by Jane Laskey
The saying goes: “Beauty is only skin deep.” I beg to differ.
I believe beauty lies underneath the skin, deep down in the very essence of us. I didn’t always think this way. As a young woman, I remember looking in the mirror and seeing only my inadequacies: butt too big, breasts too small, coolness factor non-existent. I thought attractiveness was all about the packaging. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Today when I look in the mirror, I look below the surface.
I can no more fit into some worn-out, shallow definition of beauty than I can wiggle into a pair of my old college jeans. Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to.
It’s time for a new definition of beauty. One that grows along with us, encompassing all the wisdom and life experience we’ve accumulated along the way.
Life is Beautiful
There is a Maple tree in my back yard. I love to watch it in the quiet hours of the morning as a breeze rustles through its leaves and the sun brightens the sky. Every morning as I watch I think: “How beautiful.” I don’t care if the tree is old or widened with accumulated age rings. I don’t see ugliness in the knots and scars the years have carved in its bark. It doesn’t need to be planted next to an expensive house or conform to some ideal tree shape to win my admiration. It just is and it is beautiful.
It is beautiful in the spring when the first buds appear.
Beautiful in the summer when the sunlight filters through its leaves, dappling the ground with light. Beautiful in the fall, its leaves on fire with color. It is even beautiful in the winter when its bare branches are dusted with snow or a fairy tale coating of hoarfrost. I feel the same way about the fox that gracefully darts across the field, the flowing water in the nearby Minnesota River, and the happy children playing in my neighborhood. There is great beauty in all the life that fills our world. It is beautiful in all of its seasons, from blue robin’s egg to bird in flight.
I am a part of it. You are a part it. We are beautiful.
Love is beautiful
Hallmark commercials, Christmas movies, military family reunions – these scenes always leave me reaching for a Kleenex. They fill me with emotion, a deep, sweet ache of recognition. It’s an emotional reflex, as reliable as a tap to my knee.
Why? Why do tender scenes between fictional characters move us? How can news stories about people we never met choke us up? They remind us of the best aspects of being human. They illustrate the beauty of love. They remind us that no matter how solitary our trek from birth to death, we are nevertheless connected. When you act selflessly, bravely, lovingly, you are beautiful. It doesn’t matter how small the gesture. It doesn’t matter how much time it takes or how much it costs. What matters is that you bridge the chasm that separates us from one another. In that moment you are beautiful, not only to the person you connect with but to yourself.
We are beautiful in our connection…
One morning I stopped at a grocery store located across the street from our high school. It was early as I rushed off to work. As the cashier tallied the last of my purchases, a young man got in line behind me. He was doing a pretty good job of looking tough: Goth black hair, leather jacket, sullen expression. He didn’t meet my eyes, just stood there with a handful of candy. I assumed he was on his way to school, fortifying himself for the unpleasant task with enough sugar to get through the day.
A random act of kindness
Acting on impulse, I told the cashier to add his purchases to my total. The boy’s eyes flew open in surprise and an awkward smile lit his face. He looked like the vulnerable kid he was as he muttered his thanks, then grabbed his candy and hustled out of the store. I hoped this small gesture would brighten his day. I hoped it would make his life just a little bit better. I hoped he would feel, if only for a moment, that he was not alone. What I didn’t expect was how it made me feel: strong and good and peaceful. It literally lit me up with happiness. Looking back, that moment is one of my favorite moments from this year. Even as I write about it now, I am smiling.
That is powerful stuff. We are beautiful in our love. We are beautiful in our connection. We are beautiful.
Healthy is beautiful
I just ate a fantastic salad for lunch. It was made of roasted sweet potatoes, corn and pumpkin seeds tossed with a summery vinaigrette and served on a bed of greens. Yum! It made me feel like a million bucks. It was so satisfying: loaded with flavor, packed with nutrients, and oh-so-good for me. A healthy meal always leaves me feeling energized and focused. The more I do it, the better I feel. And when I feel good, I LOOK good. Don’t we all?
I get that same good feeling when I go for a walk, take time to stretch, or close my eyes and meditate. Without fail, I think to myself: “I feel so good. Why don’t I do this every day?” Why, indeed. It is a powerful decision, choosing to nurture yourself. This small choice, repeated consistently, can have a huge impact on every facet of your life.
- More energy? Check.
- Higher quality of life? Check.
- Less illness? Check
- Better sleep? Check
- Increased, strength, endurance and flexibility? Check, check, and check.
- Longer life? Possible, very possible.
Aside from all those benefits, a healthy you is you at your gorgeous best. Bright eyes, glowing skin, and a slimmer physique are the natural result of a nutritious diet and consistent exercise.
Healthy living is the gift that keeps on giving.
It’s the fountain of youth and a potent beauty elixir all rolled into one. It’s not expensive, it doesn’t require a prescription and it doesn’t even require much time. All it takes is the will to make small, healthy choices.
Everything is easier when we treat our bodies well. Why on earth don’t we do it?! Healthy is beautiful.
Joy is beautiful
A joyful person is a beautiful person. I defy you to look at someone who is genuinely happy and not see beauty there. Forget the anti-aging creams and the latest fashion trends. If you want to be beautiful, you only need to fill your life with activities and people that bring you joy. Whether it’s a hobby you’re passionate about, a gathering of friends that you look forward to, or a stand-up comic that makes you hiccup with laughter — adding little moments of joy to your days will yield big benefits.
My husband and I are married now for over 20 years. Things get routine and it’s easy to take each other for granted. Yet he still can, and does, surprise me. That’s when things get interesting.
This February, he started a new project about which he is very passionate. He wants to take his Jeep out overlanding, another name for off-road camping and exploration. He also started a YouTube channel on the topic and happily devotes his free time to making his new passion a reality. His enthusiasm lights up our home and enlivens our dinner conversations. It makes our marriage new again.
Joy is attractive.
It lights us up from within and pulls others into our happy orbit. Joy is healing. It helps us shed stress. Joy is contagious. It’s a tower of champagne glasses, each overflowing to fill the glasses beneath it.
Find something that excites you and brings you joy, then look in the mirror. You will like what you see.
Look below the surface
Today when I look in the mirror, I’m not checking out my butt or fretting about some other silliness. Instead I try to see below the surface of my reflection. Is the woman looking back at me healthy? Energetic? Full of life?
Is she happy?
If the answers to these questions are yes, I know I can hold my head high and walk into any room full of confidence. I am alive. I am healthy. I am loving. When I look in the mirror, the woman smiling back at me is beautiful.
I challenge you to create your own definition of beauty. One that encompasses all of the wonderful things you are. When you do, you’ll find the mirror is your friend.
You are beautiful.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jane Laskey
Jane Laskey is the founder of Plain Jane’s Guide to Happiness. She is a 50+ woman from Minnesota who describers herself as a seeker of bliss, creative junkie and work in progress, determined to make the second half of her life the best ever. To do so, she focuses on the things that make her feel alive and ditching the things that don’t. In her inspiring blog, she shares personal experiences, deep thoughts and eternal optimism.
image 1 source: Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay
image 2 source: Terrillo Walls from Pexels
images 3-5 sources: posted with permission from Jane Laskey