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What's the meaning of beauty?

How you define it determines how much of it there is in the world.

By Brigitte PellerinPublished 3 months ago 3 min read
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That's pretty unearned. But lovely anyway.

There is the beauty that isn’t earned. The pretty face, the symmetrical features, the perfect hip-to-waist ratio. Long limbs, elegant wrists, shapely eyes. Silky hair that flows the way it should, straight knees, ears that don’t look like barn doors.

Some people are naturally born pretty, in the conventional sense of the word. Others not so much. It’s terribly unfair, and there’s not much anyone can do about it. Plastic surgery can fix what people consider to be imperfections, but it can’t make your legs much longer no matter how much money you spend on it. Well, except for this, I guess. Mais passons.

The average looking may envy prettier folks, but maybe not. Being conventionally attractive isn’t always a blessing. For one thing, it can easily bring you the kind of attention you may not want. And lots of it, too, relentlessly, for many years.

For another, conventional good looks make people assume that whatever you get in life — a coveted job, good grades, that promotion you didn’t see coming — is the result of how you look, not what you did. Being attractive means you often have to devote more resources and energy to proving your worth, if you happen to be the sort of person who wants to be recognized for what’s between their ears, in their hearts or both.

Beauty isn’t the same as prettiness. And as we all know the latter does tend to fade away over time, faster than a suitor’s smile when he sees your baby belly for the first time.

Beauty is something else. It’s the difference between effort and pain, the overcoming of challenges with grace and good humor. It shows itself when you work as hard as you can to defeat obstacles that stand in your way.

It’s the rising sun bursting through the clouds, streaking the air around you with slices of victorious light. It’s the mist rising from the warm earth to fight off the cold air atop it. It’s the smile on the face of the wizened old woman whose skin shows deep creases she earned doing hard work outdoors. It’s the kids in dirt-poor streets screaming in delight as they chase a ball around.

Yeah, OK. But what if you’re not suffering? What if your skin is smooth and clear of worry lines? What if your life is comfortable enough that you never worry about paying next month’s bills? Does that mean you can’t be beautiful?

In a way it does. You can be all kinds of pretty, but you’ll never have the kind of beauty that makes people around you walk into a lamp-post. The kind of beauty that takes a stranger’s breath away and makes him feel inspired just by looking at you. A comfortable existence gives you a lot of cool things, but it robs you of your true beauty.

Pushing oneself out of a comfort zone, setting difficult goals and working extremely hard to reach them, forcing yourself to dig deep into your internal resources to overcome strong odds against you -- all these things contribute to increasing the beauty supply in the world.

You know what else? Empathy, love and acceptance. Those increase a society’s average beauty by cancelling the ugliness of bigotry and hatred. There is nothing more beautiful than a passersby wishing you a good day for no special reason, especially if they mean it. Not everything has to be difficult all the time.

Empathy and love are scarier than training for a marathon. Opening one’s heart, allowing others to see us just as we are, with our vulnerabilities in plain view, is harder to do than 100 pull-ups.

But oh so beautiful.

Beauty is giving of yourself, without asking for anything in return. No matter how scary or painful it is.

And we can all do that.

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About the Creator

Brigitte Pellerin

Fighting toxicity since 2016. Using my voice, loudly, in French and English. Beauty capturer. Member of TWUC, UNEQ, AAOF, the Huntsville Literary Association and the Canadian Association of Journalists. Two-time world karate champion.

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