I can hear the words of my mother reverberating off the dressing room doors of the Macy's department store, "Why can't you just be happy with what you have been given." At first it just felt like someone had slapped me in the face, and all I could feel was the aftermath of the burning and stinging that her hand had left on the side of my cheek. You see my mother and I were shopping together for a dress for St. Vitus, also known as the medical school prom. My mom had just picked out a dress that was tight, black, and somewhat more revealing than I would have chosen for myself for me to try on for her. I remember coming out of the dressing room with trepidation as my mother gasped and said, "That's it. That's the one." It was just so interesting to me that as we both stood looking in the same mirror, we each saw something very different. In her eyes, I looked great, I had a nice shape, and if it were her she would wear the dress with pride. While I looked in the mirror and was horrified. I saw every imperfection, every flaw, and I just stood there baffled at how my mother could possibly feel that this was an acceptable dress.
Yet, I have asked myself for weeks the question that my mother did "Why can't I just work with what I have been given." The answer is I don't have a stinkin' clue. I guess I have grown up in a society that has defined the status quo of beauty for me. I grew up believing that the beautiful women will live happily ever after with their prince charmings. I believed that being beautiful in this society was related to your pant size. Yet, it is hard not to be convinced that there is not some validity to my views on beauty as the findings in a recent NEWSWEEK showed that women who were perceived to be more beautiful were more likely to be hired in the work force, make more money, and be more successful. Yet, the more I think about it the more frustrated I have become with myself and the society in which I live.
All women want to be desirable, if they tell you anything different they are flat out lying to you. It is our nature to want to be loved, and thus love and beauty are intimately connected. I had a guy friend of mine tell me once that he only dates "pretty girls." I of course appalled and mildly irritated by this statement asked "How's that was working out for you." But my question rests in what and who defines what is a "pretty girl." Is it only based on appearance or are there other characteristics that weigh in? Yet, I will tell you that I believe that as much as we would like to deny it society does dictate what we consider as attractive. For example, I have ridiculously curly hair. Yet I would move my hairstylist into my home in an instant, if she would make my hair straight every day because I think I look more attractive with straight hair. Yet, in all honesty, I believe that curly hair fits me and my personality far better.
Furthermore, I know in my heart of hearts that as hard as I try I will never look like Sarah Jessica Parker. Yet, there was a time in my life where I thought being skinny was the end all to beauty. I thought my life would be so different- better actually if I was thin. Somehow I had come to believe that men would like me more, that I would be perceived as more desirable if I was a size 0. Yet, what I learned along the way is that this attempt to control this part of my life only led to disaster and destruction. I remember one day I was in Boston for the summer doing research, I remember being in the gym and going to the scale moving the notches that determine your weigh and realizing I weighed 102 lbs. I remember the only thing that went through my head in that moment was I wonder what it would feel like to weight 100 lbs. The truth is I didn't look beautiful, I didn't look attractive, I looked ill. I didn't have rolling curves, I had bony fingers and an emaciated face.
Yet, somewhere along the way I had a metamorphosis. I realized that beauty was so much more that my exterior. It was more about what resides within you. The truth is that over the years beauty will fade. It will be replaced with gray hair, wrinkles, and sagging skin and what you will be left with is a distant memory of the person you used to be. While I still have longings to be that woman that is idolized in our society, I realize that I am just going to have to settle on being me. You see I believe that beauty radiates from people. It is in the smiles, the laughter, and the unadulterated acts of kindness and this is what truly speaks beauty to me. Thus, I encourage you this week to embrace your inner beauty as much as your outer beauty. To realize that there is no criteria that you have to meet, that you possess a beauty that far exceeds the status quo. And I hope that you will find as I have that trading in my skinny jeans for hips and happiness was the best thing that ever happened to me.