I found this great article on Real Simple where female writers share what makes them feel beautiful. The responses range from something a husband said to his writer wife — a week before he passed away — to the importance of physical activity during another writer’s brutal chemotherapy treatments to the realization that one writer’s ugly feet really are beautiful.
Here’s an excerpt from the former, written by author Anne Roiphe, which I found incredibly moving.
It was mid-December of 2005. I don’t know why he said it. I don’t know if a shadow had fallen across him, something appalling he saw out of the corner of his eye. I don’t know if it was just coincidence or intuition that prompted him, but about a week before my seemingly healthy 82-year-old husband suddenly died, he emerged from the kitchen ready to go to his office, his face clean-shaven, his eyes shining, smiling shyly, holding the copy of the Anthony Trollope book he was rereading, and said to me, “You have made me very happy. You know that you have made me a happy man.” There I stood in my work outfit, blue jeans and a T-shirt. There I stood with my white hair and my wrinkles and the face I was born with, although now much creased by time, and I felt beautiful.
She ends with:
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Muhammad Talha
Ten days after that morning conversation, my husband and I returned from a concert and dinner with friends and walked down our windy block toward our apartment house when suddenly he stumbled and fell and died within minutes. As I waited for the ambulance, I remembered his words, a beauty potion I would take with me for the rest of my life.
Another excerpt from author Kathryn Harrison:
The first time it happens, we’re out walking: my little boy holding my left hand, his older sister on my right, and the baby, six weeks old, asleep in her Snugli. We’re still at the stage when my taking a shower seems like an accomplishment. I haven’t lost all the weight I gained while pregnant; it’s been months since I had my hair highlighted to preserve the conceit that I remain as blond as I was at 16; I look like I’m getting as little sleep as I am; and I am wearing a nursing bra―a contraption that, inexplicably, department stores categorize as lingerie. In short: not a glamorous moment.
Still, I feel―for the first time in my life―really, truly, I-don’t-need-anyone-to-tell-me-so, drop-dead beautiful. It has taken three children to deliver me to this state, this symmetry of boy on my left, girl on my right, and baby on my breast. Ridiculous, but as we navigate the sidewalk I feel radiant, as if I were wearing a dress encrusted with precious stones, reflecting the sun’s light. Wasn’t I supposed to feel this way on the day I married my children’s father? Photographs suggest I made an attractive bride, but I was so overwhelmed by the momentousness of the occasion that all I felt was scared, not at all sure I was equal to the promises I was about to make.[…]
My husband took pictures of me holding our first child; we were in a garden. It was March 1990, and the light had the tender quality of early spring, pulling forth pale green buds. I’m not looking at the camera; the baby has all my attention. Wow, I thought, when I saw those pictures―what a lovely face that woman has. It took 10 years, two more babies, and many more rolls of film before I understood: That’s me. That’s what I look like. I don’t always beam at my children―what mother does?―but when I do, I’m beautiful.
And one from reporter and author Jennifer 8. Lee:
Me, I wear size 8: a Chinese-scale girl with American-scale feet. It was not until I was an adult and paid a visit to my father’s mom in Taiwan that my feet’s provenance became clear. I had her feet! I felt a brief flash of resentment upon the realization.
But my boyfriend turned my relationship with my feet around. He loved my feet and found it amusing that I hated them. They had character, he said. Their nooks and ridges gave them interest: a diversity of texture and shape. So I would put them in his lap while we were on the couch or even having dinner. He rubbed my flat arch. He played with each of my toes. He fingered the craggy corners. Their imperfection, to him, was the source of their beauty.
And after some time, I had this thought: Although I had always prized my other eccentricities, I had never embraced my feet―which were, inarguably, unique. So one day, not that long ago, I took a deep breath and dug out a pair of delicate flip-flops from the bottom of my closet; I had bought them on impulse and never allowed myself to wear them in public. I slipped them on and walked down the street with feet uncovered and unadorned. Padding down the sidewalk, I felt euphoric―less from the breeze and the sunlight on my toes than from being, finally, unashamed.
I think we’re so consumed about what we can — and should — change about ourselves that we rarely think about ourselves as beautiful, just as we are. We also rarely pay too much attention to what makes us feel beautiful. We rarely slow down and bask in our own beauty. And I don’t mean this in a conceited way.
We tend to focus more on our faults … ugly feet, thick thighs, big belly — that was me for many years — too short, too tall, too broad, too petite, whatever. And embracing them, you might be thinking, is soon out of the question.
But I hope that these writers’ stories inspire you to pause the fault talk and focus instead on what makes you feel beautiful — even if for just a bit.
Is it something a loved one says? How do your children look at you? How do you inspire others through your career or volunteer work? Do you feel beautiful while you’re praying? While you’re looking through family photos? While you’re exercising? While you’re cooking? While you’re dancing? When you’re helping a friend or when you glance in the mirror and notice you have your mother’s eyes and your father’s smile?
You still might be saying, nope, there’s nothing … but try it. Give it some thought.
Read the entire Real Simple article for a few more stories and inspiration. Journal about it with your favorite music on. Ask your friends and family why they think you’re beautiful. Ask them what makes them feel beautiful. Take a walk and think about it. Think about it while you do one of your favorite activities, whatever that might be.
Once you’ve got it, write it down on a small piece of paper or an index card. Carry it around with you wherever you go. This way, it’s always — or at least sometimes — on your mind.
What makes you feel beautiful? Share it below!