Reflection on Reflections [Personal Essay on Beauty]

On my walk to work this morning I glanced at my reflection as I often do. My reflection on parked cars, on BART windows, on glossy ads in the station, and on restaurants in the short walk to work. When I got to the crosswalk, I stopped next to a lovely young woman. She was wearing a beautiful skirt that barely grazed her knees and had a sweet and fragile frame. Thin legs that were as thin at her thigs as they were at her calves. Today I chose to wear black casual pants which were practically leggings and my Pusheen sweatshirt. And there we both stood side by side. I looked at my reflection as I often do on the passing cars. The walk signal trickled down the seconds on my right, the precious seconds for pedestrians to cross with considerable less profanity from drivers. The precious seconds for me to stand there and speculate, like a stocks trader at the exchange. I looked at her and started to devalue what I had. Similarly to stocks, it’s all speculation until human preferences and beliefs push the prices one way or the other. I was quickly trickling down to 0 along with the pedestrian sign to my right, flashing brightly like an emergency alarm.

And I woke up. I woke up from my zombiefied state and chastised myself.

Last night I felt beautiful and special. And I was the very same person today and would be tomorrow and the next day and even the one after that. I wasted moments of my life, the same way I have many times before, pushing away me. They say that cameras add 10 pounds, but it is ultimately my own mind that adds the weight. Let’s see….multiply the number of hours spent on makeup with how many hours were spent on exercise divided by how tall I am (in feet) and sum the number to how many cute animals I saw that day to arrive to my self-esteem/happiness level? Really there is no magic formula as to what makes my self-esteem go up or down, but I must understand that my appearance will always be subjective, even to myself.  Especially to myself.

Our eyes are meant to capture beauty, because beauty signals health. But we must evolve from this antiquated metric. Beauty can be and is faked every day. We have spanx, surgery, eating disorders, heels and corsets, makeup and a variety of getups that mimic other people or their professions. It is all fake, and it is that fakeness that highlights a deeper illness. We are becoming sick of ourselves and quite frankly it is a waste of time. Even if I spent just 5 minutes a day dwelling on my appearance, if I started doing this at the age of 12 and live to be 80, that means I would have spent over 2,000 hours of my life thinking about what I look like, instead of who I am.

This illness spreads to our work and our relationships. We appreciate people for how they appear to us. Be it the tone of their voice, the arrangement of their space, or the way they dress. We miss the special somethings, and we forget to point them out if we do see them and then THEY start to forget. And then the world loses the closest thing to magic there is which is the love we have for ourselves and each other. When you seek out a partner or mate, you highlight their beauty or their accomplishments and then they forget who they are and the things that really made them special are lost in the fray of life.

So do yourself a favor, and me and everybody else, and go to work, to a friend’s house, down the street, to the mall or on the internet, and tell somebody what makes them special without saying anything about their appearance. I promise I’ll try to do the same. And the world will change a little because our outer beauty is only the threshhold to all the wonders underneath.


[Image: “Jump”  protected by a Creative Commons license belonging to Rachel Tanugi Ribas]


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