Claim Your Beauty

 Our lessons often pop up when we least expect them, and this is exactly what happened to me one August day in 2005. I had spent the day facilitating a workshop in Vancouver with two colleagues, Lee and Doreen. At the end of the first day, the three of us went out to supper to discuss workshop events and plan for the following day. Naturally the conversation moved to our personal lives. Because I'm single, Doreen asked how I was doing in the relationship department. I revealed that I had recently enlisted the services of a matchmaking company.

"The thing is, I don't like writing my own profile," I admitted. "The sample profiles I saw all started with, 'I am attractive, I am beautiful'... and I was advised to follow this approach because men often use appearance as a key factor in selecting dates. But saying 'I'm beautiful' is too in-your-face for me."

"It's not that I think I am ugly," I clarified. "I just don't look at myself as beautiful. I'm really uncomfortable writing, 'I am a beautiful woman.'"

Doreen looked directly at me, eyes fixed on mine, and declared, "Margaret, you have to claim your beauty!" I began to squirm. And then I did what I generally do when I don't like where the conversation is going - I changed the subject.

Over the next three days, my mind kept drifting back to Doreen's assertive statement: "Margaret, you have to claim your beauty." She was right, of course . Why was I so reluctant to stand up and acknowledge my own beauty? Why did the very idea of it make me uncomfortable?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that most women feel the same way. More often than not, women are far more comfortable acknowledging inner beauty (intelligence, talents, graciousness, generosity, etc.) than their physical appearance. Somewhere along the way, we learned that it's wrong to "judge people by their appearance," and we've carried that lesson one step too far - denying our physical beauty. We're even reluctant to acknowledge another woman's beauty. Somehow, this seems inherently wrong.

On the last day of the workshop, I was given the task of keeping time and marking points while Doreen and Lee each led a group. I listened and stayed fully present, shifting my attention from one group to the other, and then suddenly I noticed her. There she was - across the room, looking absolutely radiant.

It was several seconds before I realized the woman who looked so gorgeous was me. Yes, me. I had glimpsed myself in the mirrored panel of a piece of furniture halfway between the two groups. And I saw myself as beautiful.

I couldn't wait to share that discovery with Doreen. When I told her, she was delighted with my news. She hugged me and held me tightly. I said my goodbyes to her and Lee, and I was beaming as I left for my dinner engagement.

I arrived at the restaurant to greet a friend who I hadn't seen in months. Her first comment was, "You look absolutely wonderful!" Twice more through dinner, she said, "I can't believe how terrific you look." I beamed even more.

During my ferry ride home that evening, I sat in silence and marveled at the pleasure running through my veins. That night, I fell into a deep, contented sleep that I hadn't experienced for years. When I awoke with the sunshine streaming into my room, I knew the world was good. I jumped up, showered, sang and danced while blow-drying my hair.

Later that morning, Patricia showed up for an appointment. She walked in and started talking. Halfway through her first sentence, she stopped, looked closely at me and asked, "Did you get a haircut?" I replied, "No."

She continued talking as we walked to my kitchen. When we got there, she asked, "Did you lose weight?" I replied, "No."

She kept talking but suddenly stopped and looked at me more intently. Then she said, "Well, whatever you're doing, don't stop. You look absolutely terrific." Patricia's comments decorated my life like cherries on top of a sundae. A smile crossed my face - you know, one of those smiles that go from ear to ear and almost hurt... the kind of smile you give when you're in love.

I'd like to say that euphoric feeling has lasted even to this day, but I have to acknowledge that it has faded, just like being in love can fade. Why? Maybe it's because each time we look in the mirror, we check for flaws. We ask: Is there anything caught between my teeth? Is my hair in place? Is there any lipstick left on my lips? Are my teeth white enough? Are there stray hairs above my lip? The human mission, it would seem, is to seek flaws and flush out imperfections. Of course, if that's what we're looking for, that's what we see. That's why we have to keep our attention on our beauty, the magic that naturally radiates from each and every one of us.


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