January 16, 2015

Road Maps and Treasure Chests

I'm the kind of person that's easily overwhelmed. By the kindness of a waitress on an ordinary day or the breeze that blows in sunny afternoon. And on a daily basis, I'm overwhelmed by the indifference of the world in light of all the suffering that takes place. I get anxious about small things like passing a test or an interaction that didn't go as I had hoped. And I've always been the kind of person that can be overwhelmed by how much I have left to do and how little I've done.

So it's no surprise that I was standing in the make-up aisle when I was suddenly overcome by the number of products I was surrounded by. Highlights, blush, foundation, and mascara. Eye shadow, lip liner, and eyelash extensions. Age-defying cream and wrinkle prevention lotions. There are lotions and sprays and tanning beds. The magazines that tell us what we're supposed to look like, the headlines that call on us to be thin, tan, and flawless. The implications that our outward appearance is a determinant of our individual worth. And all I could think about was how many products tell us that the way we look, the way we are, is not enough.

I generally don't skim through magazines, but I hear the messages all the same. We tell them to ourselves. We've been trained to become insecure about a blemish on our face, a haircut that's a little too short, stretch marks on our stomachs, or weight gain in all of the wrong places. To be clear, I wear make-up on a daily basis and I workout as often as I can, I reward myself with new clothes and even bought Korean facial products. In no way am I suggesting that there's anything wrong with wanting to feel beautiful and confident, I just don't believe that a flawless outward appearance is the only way to get there.

In high school, my friend said that it didn't matter whether or not we understood calculus or algebra because at least we're pretty. While I understand that they're trying to be comforting, encouraging, and nice, I can remember my exact feeling of outrage. The anger that arose because I was supposed to feel relieved by someone's perception of our outward appearance; of the implication that the way we looked would somehow be enough to help us get a scholarship so that we could go to college. That somehow the way we looked would help to determine whether we would develop enough self-discipline to finish what we started, that somehow our appearance would help us to further our career. And I remember wondering when 'being pretty' began to outweigh our intelligence, capabilities, attitude, and our individual contributions to the world.

I find that sometimes we place so much emphasis on what our body looks like that we forget about the amazing things it does for us. Your legs, regardless of their length and width, have carried your body for all of these years. They have held you up on your weakest days and were there with you to jump for joy in moments of celebration. They've ran through the grass during hide and seek and they've rooted you to this earth. And your arms, they work. They can bend and they can write. They can pick up a child and hold another's hand. They've helped you to feel objects and to build things, they're your ability to reach out to the world. Your mind, it's a wonderful, magical, and complex tool that continues to guide your perception and understanding of the world. I could go on, but you get the point. Each and every one of your body parts has served you in some way. Each and every part continues to do something for your life. Let's not forget that every minute detail of your being is made with extraordinary and intricate capabilities.

I've always believed in not being attached to something as impermanent as our physical appearance. Of being attached to short hair, long hair, thick hair, or thin. Of not being attached to the number on a scale or the amount of space between your thighs. The way you look can change. It'll change and it's always changing. It has never been our job, responsibility, to be beautiful. We're not alive for that purpose. We all have so much more to offer the world than our physical appearance.

Who you are as a person, that's what matters. Are you beautiful on the inside?

I believe in intelligence, the ever expansion of your mind through books, travel, and new experiences. I believe in having conversations with people who have a different point of view than yours and in staying current on world events. Of challenging yourself to set higher expectations and to dream bigger dreams. And i believe in health, eating healthy, nourishing your body, and being good to your soul. I believe in exercising to add longevity to your life, to add strength to your mental and physical abilities, and to foster self-discipline. I believe in getting adequate amounts of sleep so that you're energized throughout the day. I believe in confidence and beauty in the form of a smile to a stranger, of a hand that reaches out to help without question or reservation.  Kindness towards others, determination to succeed, and the courage to forgive. That's beauty. Our internal integrity, our ability to respond with grace, the gifting of our time, and the mark we leave on the world. That's the beauty that should define us.

I believe in beauty that's real. In the naturalness that can be observed when you become who you are. I believe in our bodies serving as road maps to remind us each where we've been. That scar on my left knee from the bike crash I had as a 7-year-old kid, the burn scar on my right arm that I got from playing fireworks when I was 10. In growing old, your body having all the proof to show it. The wrinkles, flaws, blemishes, and stretch marks. Laugh lines for a life well lived. Grey hair for all of the challenges you've overcame. Extra weight around your midsection from the babies you've birthed, from the celebrations you've had the opportunity to experience, from those delicious desserts you were able to indulge in. Worry lines on your forehead for the uncertainty you felt during troubling days. Your body's a treasure chest holding within it all of the goodness you've received, the love you've given, and the pain you've endured.

You are more than beautiful. And you are more than something to be looked at. You're strong, brave, intelligent, kind and funny. You're a giver, receiver, dreamer, and a doer. You're as bright as the sun and you're so much more than the simplicity of your outward appearance. You are so much more.


  1. Great post! What's funny is that the times in my life when I looked my best, I was a mess on the inside. I think often we put emphasis on our physical appearance because we aren't comfortable with who we really are. Sure, looking good and feeling good are important, but it's important to get to a place in your life where you don't care so much what people think about how you look...you're just happy with who you are, both inside and outside.

  2. "In high school, my friend said that it didn't matter whether or not we understood calculus or algebra because at least we're pretty." Oh my akak mana punya statement ni dear. hahaha. This is beautiful emy. I could never overcome my insecure when it come to outer appearance. Last paragraph tu i baca sambil feeling2 sendiri.


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