beauty and the beast

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I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about how we think about ourselves physically, and believe that the way we think about the way we look and the way we are, are two sides of the same coin.

I think that the fear of being labelled as arrogant, vain, shallow or self-absorbed might actually make us focus less on what we like about ourselves, and more on the things we don’t like. Or perhaps even, to acknowledge or notice flaws or faults that we did not initially recognise as ‘bad’ things to begin with, because it is a social faux pas to think that you are beautiful or handsome.

People tell me that it takes strength to admit your weaknesses, and it does. Acknowledging what you are bad at is difficult. However, you shore up the vulnerability you expose yourself to by admitting the weakness in the first place.

There is strength in knowing what you are bad at, but acknowledging what we are good at and like – let alone love – about ourselves is even more difficult, and makes us vulnerable to criticism. As a nation, we care way too much about what other people think about the way we look, but don’t actually seem to like the way we look and undervalue our own opinions.

It seems ingrained that we think that thinking highly of ourselves, being proud of our appearance and displaying confidence are bad things. That there is weakness in these characteristics, and maybe there is if you harness them in certain ways, but how is acknowledging the things you like about yourself a weakness? How is acknowledging a truth or your positive feelings about who you are and the way you lo0k endemic of haughtiness or arrogance? I think real strength lies in really knowing who you are, the good and the bad, the beauty and the beast.

Everyone tells me I am attractive, beautiful even. But I have been incapable – until recently – of even acknowledging what anyone else sees.

Now, I seem to have reached a place with myself physically where I no longer hate the way I look, and I acknowledge how other people see me and what others think, but I still struggle to see it. I understand that I am beautiful because it is what people say, but it isn’t often that I see it with my own eyes.

On that rare occasion where I do sit down in front of the mirror and think ‘I look beautiful today’, I instantly scold myself for the thought. I scold myself because I think that it is bad for me to think this. Luckily I am mostly past the absurd idea that I am only beautiful if other people think I am, that my opinion is irrelevant and mostly past scolding myself for acknowledging the fact that I am beautiful – even if I don’t quite see it the way others do. I’m a work in progress.

The more comfortable I am with the way I am,  the more I see and like the way I look, and the less afraid I am to admit that I am both beauty and the beast. We all are beauty, and we are all the beast.

It’s a powerful feeling. But the most powerful feeling of all comes not from the days I think I look beautiful, but from the days when I don’t even notice the way I look. I don’t feel the need to judge myself, I just let myself enjoy the moment, and nothing else matters.

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