Some Thoughts On Beauty


Photography by Jody Waardenburg

What is it that defines you? Is it your ability to blend in with different groups? Is it the way you look in a certain suit or dress? Is it the books you read, the movies you watch, or even the musicians you admire? I’m sure you’ve thought about these things before. I certainly have. These things are all written on us. They determine the way we communicate with each other, our body language, and the way we dress. I’ll be the first one to admit that these things have a huge effect on how we live our lives and how we treat each other. “I like Bad Company! Oh… you like Beethoven…” On to the next person. “Did you see how big that guy’s gut is? How about the size of that girl’s chin?”

When I was younger, I used to admire the James Dean characters in Hollywood. They were the epitome of tough and cool, always “getting the girl” in and outside of the film. These were the idols of all boys; something we could all aspire to be. I know guys that spend two or three hours a day working out. I think I’ve worked out two or three hours in the past year. It’s probably why I have a big gut and hanging chin.

I’ve never really had much confidence in my abilities or myself. I always had a tight group of friends, but tried desperately to go unnoticed by everyone else. Why did I do that? It seems so ridiculous now! And even more ridiculous is that I still act that way sometimes even today. I’m afraid I’m ugly. I’ve always been afraid of that. I constantly ask myself what beauty is. Is it the way a person looks, feels, acts? At the same time, I should have been asking myself what it was about me that made me feel ugly. Was it my body? My personality? My inability to connect with everyone I met? I tried desperately to always fit in, but I’ve learned that the more you do so, the more of yourself you tend to lose. It starts with bits and pieces, and eventually grows into chunks and wholes. Sometimes I think about all the things I missed out on, like swimming at the beach with my friends because I was too afraid to take my shirt off (I was the one on the sand tanning his arms and face with a t-shirt and jeans on). I find it strange and funny that when you’re young, the world is so new and fresh to you. You have no idea what different things mean and what to expect from them, yet so much of a child’s life is lived in fear of these experiences and what they will do to them: what their friends will say, or worse yet what the people they don’t know will say. When you’re younger, you have so much confidence, yet none at all.

So much of what we do and how we act is based on the way we look and how we think people see us. Do we look the way we want to in that suit or in that dress? Are my teeth straight enough? Can anyone see my receding hairline? One day we will be old, and we’ll look in a mirror and notice that our hair is gone, our teeth are rotted, our limbs are soar, our wrinkles have gotten larger, and our skin hangs lower in places we never thought possible. This will happen to all of us. We’ll stand in front of the mirror and wish we could have our 20-year-old bodies back, with our 20-year-old faces, and our 20-year-old lives, no matter how ugly we thought we looked at the time. I guess that’ll be both the strangest and the funniest thought we will ever have.

In December I’ll be turning 23. Not very old by the standards of the Universe, but to me… let’s just say some days I feel like I’m about to turn 83. Though I may only be 22, I feel like I’ve gained some pretty incredible knowledge in this life. I may not know exactly what it means to be beautiful or what it means to be ugly, but I know how those qualities make one feel in conjunction with what triggers them. To me, beauty is strength of character. Beauty is knowledge and the pursuit of more, not in the physical sense, but in the emotional and intellectual. Beauty is the power to love unconditionally no matter what wrongs or tragedies have stricken your life. We may read beauty on each other’s bodies, but beauty is written on our strength, our minds and our hearts. Never fear that which you can’t control, and never lose sight of the things and qualities you find beautiful, because those are the things that truly define us.