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In the Eyes of the Beholder

Some people are naturally hard on themselves, born with an innate need to seek “perfection.” Others have adopted the accumulated voices from our past, the media, family, and friends that can be less than flattering to an already fragile sense of self. These mostly unconscious messages make groves of repetition, and cultivate a critical voice that can be difficult to silence. Women, in particular I think, suffer from harsh self-criticism, and to make it worse, we are hard on each other too. Our expectations for perfection have been force fed to us from the arms of our mothers, from their mothers, and probably their mothers too.

Epigenetic studies have shown that we pass our memories onto our progeny. If this is true, we can also pass messages of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-respect. If you don’t let yourself be seen as beautiful, no amount of outside affirmation of your beauty will change that voice in your head. Only you can do that. Even worse, we are such powerful creators of our realities, I believe we can actually reinforce our negative voices so profoundly, that in the end we become that truth.

On the other hand, some cultures are so steeped in beauty, their people actually are programed to seek beauty in everything, and everyone. The first time I traveled to Italy, I was awestruck from the moment I stepped onto her soil. I was so completely unprepared for the level of beauty I saw in every place that I set my eyes on, that I felt faint of heart. Apparently, it is a common occurrence for travelers in Italy to suffer from Stendhal syndrome. Stendhal syndrome, is described as a psychosomatic condition involving rapid heartbeat, fainting, confusion, and even hallucinations, allegedly occurring when individuals are exposed to objects of great beauty. What was even more surprising to me was how often complete strangers to me commented on my beauty. I saw it over and over.


One particular time I was standing in a little café waiting for a beverage. A small group of young adults walked in behind me. They ordered their gelato and stood there talking and eating. The group actually enveloped me, and I became included in their gelato experience. At one point, one of the young men of the group said to me in his broken English, “you must try this,” as he glided the spooned offering into my mouth before I could protest. I was so surprised by his playful offering, but even more surprised that he complemented me on the beautiful color of my eyes. This all happened in a matter of moments, but not before I found out that they were in Rome for a photo shoot. They were models!

I have thought about this little event many times in my life. It didn’t matter to them that I was a small 5’2” to their lithe 6’+, or that I was probably 20 years their senior. These amazingly beautiful people not only included me in their experience, they quite naturally commented on my beauty. If complete strangers could stop to see my beauty, why then, could I not let myself see it too?

I find that it takes concerted efforts on my part to silence the programmed voices that would have me believe that I am not beautiful. It is worth the effort I put toward my own behalf. It is worth cleaning out and discarding my subconscious programming. Won’t you join me?

Humans are like snowflakes, never two exactly the same. Isn’t the thought of our perfect uniqueness beautiful in itself? Can we, like others, make a determined effort to not only witness beauty in everything, but to comment on it when we do? If we become determined to change our point of view, to the beauty of something, rather than its lack of perfection, our act is simply a shift in perspective… And a powerful shift indeed! 

I ask you to take time for a simple, daily self-care ritual, to make time to tell yourselves a different story. Seek out and see your own unique beauty and comment aloud or silently to yourself. Share your witness also with those you love, and even complete strangers. Comment on their beauty too.

Let us all BE our beauty, and let our one-of-a-kind shine.