”There is a difference between superficial beauty and the inner beauty we all possess as unique human beings. One is the product of the object culture, which reduces us to the things we own and the milestones we accomplish. The other is the result of a life well lived, where our struggles and challenges make us more loveable and truly ourselves. Inner beauty the kind you can feel and others can see, is what happens when you stop chasing false ideals and become the Real person you are meant to be.”
If a picture is worth a 100 words, then this clip is worth 100,000:
I (DM) was dumbfounded after watching that clip. Sometimes I feel as if the whole world is chasing after a mirage. And then I read the following and realize, I’m not alone….
“I began to formulate the Velveteen Principles in a most unlikely place. I was at my doctor’s office for a routine checkup. I looked up from a glossy, waiting-room magazine, which was full of images of smiling, perfect-looking people, and noticed that it was hard to tell that any of the patients around me were sick, worried or defective in any way. well-dressed and smiling, we were all trying to look good, just like the people in my magazine.
Then the outside door swung open and a wheelchair-bound woman in her mid-seventies entered, pushed by a man of the same age who was obviously her husband. After stopping at the receptionist’s station, they came into the waiting area.
She was bright-eyed but obviously quite ill. Her hands shook, and she breathed with the help of an oxygen tank. She wore no makeup. Red splotches and blue veins were visible through her pale, wrinkled skin. And her clothes were not the least bit feminine or fashionable. She was everything I had been taught to avoid becoming- weak, unhealthy, dependent and unconcerned about the impression she made on others.
Her husband, a white-haired man was dressed in khaki pants and a flannel shirt, was small, alert and quite fig. He had pushed her wheelchair with relative ease and then knelt next to her. He pushed back the sleeve of his shirt, revealing a very old tattoo of a buxom young woman maybe it was Betty Grable- and stroked his wife’s hair. As he adjusted the plastic tubing for her oxygen supply, he spoke softly in his wife’s ear. Whatever he said made her smile.
As I peeked over my magazine I became strangely jealous. Here she was, at the end of her life, physically debilitated and struggling. But she was not shy or embarrassed. Instead, she exuded a peaceful sense of certainty about who she was and her inherent value. It was clear that her husband adored her and cherished every moment they spent together. I considered his tattoo and thought of a time when he was young and probably quite obsessed with pretty women. And who knows, maybe his wife was once the girl who had fulfilled his fantasy. But in the moment I witnessed, what he loved was the true and essential person inside the body, the invisible beauty he may not have seen in younger years.
In the weeks after seeing that couple in the doctor’s office I struggled to understand why I had been so envious.. I had a husband who loved me. I felt good about my work and about my two children, Amy and Elizabeth. But I felt, deep in my heart, there was something that older woman possessed that I wanted. It was there in her face, and in the way she interacted with her husband, but I just couldn’t name it.
The answers we need often come at unpredictable moments and from surprising sources. This happened to me on a summer evening as I prepared dinner. I was in the kitchen, taking vegetables out of the refrigerator and grabbing pots and pans from the cupboard while my daughters sat together reading on the sofa in the next room. Elizabeth, age six, was reading to two-year-old Amy. Amy had her favorite blanket in her hand, her best bear, Lauren, in her lap and her thumb in her mouth. Elizabeth’s stuffed bear, Ted, was propped next to her They had reached page sixteen of The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams’s story, which was one of their favorites.
“What is REAL asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time not just to play with but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?”
“Sometimes said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are REAL, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But those things don’t matter at all, because once you are real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
In the kitchen, I was suddenly flooded with emotion and understanding. The Rabbit and the Skin Horse, I realized were talking about the difference between superficial beauty and the kind of Real, inner beauty that we all possess as unique human beings. They were saying that in a life well-lived, where we are true to ourselves, all the struggles and challenges only make us more Real and more loveable. Others can see this quality in us, and make us even more Real with their love and nurturing.
At last I understood my reaction to the older woman at my doctor’s office. She was loose in the joints. Her hair was thinning, and her clothes were shabby. But she showed no anxiety, no shame, no worry. She accepted herself fully. She knew she was precious and irreplaceable. She was Real. She loved and accepted herself as a Real and therefore imperfect person.
The scene at the doctor’s office was made all the more poignant by the fact that the woman’s Real value was clear to her husband as well. To him she could never be ugly, because she was simply herself. At a moment when anyone else might have been supremely self-conscious, he was so Real that he was almost carefree…..
As the pages of The Velveteen Rabbit turn, the main characters teach us how to find peace that comes when we focus on what matters most in life: love, relationships, and empathy for ourselves and others. The Skin Horse is a wise and experienced elder who is generous with what he has learned. The Rabbit is, like all of us, insecure and searching for his place in the world, a place he eventually finds in a rather unexpected new life…. (that was from the Introduction to The Velveteen Principles )
So how about you?
Are you comfortable in your own skin?
What does that look like in your life?
I’ve been on this quest since 1978 .
As always, thanks for reading along. DM