March 14, 2016

How to See Beauty in Times of Difficulty.


You never know when your life’s about to change.

Five years ago, I was a blissful newlywed on my honeymoon, basking in the beauty of love, health, and a future with endless possibilities. Only weeks into our marriage, I was diagnosed with a severe case of late-stage Lyme disease.

Overnight, I went from being a marathon runner to needing help to walking for five minutes. The world that had formerly seemed so full of beauty became an alien world, one where I no longer fit.

I no longer saw the beauty of the world, because the things I’d used to measure beauty—health, fitness, and hustle—no longer applied. I hated looking in the mirror because the face looking back at me was a lie—I looked normal, but I saw what no one else could see: the invisible illness ravaging my insides.

Then I heard a lecture by Dr. Wayne Dyer depicting the story of holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, who attributed his survival by resolving to find beauty everywhere. He recounted how many died the day they thought rescue would come, to no avail. Frankl believed they died because all hope and beauty seemed lost. He resolved to See Beauty Everywhere—even in the dirty water with fish heads served for his daily meal.

As I sat there with tears streaming down my face, I knew it was time to stop measuring my life by the ugliness within it.

There’s beauty all around us, but we’re often so inundated by how loud and in-your-face the ugliness of the world is that we don’t see it. But it’s there. It’s in the first responders who rush into danger instead of away from it, in the man who pulls over and stops traffic to rescue a lost dog on the highway, and the single mother who works three jobs but still smiles at you every morning when you come in for your latte.

To thrive through whatever hardships plague our world, we need to make beauty loud. So loud that it drowns out the ugliness. Here’s how:

1)  Start Your Seeing-Beauty Habit.

Every morning, jot this down on your calendar or to-do list: See Beauty Everywhere. Like all things that promote a growth mindset, creating this small daily reminder will start forming new neurological pathways in your brain.

2)  Reinforce The Beauty You See.

Seeing Beauty Everywhere is a skill, and as such, there’s a learning curve. So it stands to reason that the best way to recognize beauty in new places is to start the way we learn best.

•  Visual learners learn best by seeing. Create a See Beauty Everywhere album on your phone and snap a picture whenever you find unexpected beauty, like the illusive perfectly ripe avocado at the market, the flower that blooms through a crack in the sidewalk, or a cat skidding over the hardwood Risky Business style. Flip through it whenever you feel the ugliness of life getting too loud.

•  Auditory learners learn best by listening. Take time each day to truly experience music and uncover podcasts that inspire you, like Your Life on Purpose. During conversations, start listening for key words or phrases that resonate with you. If someone says something you like, tell them! Reinforce the beauty of their words, and you’re sure to hear it more often.

•  Kinesthetic learners learn best by doing. Buy a notebook and write down five instances of beauty you experience every day. (Bonus points for being the beauty instigator!) Put it under your pillow, and read before bed. Bonus: Remembering the beauty of your day right before sleep helps ease a restless mind.

3)  Share.

It was a good idea in kindergarten, and it’s a good idea now! Most people ache for more beauty in their lives; they just don’t know how to get it. Be a purveyor of beauty by posting beautiful images with the hashtag #SeeBeautyEverywhere, remembering to speak verbal affirmation and thanks, and committing random acts of kindness. Resolve to live your life in a constant state of beauty, and notice when others begin to pick up what you’re putting down.

The upside to this is that once you begin training your brain to See Beauty Everywhere, you (and the world you live in) will suddenly become more beautiful. The ugliness of life will still be there, looking like a toddler on sugar grasping for attention. But by making beauty louder, we put an Instagram-worthy filter on what we see, and invoke the law of attraction that says like attracts like. Translation?

The best way to live in a more beautiful world is to see the beauty already in it.

Many ask if I’m still suffering from Lyme—the answer is yes. I’m not going to pretend it’s easy or that I don’t have days where I’d give anything to be able to live a normal life. The difference is, I no longer use my illness as a measuring stick to quantify my worth and the beauty of my world. I see it for what it is: a tool that helps me find beauty in unexpected places, like the husband who meant his vow of sickness and in health, the novel I never would have written, or the jewelry line I never would have launched.

Lyme no longer defines my life. It’s merely the fire that has revealed the diamonds hidden within the coal.


“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” ~ Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning




How I Learned to Celebrate my Chronic Illness.



Author: Kaitlyn Guay

Apprentice Editor: Dottie Hollingsworth / Editor: Renée Picard

Image: oh_darling at Flickr 




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