides.”

                                                                                                                                                                                             Audrey Hepburn

“Beauty is when you can appreciate yourself.  When you love yourself, that’s when you’re most beautiful.”

                                                                                                                                                                                              Zoe Kravitz

“People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

                                                                                                                                                                                              Elisabeth Kugler-Ross