When I was a baby, I had the biggest, brownest eyes you’ve ever seen.
I had Bambi eyes with thick, dark eyelashes to boot. (Pictured above for reference.) My mom would tell me stories of how family and friends would comment, and even strangers would approach her to compliment my features.
These are vague memories in my mind, partially because I was so young and partly because there is something different that I remember about those encounters.
It’s my mom’s voice; I can hear it in my head clear as day as if she’s sitting right next to me as I write this. With each compliment about my eyes or my hair or just how cute I was, my mom—without fail—would crouch down to eye level and say these words:
“Little Lauren, every single thing they are saying is true. You do have beautiful eyes. But remember what Momma told you. What really matters is what’s in here. You have a beautiful heart.”
She would place her hand on my heart, give me a kiss, and we would go on with our day. Eventually, I graduated to a question. A compliment was followed with, “Little Lauren, what really matters?” My teeny little finger would find its way to my chest. “What’s in here, Momma.”
I grew older, but I never grew out of the lesson. (My mom is a teacher, after all). If any remark about my outward appearance came my way as a teenager, my mom would start with a “Lauren…” to which I would interrupt with, “Yes Mom, I know…” Subtle, but the reminder was always there. This was a tough concept to grasp at times, especially throughout my school years. Some may say that’s a little “deep” for a 15-year-old, but that’s how things went in our house. What exactly was it that my mom was effortlessly trying to preach?
True beauty actually had nothing to do with the physical traits that anyone may have noticed about me. What made me beautiful is what was within.
It starts with confidence. Confidence has its way of pouring out with every chance it gets; it will announce its presence through the way you walk and the glisten in your eyes. I’m talking about the kind of confidence where you know that you not only belong in every room you step foot in, but you also have something meaningful to contribute.
And with that comes knowledge—brains are beautiful. Asking questions is important. Self-improvement in every category is essential for growth. Respect your body and your mind, and kindly walk away from anything or anyone who attempts to dull your light.
Be genuine, honest, and hold true to your values—even when they are tested. When compliments come, and they will when you carry yourself this way, accept and acknowledge them with grace. But stay humble and centered. Keep your head held high, shoulders back, and move about with poise and purpose.
The way you hold yourself is quite important; there is no doubt. But ironically, the biggest takeaway from it all is that it actually has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with how you treat others. No beautiful feature in the entire world can make up for a mean-hearted person. The words beautiful and kind are interchangeable. Beauty is inclusive, and selfless, gentle, and gracious.
How do you make people around you feel?
Do you belittle and mock, or do you encourage and empower?
The fastest way to gain admiration is to make someone else feel like the most important person in the world. I like to think of it as a spotlight—the more you shine a light on others, the more eager they will be to turn it around and illuminate you as well. Everyone will shine brighter, and everyone wins.
At 23, I am much less concerned with the beauty of my skin than the beauty of my soul. Your gift to this world isn’t having the whitest teeth or the shiniest hair. It is the ripple effect you create and the lives you make better because of your presence. After all, true beauty cannot even be seen, only felt.