The Beauty Balance

September 5, 2013

One thing I love about my husband is how encouraging he is. He cheers me on and lets me know when he’s proud of me—and he tells me I’m beautiful all the time. And while I love being complimented and knowing that the person I love most finds me attractive, I also know that this 20-something figure of mine won’t be here forever. And that thought got my thinking—doesn’t real beauty need to be told it’s beautiful, too? Just as much, if not even more than physical beauty?

These thoughts consumed me for a while (so much so I wrote about it for Darling’s Issue No. 3 in the spring in a piece called Body Language) until I decided to let Brian know how I felt—that in order for me to continue to redefine beauty in my own head, I needed him to affirm that I had beauty that was more than my appearance. Immediately he caught on, taking opportunities he previously used to tell me he liked my outfit to instead tell me he liked my brain (I love when he says this), or my kindness or the way I write. It was amazing how much more those words meant to me—and how much more beautiful I felt when I heard them!

When I got a compliment—from my husband or otherwise—on my appearance, be it my hair, skin, my clothes, whatever, I always felt amazing for a minute or two and then the feeling wore off, and I felt no more beautiful as a result. Those compliments were well-intentioned, but short-lived. However, a kind remark about my character, I realized, stuck with me for days, weeks and even months, and I think it’s because our character is who we are, while our appearance is fleeting. We build our character over years and years, through hardships and joys, jobs and vacations, action and inaction. It’s lasting, and something we’ll still have with us when we’re 90.

The body fades—it gets stretch marks and cellulite and scars and wrinkles—but beauty that comes from within is lasting and permanent. I can’t help but think of a verse from the bible—one that I read over and over again to remind me of this very concept:

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3:3-4)

Ultimately, I think it comes down to a balance. I don’t think we should feel shame or guilt for feeling good about how we look—but I also don’t think that pride is the answer. That being said, we also shouldn’t feel like complimenting others on anything physical is wrong, but rather focus on adding in more kind words to make note of a friend’s beauty apart from her physical appearance. Balance is tough—at least for all-or-nothing people like me—but it is also important. So the next time we tell a friend we love her fabulous outfit, let’s make a mental note to tell her something later that isn’t quite so appearance-oriented.

What do you think of the concept of balancing our words about beauty? Do you find that beauty compliments carry different weight depending on if they’re physical or about beautiful characteristics? Let’s discuss…

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