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One of my biggest fears coming out of quarantine was that I’d gain weight.
And I hate typing those words because I know there are a million other things to be afraid of, now especially. I know it’s a statement of privilege. I know it’s not even a statement about health, but a fear based on a superficial aesthetic.
And yet, here I am reflecting on the fact that I didn’t actually gain that much weight during quarantine, but also, who the hell cares if I did. Now that gyms are yoga studios are opening back up in Dublin where I live, part of me wants to roll back into high-speed mode and get “super fit” again. But the other part of me is fighting against this desire to “get my body back”—like how pregnant women shouldn’t feel pressure to look exactly how they did before.
Yes, I’ll continue to eat healthily and exercise intuitively with what feels good to me and maybe I’ll lose a few pounds, but maybe I won’t.
Now, when I look at myself in the mirror, I see a lot of things. I see a person who feels. Deeply. I see a person who loves to write and connect with people and who also loves to work out and do yoga and binge-watch the latest Netflix drama.
We are all multidimensional. We can be afraid of getting fat while also caring about the economy post-COVID-19 and mourn for the lives that were lost. When I start to feel down about myself, I think instead about what makes the people closest to me most beautiful. And you know what? It’s got absolutely nothing to do with their outward appearance.
Here are 17 things that I find beautiful in people that has nothing to do with looks:
1. The way we hold ourselves. How a man leans forward on the couch with his forearms on his thighs and he’s concentrating on the TV. His shoulders broad, a dark T-shirt stretched across his back. The way a woman tucks her hair behind her ear and looks out the window as she is thinking about something far-off.
2. The way we get excited about the little stuff. A new favourite TV series is out. Or a crush who just texted us back.
3. The way we listen to our favourite song on repeat in our bedroom and sing so loud because no one else is around.
4. The way we want to give back. And come together to fight for a cause we believe in.
5. The way we say, “me too.” About the hard stuff. The things we don’t want to talk about.
6. The way eyes crinkle when we smile and mouths curl up as we laugh. And my god, doesn’t it always make the person with you want to smile and laugh, too?
7. The way we cry when no one is looking.
8. The way we hold each other in times of loss.
9. The way we relentlessly pursue the things we love. No matter how many times people tell us we should give up or it’s not going to be worth doing.
10. The way someone reads a book on the subway, in their own little world while everyone around them is on their phone or sleeping.
11. The way someone else on the subway looks defeated—wrinkles and lines on their face that tell a story. I feel love for this person, too.
12. The two lovers who hold hands as they walk down the street and keep holding hands as they got on a bus and sit down, all the way through to getting groceries. Because they don’t want to let go of each other for one second.
13. The way a mother holds her child and makes a funny face at them to get them to stop crying.
14. The way we retell and learn how to own our stories.
15. The way a musician performs on stage as if this is the only thing in the whole world they were meant to do. And the girl in the front row who can’t take her eyes off them.
16. The way we just want to be loved for who we are and yet, we do all the things that keep us from really being seen.
17. The way we heal and persevere over and over again in the face of whatever struggles we each may be facing.
I could go on and on and on and nowhere in there would I talk about how flat your belly is.
The writer in me always wants to romanticize darkness. But it’s not romanticizing if these are the things that make us human.
The girl with the perfect hair and skin and body may be superficially beautiful, but I want to know the things she says to herself when she’s alone late at night. I want to know what hardship she has had to overcome. What she cares about. What kind of world she wants the next generation to grow up in.
I want to know the things under the surface. Because it’s when we’re really, truly seen that we are at our most vulnerable—that we are our most beautiful.