Physical beauty is double-edged sword, for both men and women. It opens doors for us, bolsters our self esteem, but because of our cultural complexity, it can also entangle us, get us into trouble.
Clara (Never Again) muses on her new-found youthful beauty. “Now the beauty I had been given felt somewhat dangerous. I wanted to hide it, diminish it. Beauty attracts, and I’d always fallen in love too easily with anyone who desired me. Off I’d go on the romance roller coaster. Only that roller coaster was not like the ones in amusement parks where you step off safely at the end of the ride. My roller coasters always crashed and broke my heart. Would I be any wiser now?”
Being beautiful can become an obsession. Is my hair right? my clothes? Oh, no! is that a pimple? Am I thin enough, buff enough, tall enough? Am I pretty enough to be loved?
As I wrote in my last post, we can spend huge amounts of money and energy trying to shape ourselves to an image that is rarely attainable or even real.
If we do succeed in feeling we’ve achieved our goal, the greatest danger of all is to identify with it. Our culture, with its many advertisements for beauty products and procedures, teaches us that if we are beautiful the world will open for us, we’ll be popular, we’ll find our true love, we will succeed. But physical beauty is an ephemeral security. It can be altered in a moment by injury, corroded by illness, and finally, inevitably, worn away by aging, year by year, until the face we see in the mirror bears little resemblance to the picture in our high school year book.
If it is love we seek, or worldly success, perhaps we need to turn inward to find the eternal beauty of compassion, listening, caring.