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When I say to my little girls–age nine and seven–“you’re so pretty!” am I setting them up for heartache? Am I telling them the same sort of lies as I tell them when I pretend there is an Easter Bunny or a Santa Claus?
According to Julie Burchill, author of an article she titled “Face it, ladies, most of us will NEVER be pretty,” I am doing just that. She is infuriated with Christina Aguilera who sings that all women are “beautiful in every single way.” She claims “The truth of the matter is, beauty is a specific thing, rare and fleeting. Some of us have it in our teens, 20s and 30s and then lose it; most of us have it not at all. And that’s perfectly OK. But lying to yourself that you have it when you don’t seems to me simple-minded at best and psychotic at worst.”
Do I agree with her? I’m not sure. Part of me thinks she’s completely on target and it’s high time someone proclaim the truth. Why should plain women pretend to be pretty when they’re not and spend countless hours and dollars trying to attain something that is not within their grasp? It is a bit ridiculous.
Another part of me, though, believes that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe parents shouldn’t tell their little girls that they are pretty, but I believe most parents really believe they are! They’re not lying. And many times I’ve been talking to a person who does not fit the standard idea of beauty, but the woman’s animation or serene way or compassionate eyes makes me feel I’m looking at the most beautiful face on earth. I think there may be too many definitions of beauty to simply be able to lump people in two categories: pretty and not. Burchill, however, says, “No, beauty is actually a very structured aesthetic ideal, which even six-month-old babies can recognise in photographs.”
I think Burchill is a bit crass but I think she means well. I believe she’s trying to warn women not to make fleeting beauty such a focus in their lives. I am going to be reminded constantly–from every side–that the world thinks beauty is extremely important, but that does not mean *I* have to make it important. As I point out in my blog “How to Be Happy,” our thoughts have an effect on our emotions and our emotions have an effect on our actions. Instead of constantly thinking about whether my waist is too large or my shoulders too sloped or gray hairs too plentiful–instead of using the bit of time I have on earth attempting to fix all my physical imperfections–I should focus my thoughts and use my time in healthier, happier and more productive ways.
And so I return to my happy place. I turn away from the mirror and I genuinely smile as I pour out my love to the people and animals in my life. When they see the love I have in my heart for them….I’m fairly certain they will think I’m beautiful.
Click here to read Burchill’s article.