A few months ago, I was taking a power-walk with my mom and talking about female beauty—as one does—when a funny thing happened.
She was trying to prove that objective standards for female beauty exist. “I mean, look at you, Katie,” she said. “You have a beautiful round face, soft, young skin, and a slight glow from exercising.”
And then she proceeded to explain that she doesn’t possess as much beauty, at least not anymore. She said that because she’s older, her skin is less firm, so objectively, she is simply less beautiful.
It was a bizarre conversation—mostly because I wasn’t feeling even remotely beautiful in that moment.
What she saw as a “glow,” I felt as sweatiness from our walk. What she saw as a “nice round face” and “graceful body,” I felt as a slight chunkiness. I had lost touch with my body a bit while traveling, and I could definitely feel some extra padding that I wasn’t used to. And to boot, my hair felt matted and frizzy, not cute, since I had just taken off my hat.
But I thought my mom looked beautiful. Her hair looked pretty in that moment and her face was lovely and her eyes were kind. And while I sometimes feel like a giant, she always seems to be just the right size.
Plus, my mom is always fashionable with her cute scarves and chic little well-fitted jackets.
So I told her that. I told her that I didn’t feel particularly beautiful, but that I thought she looked quite nice in the moment.
And then we both laughed because we realized something: we all live in our own stories about how beautiful we are.
I was telling myself a story about how I felt sweaty and gross, and she saw me as glowing and graceful. She was telling herself a story about how she was aging, and thus less beautiful, and I saw her as elegant and pulled-together.
There are a million stories we can tell ourselves in any given moment, but what struck me was how our default stories about ourselves are often negative. And how we see much more beauty in another than that person sees in herself.
How often must that be true as we go about our lives?
How often do we see women walking around who are beautiful, just as they are? Sure, we might compliment them if they have particularly fantastic shoes or a really surprising t-shirt, but have we ever thought of walking up to an average woman and telling her she’s beautiful?
How would that make her feel?
How would you feel if someone did that (in a caring, totally non-creepy way)?
I’d feel positively glowing.
So here’s my challenge: tell two people that they look beautiful. They can be people you know or complete strangers. It may take some courage, but do it anyway.
Because isn’t it worth it to wake us all up from our negative narratives?
And in the meantime, I’d love to know if you feel like you notice other woman’s beauty more than your own. Why do you think that is? Let me know in the comments!
Author: Katie Seaver
Editor: Nicole Cameron