Rethinking Beauty

As you can probably tell, I’ve had a lot of time to think lately. That’s what summer will do to you, I guess (especially when you’re a teacher/student and you have long gaps of free time). I think it must come with this stage of life too – lots of transitions, lots of new things to figure out about how to live well, be a good marriage partner, be a good daughter, and be true to myself. It’s a common state for a twenty-something, although from what I hear, it may last through more decades than just the twenties!

This week I’ve been thinking about beauty, what it is and how I define it. This isn’t the first time in my life that I’ve thought about beauty, but there was something that brought it back to mind pretty keenly a few days ago.

On Friday I went to the eye doctor, thinking that I had a bad case of allergies and would be sent home feeling silly with Visine and tissues, but instead, I left chided for the severe infection the doctor found in both eyes that apparently had been hanging out there for a little while without me realizing it. I had no idea – how are you supposed to know you have an eye infection? So, as a result, I was warned not to put my contacts in. The doctor told me that I need to wear my glasses for what could be a couple months while my eyes heal.

So, I got new glasses (thanks to my mom!), and sunglasses, lots of drops, and came home. I had appointment round two a few days later, and was told that I should throw away all of my makeup and replace it, and that my eyesight had changed as a result of the infection, and that soon I will need new contacts and a new prescription. It felt like bad news just kept getting a little worse. To be honest though, this week I have not been too worried about my eyesight, or infection, new contacts or a changed prescription, I’ve been thinking about how I feel with my glasses on.

There is absolutely nothing unbeautiful about wearing glasses – in fact, I’ve always kind of loved the smart, funky look they can provide. Growing up, I desperately wanted glasses, which was a wish granted early on. However, when one is not used to wearing them, and in addition is wearing them without makeup, it somehow changes the perception.

I am not used to wearing my glasses. For some reason, I just don’t like to wear them as an adult – it makes me feel tired, unprepared for the day, and just out of sorts (even though glasses really do none of these things…). Getting used to what I look like with them on has taken some…getting used to. I am embarrassed to even admit this. I wish it didn’t matter at all to me how I look at any given time. And truly, it has not been ruining my life or taking away my enjoyment of it. But it has played a little with my views of beauty and how I see myself, whether I like to admit it or not. I’m quite sure that it is mostly psychological, but I perpetually feel unbeautiful with these bad boys on. The last few days, I’ve been trying to overcompensate for them by trying to dress as cutely as possible. Yet today I came to the point where I just felt like wearing shorts and a t-shirt and accepting that yes, I was just not going to feel beautiful today, and that was going to have to be okay. And like most of my life’s obvious but important realizations, it was okay. I feel a little down, a little less than myself, but I am mostly just fine, and even realizing that I can cultivate inner beauty while feeling less than outwardly so.

In an effort to cultivate inner beauty, I’m trying to actually focus on things outside of myself. I’ve been reading other people’s thoughts on beauty, and here are a few that have stuck with me as I’ve thought about true beauty:
Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart. ~Kahlil Gibran

That which is striking and beautiful is not always good, but that which is good is always beautiful. ~Ninon de L'Enclos

Taking joy in living is a woman's best cosmetic. ~Rosalind Russell

So I am going to choose to find beauty in joyful living and seeking good for the people I love – again, back to last week’s goal, to give more freely. I want to start encouraging my husband, who is a huge encouragement to me, more often. I’d like to share our garden produce with others: friends, church community, and neighbors. I can give encouragement through notes, letters, and prayers. I can enjoy the beauty around me in our garden, on our street, and in the books I enjoy so much. I am actually surrounded by beauty when I choose to look at it this way, and I am a part of it in some way.

On the more superficial side of beauty, I continue to keep thinking of how much I will appreciate my uncovered eyes and a little makeup in a way I haven’t before, but hopefully with a fuller sense of the beauty in and around me.

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God's handwriting - a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


  1. I totally understand where you are coming from Rach - last year when I had to wear my glasses for 2 months I felt the same way... it is something so small and insignificant, but I understand how it can change the way you feel about yourself. What I realized is that no one else thought about it or noticed it as much as I did. You look great!! Have a great time in Maine!

  2. Thanks for being so real Rachel! I just turned 30 and I still have to work through these same thoughts sometimes. I love to read about the ways you are growing and learning, it is inspiring! And I have always loved the way you look in your glasses....your whole family wears glasses with such style!


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