How do you define beauty? Typically, people tend to refer to physical traits when they think of the word. Resorting to the formal definition of the word: “a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.” I like the definition I came across while researching for this article: “a combination of qualities that pleases the intellect or moral sense.” Personally, I define my own beauty as a connectedness to my physical, spiritual and mental state of being. I like that. Defining myself according to how I look, how I feel and the way in which I think. I cannot fully exemplify beauty without taking all three of those areas into consideration. This helps me to not get caught up in how others define beauty because I have a clear definition of my own.
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”
I have a funny story to tell you. Several years ago, we were out to dinner with some friends. We were joined by another couple whom we did not previously know. Inevitably, the conversation turned to fitness and our friends started to convince the other lady at the table to participate in a group fitness class I was offering at the time. They were excited about the experience they had with me as their coach and were anxious to share the news! My friend pulled out a promotional card with yours truly on the front and gave it to this lady. Her husband looks at it and says “Good lord! I hope you don’t end up looking like that. Who wants to be an overly masculine female with all that muscle?” Needless to say, he didn’t realize it was me on the card. I ever so politely responded…”Me! All that muscle is working out pretty good for me.” Everyone nervously laughed and quickly changed the subject.
Comments like those by the gentleman at our dinner do not bother me. I have been referred to as “beefy”, “thick”, “aggressive”, “overly tattooed” and a wide variety of other terms describing my physical appearance. What is most interesting however is how judgemental people can be. Especially so when it comes to other people’s appearance. Someone would think twice to comment on the appearance of someone significantly overweight, right? Nobody would say to someone overly fat, “I would never want to look like you.” But I have been told exactly that. I laugh and assure them, they don’t have to worry about it as I guarantee they are never going to work that hard.
“If you allow the outside world to define your beauty, you will never achieve it.”
While these comments make for good stories, they also help me define what true beauty is. It goes much deeper than our physical bodies but it is also not devoid of it. Looking in the mirror and seeing beauty comes from connecting with what your spirit is doing and what your mind is thinking. Much more so than the size pants you wear or how many wrinkles you have on your face. Unfortunately, we spend too much time focusing on our physical appearance and defining ourselves according to someone else’s definition of beauty. You have to decide what you believe beauty is and live to that definition.
The trend these days is to replace one definition of beauty with another. You see these new slogans everywhere…
- “Strong is the New Skinny”
- “Strong is the New Pretty”
- “Big is Beautiful”
- “Fat but Fit”
All of these phrases and narratives are still just defining beauty for you. Well intentioned but nonetheless still defining beauty from the world’s perspective rather than helping you create your own. Strong is not skinny, it is just strong. Skinny does not mean you are weak. Because you are strong does not necessarily mean you’re pretty. Being fat does not mean you are beautiful, nor does it mean you aren’t. Maybe we should spend less time labeling beauty and more time connecting with our body, mind, and spirit.
“Never say something about yourself, you don’t want your children to say about themselves.”
As a mother of a preteen girl, I am especially sensitive to this topic and refuse to tell my daughter that being strong makes her skinny. I won’t support the idea that just because she is strong she is pretty and I certainly won’t support being fat is fit. Choosing instead to spend time teaching her how to be proud of how she takes care of her body. Encouraging her to listen to her spirit and showing her ways to make it soar. I challenge her to grow in her mind and learn what it means to be beautiful in body, mind, and spirit. We have a rule in our home that we do not comment on anyone’s physical appearance. Just as she gets to define her own beauty, she does not get to define that of others.
I spent plenty of years focusing only on my body while neglecting my mind and spirit. Decades of my life spent with a lot fewer wrinkles but a lot more sorrow in my heart. I wasn’t always a good friend. My dedication to being a good wife wasn’t always commendable. A lack of connection with my spirit made me less than an ideal parent. But the more time I spent finding my spirit and letting it soar, the more beautiful I became. Challenging my mind by learning, reading and being vulnerable allowed me to finally define my own beauty. I now view myself as beautiful because I am finally connected to all three. My goal is to help others do the same.
“A mind that is stretched by new experiences can never go back to its’ old dimensions.”
-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
You are beautiful. If you don’t believe it or don’t know how to define it, you have work to do. Your most beautiful body is the one you are confident in. Feed it real food and get exercise each day. A beautiful spirit is one that is soaring and a beautiful mind is the one that knows it.