When do you feel beautiful?

Today as I was scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, I came across a post by a young man who is in his mid-twenties, and in his post he was making fun of others’ posts. You might have seen that people (women) are challenging friends to post five pictures of themselves in which they feel beautiful. As I read through the comments on this young man’s post, I saw that his friends had joined in making fun of these pictures and challenges. I found it irritating (and somewhat immature), and later when I was out cleaning my car, I  couldn’t get it out of my mind – I was pissed.

What right did these kids have to make fun of others’ posts, especially when these people are supposed to be their friends? My first inclination was to delete the poster from my friend list; I don’t really know him very well. The more I pondered, I realized that he and his friends are just young, and have not yet experienced the extreme highs and lows life has to offer. They are at an age when they are likely confident and don’t have to think much about their looks. They haven’t had kids, experienced the middle-age pooch, or had wrinkles and gray hair suddenly appear. One of the commenters said something to the effect that we can only feel beautiful when we compare ourselves to others who are less attractive.

As a fitness instructor and Tabata coach, I work to help women see their beauty. So many do not feel beautiful. What I have seen in the pictures that have been posted is women not comparing themselves to others, but rather to their former selves. I see women who have raised their children, and finally have time to focus on their health and fitness, and are discovering that they are beautiful. I see women who have lost weight that had held them back for years, and are now confident enough to step out of their comfort zones and post ‘selfies’. I see young mothers who feel beautiful holding their babies; I see girls who feel beautiful when their new husbands see them in their wedding dress.

Feeling beautiful isn’t easy. I can’t think of many times when I actually felt beautiful. I guess it depends upon our definition of beauty, which depends upon whom you ask. I think beauty means strength, confidence, kindness, and happiness. There are people who might appear to be beautiful when we first see them, but the moment they open their mouths, they become ugly. Likewise, I’ve seen people who might not be physically beautiful according to today’s standards, but their compassion, determination, and personality make them stunning.

I much prefer to see women encouraging one another to feel beautiful than posts in which people are constantly complaining or making fun of others. I hope as the young people mature, and they realize that beauty sometimes alludes us, they will have more compassion and understanding. I’m sure when I was in my twenties I made fun of people, and it probably wasn’t appropriate. As I have aged, had kids, battled weight, required more makeup, and experienced true grief, I have learned to be encouraging and supportive.

So keep encouraging your friends and telling them they’re beautiful! Be grateful for the positive posts. If you are entertained by making fun of others, perhaps you should find a new hobby.

Do something nice for someone just because you can. Peace…

I am beautiful, strong, and wise

The picture below would be an awesome inspirational quote, but then whoever wrote it had to go and ruin it by putting ‘learnt’!  Really?  Learnt?  Apparently he or she ‘learnt’ nothing from an English teacher.  Okay, enough.  Ignore that error, and focus on the meaning.

I hear so many women put themselves down every day.  Heck, I hear thirteen year old girls put themselves down.  Face it, most of us have trouble accepting compliments; rather than just saying thank you, we have to counter with something negative: Oh, I’ve gained some weight; My hair looks terrible today; My face is a mess.  Why can’t we just say Thanks?  We need to be able to say that we are strong, even when at times we feel weak.  We need to acknowledge our beauty, without pointing out our flaws.  Do we have fears?  Sure, but we have many more fearless moments.  Admit you are wise.  The greatest lessons we learn come from our mistakes and from the difficult moments we face.  And every time we make it through those trying times, we become a little wiser (by this point, I should be a genius!).  And I hope we are all lovers – lovers of our family and friends, lovers of our jobs and hobbies, lovers  of the lives we are blessed to live.  I hope the hate we have felt and witnessed has caused us to love deeper.  And we need to laugh every single day (working with junior high students makes that one pretty easy).

Why is all of this important?  Because we are teaching our daughters, nieces, and other young girls in our lives to focus on their flaws.  We need to redefine what beauty is.  How would you describe beauty?  Perfect skin?  Long, flowing, shiny hair?   a thin body?  Or is it a smile that causes others to smile?  Is it a contagious laugh?  Is it when someone stops what she is doing to help someone else?  Is it a young woman who enters a room with confidence?   It is difficult to say, “I am beautiful.”  Try it.  Look in a mirror and say it.  Can you do it?  I might start, but then I see the wrinkles and the gray hair that’s fighting its way through.  And I notice the chub gathering around my belly.  And, crap, there are those brown age spots planting themselves on my face.  It’s easy to say all of that.  I can name every flaw on my body.  And when I do, my girls begin to find their flaws – I want them to see their beauty.

I see their kind eyes and their strong legs.  I watch as they step up to help others, and I see beauty.  I listen to Addison play the piano, and I hear my father’s beautiful notes echoing through hers.   I listen to Bethany talk about working with students, and see the joy in her face; that’s beautiful.  I see Morgan mothering her son – gorgeous.  I watch as Tamara talks with her kids and encourages them to stay true to themselves, and I witness pure beauty.  I see the pictures of Krista rock climbing in Lake Tahoe, and see her strength and courage, and I think nothing is more beautiful.  I want all of these amazing sisters to know the depth of their beauty, strength, and wisdom.  However, if they continually hear me picking apart my flaws, they will do the same.

We, all of us, have to strive to be better, while realizing we are enough.  Yes, that’s an oxymoron, but it’s one that makes perfect sense.  We should always work to learn more, to be healthy and strong, and to experience all we can.  We owe it to ourselves to become the best version of ourselves that we can.  But we also have to realize that we are enough.  We are beautiful the way we are; we are wise; we are strong.  We need to quit comparing ourselves to others, which many times makes us feel that we never quite measure up, and just try to be the best women we can be.  What makes you feel strong?  Do it.  I feel strong when I complete a good workout or have a great run.  Oddly, I feel strong when I am sore – that means I am able to work out.  What makes you feel beautiful?  My husband makes me feel beautiful, but I need to work on feeling beautiful without depending on his compliments.  I feel wise when I learn something new, whether it be in a magazine or book I read, or something I have randomly discovered.  I feel wise when I can share what I have learned.  Do what makes you feel wise.

So, since I am a teacher, I feel compelled to give you an assignment.  For the next week, give compliments.  Not just to your family or close friends, but to strangers or acquaintances.  It will make you feel good.  And, here’s the challenge, when you receive a compliment, just say thank you.  Don’t criticize yourself, and don’t give someone else credit.  Just say thank you.

You are beautiful.  You are strong.  You are wise.  Go out and show the love, face life with no fear, and laugh!  Goodnight, Beautiful Friends!
inspiration