This post is dedicated to every person who looks into the mirror with a question, and is too often disappointed with the answer. It’s for every one of us that has written a valentines card and then binned it prior to delivery, or almost worked up the courage to tell someone how stunning they are, only to blush and turn away at the last minute. And it’s to those people that we turned away from, the ones left unaware that they caused us such discomfort in such a beautiful way.
Over the past year I’ve lost count…actually no, not lost count, started counting the number of people who genuinely don’t seem to realise just how much they have the potential to light emotional fires in others. How many people out there grew up anxious that they weren’t found attractive by anyone? And how much that blindness to their allure was due to someone, someones, being capable of letting them know of it?
What’s your reaction when someone tells you you’re beautiful, sexy or handsome? Is it instant denial or evasion? Maybe followed by an embarrassed silence? You are gorgeous. Sorry, I don’t want this to come across as trite, this is no half-hearted penmanship hoping to garner kudos from the dispossessed. Instead it’s a heads up to everyone who found a way to avoid letting someone else know just what you see in them.
For a range of reasons many of us in New Zealand (please let me know if this is an international issue…) are subject to social conditioning which acts as a barrier to simply walking up to someone and saying ‘Hi, I just wanted to tell you that you’re gorgeous, you honestly walk with an elegance most could only ever imitate.’ Even reading that I imagine some of you doing a gentle cringe. That’s such a shame. An honest compliment is such a simple way to improve someone’s day, maybe even their year. With the way I was raised it used to take an unfathomable degree of courage to speak these words to a friend, stranger, or maybe even girlfriend. There was the fear of rejection, the anxiety around someone taking it the wrong way, the feeling I’d look foolish. Any society that coaches us to build up walls against giving or receiving compliments becomes a difficult place to grow up with any degree of self confidence. Especially if you’re brave enough to embrace your individuality.
But this social inhibition, this fear of reprisal for offering a kindness is just one side of an important issue. The other is environmental. We are reminded each day of airbrushed idealism. We’re taught to compare ourselves to physical impossibilities. Images are stretched, narrowed, lightened, smoothed and blended. Things get worse though, some of us feel a twisted need to be surgically manipulate to look like these satin haired shop dummies. The terrorists who perform these invasive augmentations are known as ‘plastic surgeons’ for a reason, Barbie and Kim Kardashian are anatomically misshapen PVC marketing gadgets, not an aesthetic ideals.
I’m here now to raise my hand and let everyone know, but women in particular, that I find ‘imperfections’ to be the source of your beauty. Every smile-dedicated wrinkle at your mouth’s edge, every dark or light spot on your arm, every inch of freckled skin. They separate you from the magazine advertisements, the super smooth waxy misrepresentations of humanity. I look at a cover girl image and I can no longer see a person. I look at a face in a skin care advertisement and I know with absolute certainty that all of the people I touched, kissed, held, or chatted to in the last year are far more attractive to me. The hairs on your arms, the birthmark across your stomach, that dimpling on your thighs, that’s gorgeous reality. It’s texture, it is differentiation, it is what gives your beauty depth. When I meet you I see you holistically. The way you hold your head, how much you transform when you smile, the arch of your eyebrows at my comments. I’m not drawn to what you see as your flaws unless you draw my attention to them. And they shouldn’t affect my opinion of you unless they’re all you can focus on.
So how can we transform our self perception, how can we undo the influence of all those who should have no impact on the feelings that are created when my eyes spy your form? How do we reverse the damage caused by marketers, media and merchants? The greatest and simplest way I can think is to take the definition of beauty back into our own hands. That’s it. The responsibility for determining what beauty is lies with each of us. And the best mechanism to reclaim beauty as something personal may come down to simple communication. Every person we fail to address with our honesty in regards to their attractiveness to us, is another of us who hasn’t reached their deserved level of self-confidence. I know that I sometimes fear that my words might be taken as inappropriate, that someone might think I’m hitting on them, or that I’m attempting manipulation. But if I’m an honest person and I tell someone simply and humbly with all my focus and attention that I see their beauty, then I hope that they’ll see my words for what they are, a genuine expression of what I observe. I’ll start. To every woman I have ever made asian coleslaw for, taken the piss out of ‘The Batman’ with, filmed swimming with dolphins, or laughed at German words alongside, you are all so, so beautiful.
And now I implore the rest of you, just stand up, walk out, and find that person. Take them by the hands, the shoulder, the leash, and engage their eyes with yours. And tell them. Unleash the shackles, drop the filters, and let them know just how beautiful they are. Because that glance down at your shoes as you approach, that looking up from under your fringe, that quick shy grin, they’ll all be noticed. And the blush, the quickening of the heart, the gentle perspiration is all worth it. Trust me.