Thursday, 9 July 2015

How to be Beautiful

If you know me well, you will know that two and half years ago I stopped exercising. Stopped. Nada. Cold turkey. And if you know me really well, you will know that this is one of the difficult personal challenges I have ever faced. I still tear up every time a runner goes by. You see, for me, exercise was not a passing craze. I ALWAYS did it in some form or another. More than being a just a hobby, exercise was the thing that made me feel strong, made me feel energized, and more than anything, it was the thing that made me feel beautiful. So you can imagine the slough of challenges that surfaced as I accepted that this wasn't just a passing phase in my life. I can admit that in the absence of this thing that made me feel beautiful, there were many days when I felt just the opposite—weak, lethargic, and ugly. And I can I also admit that I treaded (and still continue somewhat) in these feelings for some time, but, like so many things, I realized that stagnating in these feelings was a choice. I could continue to wallow in a place of weakness and dis-beauty, because on some level that is a reality, or I could move on and seek beauty in other ways. Now, I wish I could say this was a simple choice where I woke up one day and was all like, “Hey, today I decided I am beautiful again,” But it wasn't, and it isn't. As much as beauty is a choice, it is also a process that takes time—a feeling that is rediscovered. But, I'm happy to say that I am at least on the way back to that feeling, and along the way, a few things have surfaced that have helped in that rediscovery process. the event that you ever find yourself in a similar place, I'd like to share this with you...

How to Be Beautiful

Take a long, hard look at the next infant you see – This is not hard. What do you see? No matter what shape, size, and regardless of features, and, assuming that you are not an evil troll, that baby is beautiful. Perfect, even. And what more are you than a grown piece of that perfection and beauty? For me, this strikes home time and time again as I watch my two little girls grow. Many times people have commented, “Oh, Genevieve has your legs,” or “Melea's eyes are just like yours!” And do you know what? They are absolutely right. Genevieve does have my legs, and Melea's sweet eyes are just like mine! And do you know what else? Those little legs and those sweet eyes are complete perfection, and, what's more, they are growing everyday! And they are no less beautiful for it. So what different are my legs or my eyes 30 years on than an extension of that same beauty? On this point, I make an effort to be conscious of the joy I feel when I behold the beauty of my little girls and extend some of that same joy into how I regard my own self, and on the flip side, I try to monitor my own negative self-talk about my body regarding this bump or that lump, and realize that that negativity is easily reflected onto my children's feelings of beauty. I find this to be a powerful deterrent.

Visualize your body as an entity separate from yourself – Consider all the things about that entity. Consider all the things that body has accomplished or endured. For me, I can look at my body which, just in past six years, bore, nursed, and raised three children, endured two and half years of illness, allowed me to experience all manners of pleasure and pain, and facilitated the countless functional acts that enable me to be a participant in this world. That's pretty awesome!! Maybe your body has taken you to faraway places, made great career accomplishments, accomplished great physical feats, nurtured others, or endured trauma or injury-- whatever the case, it has been there, for better or worse, every step of the way...Now consider how you would talk to that separate entity... Because, I see this happening and do it myself all the time...Would you call your body disgusting, ugly, or lazy? Would you call that entity fat or scrutinize its individual parts? Or would choose to be more supportive, and say something like, “Hey, Good job! Keep going!” or “That was tough, but tomorrow's another day. Hang in there.” When I look back objectively, this sort of negative self-talk has been a constant in my psyche for as long as I can remember, and do you know what? It's gotten me nowhere and certainly never to a place where I was satisfied enough with my body to change that self-talk to anything positive. So why not give this a try?

Try something new. Find a new beautiful – Of course beauty is multi-faceted, certainly not limited to physicality, and it can be found in places you've never been. So if you ever find yourself in a place where you are not finding that beautiful feeling where you are, try somewhere new. Make a commitment to try something that you've always wanted to try, or dig deep and nurture those gifts that you know you have but have left half-open. Discover your inner yogi, artist, lover, reader, writer, gardener, chef, whatever...The opportunities here are endless, but with a little concerted effort, hopefully you will find 'beautiful feeling' in a most powerful way--that is by something you do. And finally...

Beauty is not something you get back to, it is something you move forward to – Because I just happen to be at this stage in my life, so often I hear friends talk about getting back their pre-baby body or pre-baby interests, whatever they may be. Maybe this speaks to a time when they feel they were sexier, smaller, free-er, more independent, firmer, or had more interests, probably all of those things and more. And there is probably some truth to that. But I can tell you from personal experience, if you seek beauty in things past, you may as well be chasing unicorns. It strikes me still that when I FINALLY get the chance to go out on the town in the evening like the good old days, how I find that I miss Alistair and being part of our cozy bedtime routine or how when I have actually managed to fit back into those pre-pregnancy jeans, there is some feeling of small victory perhaps but definitely not beauty. Those jeans may physically fit, but in any other way that counts, they do not 'fit' the person I am today. Having said that, I am exceedingly grateful for moments like these in my life. They are the push that helps me to discover beauty in my present self—a mother, a lover, a friend, a writer. So wherever you are in life, if it is that you are no longer getting that 'beautiful buzz' you once did when you were a high school soccer superstar or if you find you're looking at old photos and wistfully remembering how things used to be, whatever you do, DO NOT consider this your cue to hang up your 'beautiful' hat! Just the opposite...enjoy the memories and continue forward in pursuit of new ways of finding that feeling.

The older I get, the more the old adage rings true...'Life is a journey, not a destination,' and this matter is no different. The way I see it, there won't be a time when I magically 'achieve beauty' and then have it forever-after. It will always be elusive, coming and going, and maybe that's the point. The loss of exercise, while still devastating to me, has challenged me to find beauty and strength beyond physicality, taken me places—good places—that I may have never gone otherwise, and ultimately fostered healthy growth. Wondering where I would be or what I would be doing otherwise had this trial not befallen me is a path I go down more often than I care to admit, but, I am where I am, and there is beauty to be found here just as much as anywhere else.

            For Carla and Courtney for your inspiration and for Rebecca because you asked.


  1. Bravo Adele! I'm going through the first part of that right now - what a timely post. Thank you.

  2. Love. Thanks <3
    Obviously I can relate to a lot of this at the moment...particularly the second last paragraph (why do we care so much about those damn jeans?!)
    As I move through this last stage of my pregnancy and transition into motherhood, I am determined to focus on the beauty there is to be found in the strength and magic of my body. (And muse on the perfection of my infant :))

  3. Well said Adele! However, the only traits I share with my beautiful boys are our webbed toes. And try as I might, I don't find them beautiful!!