It is a wonder to discover that in a world so beguiled by self-image, we can still discern what it is to be truly beautiful. A word layered with endlessly more meaning than the likes of ‘hot’ and ‘sexy’, to relate it to self is far from media-inspired. Belief in our own beauty can be found with whom the revenue-driven discourage a visit: our raw and untouched selves. It is here where we shall uncover that to be beautiful is no more than to feel it.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have subconsciously divulged into the topic of beauty and attraction with several of my friends. On the subject, one unsatisfied question has continued to raise its arm: when do we feel our most beautiful?
Under pressure, it’s a difficult one to answer. Simple as it sounds, one’s response is all and perhaps even overly revealing. It tells a lot about self – particularly, of self-perception. For many of us, it takes more than just a cold brew to share such sacred knowledge.
I witnessed stammering and hesitation. But in eyes that flashed and smiles that fought not to show themselves, I saw answers too. My friends were simply afraid to present them. And it made total sense. We live in a society which discredits assurance for our own beauty. Self-love is likened to cockiness. Our beauty stands so long as our awareness of it does not. We’re encouraged to believe oblivion, even insecurity, is more attractive.
On understanding the place from which my question had grown (one of pure curiosity), answers did find themselves voiced eventually. Each one shared in it a common concept. My friends felt their most beautiful – and indeed, believed they appeared this way to others – in states they were untouched and natural. After a shower. Waking up in the morning. In the sun, or under the gaze of a loved one.
It is funny, I thought, how we invest so much time, money and effort into the cultivation of our appearance – we buy make-up, expensive dress, gym memberships, hair and nail treatments – and despite all this, we still perceive ourselves to be most beautiful when dressed down. It is not a three hour appointment, but a nine hour sleep that does evoke the long-awaited meeting of our raw reflection with contentment.
It is no coincidence then that many of us have fought off tears in salon chairs. For we look for ourselves, the reflection shan’t ever satisfy. Well aware that appearance is not everything, the triviality of the circumstance makes it no less affecting. In such a moment, it is all we desire – to feel beautiful. But instead, it is disheartened we feel. We become assured of a single, saddening idea: that even with effort, we are unworthy of the beautiful label.
Most often than not, the feeling is not authentic. We don’t truly believe we are ugly, despite the momentary self assurance. We’re simply stressed. Under pressure to look our best, we find ourselves picking at even the things we love.
What we ought to remember is the way our best does show itself. Most often, this is in the moments we are not trying. When we are distracted by our passions, too busy living to possibly care about the way we look doing so. These are the moments when our true selves relax into their characters. For this sake, they’re also the moments when we appear most beautiful.
Indeed, there is fun to be had in dressing up. Taking on a new persona, and experimenting with appearance can be in another manner exciting and motivating. Nonetheless, if it is a sense of raw beauty that we seek, such will not be found in playing another character. For this requires effort and does not come so naturally, it cannot possibly promote genuine self-love. To love our imperfections, firstly, we have to stop hiding them.
Should we stop layering our skin with more, changing the roots of our hair, we may realise how much we suited our freckles; the kink in our hair when we relieved it of our face. Like the landscape, what’s beautiful is most often not perfect. What makes it beautiful though, is that it’s real.
When Deanna and I ventured out on a grey day in Wellington to capture a few shots, I had this idea of real beauty in mind. With me, I took a few of my most simple, comfortable outfits. My face was filtered by nothing but brisk air. My hair, it would twirl in coastal wind, not a curler. Sea spray would provide unplanned texture.
A pair of boyfriend jeans rested on my hips. Their design had no intention of complimenting my curves, and in spite of this – almost because of this – I felt beautiful. In nature, I was a human with a few pieces of material to keep me warm. I was not a sexual object. I was not trying to be. I was a woman, and if you saw my boobs, this would only confirm the fact. It would assure I was proud to be one.
I was as interesting as the environment which surrounded me. And it did not matter the way I posed or the clothes I changed into. It was the way I would explore, pick up stones and smile about the world which mattered so.
What was beautiful about my body was not the way it did arch in certain areas, it was the way it allowed me to climb over rocks and withstand hard shells. I felt the sand between my toes, not in my eyes as I looked tirelessly in the mirror.
I was beautiful for I was in a place I loved. I was held by clothes that represent me, a ground that represents my world. And I did not look eye to eye with myself to question my beauty. I looked eye to eye with a person who was keen to capture it. And together, we laughed and talked of everything but appearance – because these alternate things, they felt so much more important! The sky, and the trees, even that wind at which I can get so frustrated.
They should stop telling us to feel beautiful in our skin, for we ought not to focus on a feature. Rather, we should look for beauty in something larger, like a moment. Beauty comes from who we are, but it’s enhanced too by the places we find ourselves and the people we find ourselves with. Relaxing on long, balmy days, we should into ourselves this Summer. We’ll realise the beauty we’ve been searching for, it’s been here all year long. And maybe, just maybe, we won’t be so afraid to feel it.
Wearing: (1) Topshop singlet, A Brand jeans, MINKPINK cardigan, (2) CottonOn Body singlet, Lulu and Rose wide leg pant, (3) Thrift (Opshop) shorts, International Concepts top (purchased at Hunters and Collectors)
Photos by Deanna Walker