On beauty… and comparison… and being comfortable in your skin

When did you stop believing you were beautiful?

It’s a question that’s been milling through my mind a lot recently. One I’ve been asking myself and one I’d ask every woman I came across, if only we had the time for all the tears and the laughs and the healing. One I’m so afraid to unpack and delve into and… eventually… answer, because it’s probably a Pandora’s Box.

I mean, let’s face it, while there may be moments when we can’t help but appreciate the way our appearance, poise and personality blend together in some expression of our very best selves, being able to live with the firm belief that we truly are beautiful… always… the way well-loved girl children do, is a gift not many of us possess. Anymore. Just yet.

It’s a question that resurfaced recently while I was watching a video interview with the absolutely gorgeous and spunky punkrocker, Meredith Graves.

Forming part of The What’s Underneath Project, the video shows the pretty young woman wearing a cute outfit – one she’s obviously really comfortable in – sitting on bar stool against a wall.

As the interview progresses, the directors ask her to remove an item of clothing every second question or so, until she’s finally stripped down to nothing but her underwear.

meredith graves

Vulnerability.

That’s what it’s all about.

Throughout the discussion, she touches on a number of profound topics. Things like – being judged on appearance alone, not being taken seriously in her field because of the way she chooses to express her femininity, having a problem with her size and learning to come to terms with the amount of space she takes up in the world.

(Sound familiar? It sure did to me)

At one point she says: “I’ve grown up my whole life playing second fiddle to the pretty girl… and it took a really long time for me to realise that it’s okay to be who I am.”

While her words hit home and prodded poignantly at my own insecurities, it was my reaction to them that made me do a double take.

I didn’t believe her.  Not for a second. How could a girl so pretty really feel that way? It was impossible!

Well, obviously not. Because there she was, saying those exact words. Without even a flicker of fishing-for-compliments-fakeness.

There I was doing the judging, deciding who gets to feel insecure and who doesn’t.

Crazy!

I continued watching and listening to Meredith exposing her soul and found myself nodding profusely throughout, especially when she answered the following question (which is quite possibly the pinnacle of the interview, for me at least):

When do you feel at your most beautiful?

“When I’m riding my bike. Always,” she says.

And continues, sharing a little anecdote: “I’m obsessed with flowers… anyway, so I stop with my bike by the side of the road and I hacked all these daisies… and I shoved them all in my backpack and I’m trying to ride in traffic. And I’ve got these daisies whacking me in the back of the head because of the way the wind is going and I realise…

That’s pretty much the only time I feel really, really beautiful is when my circumstances are so strange that they allow me to see myself as a small component of a much bigger world.”

While I’m definitely on this one with Meredith, I guess it’s different for all of us.

For me, I think, I feel at my most beautiful when I find myself immersed in a moment of transcendence. Like, when I get to turn my face to the sun after braving that first under-wave dive on a summer’s day and trail my fingers across the surface of the ocean while doing a little spin and watch the perfect sphere of splashes that follow. A habit of sensory pleasure I’ve carried with me since my earliest swims.

For you, it may be entirely different. It may be found mid-adrenaline rush or maybe in the brushes of a make-up kit. Perhaps it lies in the fierceness with which you fight your battles (and those of others) or possibly when you’re flitting between various selves on stage. There are as many scenarios as there are women.

And, while we’re always tempted to compare, the truth is… we simply cannot.

Because, comparison truly is the thief of joy.

And isn’t joy the ultimate beauty secret?

Joy and maybe finally finding a home in your own sultry skin.

Perhaps Sandra Cisneros said it best:

“I am obsessed with becoming a woman comfortable in her skin.”