I just watched this AMAZING Oprah’s Life Class on aging and beauty, where she (Oprah) explained that aging has never been a problem for her because she knew at a very young age that she was not considered beautiful in our society. She interviewed Cybil Shepherd, who was the first person to answer honestly that Oprah ever asked about beauty and what she thought of herself. Shepherd said that yes, she defined herself by her beauty. Of course she did! She also admitted that since her beauty was not earned, it made for a shaky foundation. And I’m paraphrasing here, but this resonated with me a lot, and was actually something I have never defined for myself quite so coherently. Because here is the truth: I have been praised and singled out for being pretty my entire life. As far back as I can remember teachers, parents, church leaders, and strangers on the street exclaimed at my beauty and praised me for it. I grew up knowing that being beautiful was my best attribute. I was approached by a modeling scout as a kid when I was out with my parents. My brother was approached as a teenager, so it must be in the family 😉 When I was very young I didn’t really understand it, but as I got a little older I knew that it was the most important thing about me. The thing is though, I didn’t earn it or do it on purpose. I could run fast and I loved to read, but my parents were the only ones who got excited about those things. Everyone else it seemed was interested in how I looked. I remember one day in grade four, being kept behind during recess by a substitute teacher because she wanted me to see her modeling books and show what I could do with my prettiness…I just wanted to go outside with my friends. It’s all very odd when I think about it now.
Beauty on the outside does not, cannot last. It is not earned. And for those reasons, letting it define you as a person is terrifying, because it will leave you. And when does, how will you know who you are? Perhaps this is why I knew I had to go back to school a few years ago: I was no longer being congratulated for showing up. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I really didn’t have to try in my twenties because opportunities came to me even though I didn’t earn them. I’m fortunate to have a mother who is not just beautiful, but incredibly intelligent and the hardest worker I know. She has gone back to school as well, and after raising four kids has earned a successful career based on her inner self rather than her outer self. I’m proud of her, and grateful to have that example so close to me. She makes aging look exciting and freeing, rather than scary.
The message of the Oprah show I watched was this: as you age, you have a greater responsibility to develop your inner life. This is the exciting, fascinating part of aging: getting to know who you are what your purpose is, then living it out. There is nothing wrong with looking great while you do it, as long as you know that it’s not who are. Clothes are about communicating wordlessly to others about who you are inside, nothing more. It’s fun to play around with style, but it does not define you. You define you.
So, are you beautiful? Of course you are, girl! You’re YOU!