Birthdays have a way of pointing out the aging process. Last week, I briefly wondered if I should learn Photoshop, so I could erase all the new wrinkles in the photo of me blowing out candles.
Maybe I could brighten my eyes a little, too; they looked a bit exhausted from motherhood. I wasn’t thinking of doing anything extreme like these celebrity before and afters.
Birthdays also make me more conscious of how I really want to spend my time…and building a false image of myself, no matter how beautiful, just isn’t on my list of priorities.
I keep telling my son, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Maybe I should do that with myself. In fact, maybe we could all benefit from judging ourselves based on appearance a little less.
So here it is, the beauty quiz you won’t find in magazines:
1. Do you wear clothes that make you feel good?
We all have different definitions of what feeling good means, and it depends on a lot of factors—what time of month it is, what we have to do that day, who we’re spending the afternoon with (toddler versus CEO), and so forth. We can all wear clothes that look and feel good at the same time.
A couple of years before I became a mom, I got pretty frustrated with the clothing industry. Every time I walked into a store or saw a billboard, I felt incomplete. Fast fashion kept changing.
I felt convinced that my wardrobe needed just one more thing, and then another. I threw up my hands and declared a no new clothes challenge for myself.
I didn’t buy clothes for almost two years, and no one I met knew that I hadn’t bought new clothes. No one gave me that “she’s kinda weird …” look. Or if they did, I stopped noticing.
I was too busy building self-confidence, finding which clothes made me feel good.
2. Do you listen to people?
Looking beautiful isn’t only about how you dress or what color your hair is.
Sometimes, beauty comes from not being the center of attention or the one talking.
We can draw strength from merely being present and aware, witnessing the world. We just need to lean into what other people are telling and asking us.
I think American photographer in Africa, Bobby Neptune, does a beautiful job of this.
3. Do you make time for your passions?
The world won’t make time for us to enjoy our passions; we have to make it for ourselves.
When I take a little time to do something I love (even though I don’t have time to pursue all of my hobbies with a young family at home), I’m happier.
I really love how this mother son journal and mother daughter journal invite mothers and children to discover the beauty of their common and unique interests and perspectives through a series of thought-provoking prompts.
Triggers remind us of what makes us feel alive.
4. Do you ever make yourself a priority?
We’re hardwired to take care of everyone else first.
It’s a good thing … until self-care falls off our radar. When was the last time you got a haircut? Shaved your legs? Stopped for a cup of coffee alone?
Elizabeth Gilbert talks a lot about this in her podcast, Magic Lessons.
One of her guests was a busy mom who dreamed of writing a book one day. Liz told her to stop making the amazing muffins from scratch for breakfast every day, and spend those 20 minutes writing that book for herself.
5. Do you notice how much effort other people invest before you complain or act entitled to more?
It’s so easy to pinpoint problems when we interact with other people or things they’ve created.
It’s true that some people are just after a quick buck, and our wallets will suit them perfectly. But that’s not everyone. In fact, I’d argue it’s very few people.
We all come from different places. We have different stories to share. Our skin, culture, and experiences are all different.
We don’t know their full stories. Maybe they worked really hard at something or don’t understand your way. They could be doing the best they can.
The most beautiful people I know are the ones who don’t criticize someone the moment they walk out of the room or leave one star ratings for every experience.
They actually smile and say thank you most often. Humans of New York captures these moments and people every day.
Beauty doesn’t have to be skin deep.