I spent about 15 years of my life thinking I’m seriously flawed. I was the ‘in full acne bloom’ kind of teenager who grows layers and layers of shell to withdraw into. My spotted skin wasn’t really a problem; the way people defined beauty was. But I was too young to realize that. The way they ranted about it appalled me. It was pure sadism the way it was uncaringly pointed out that my beauty was ruined, that my chances of landing a good husband were as marred as my face, that the scars would remain for life. Little did they realize that their lack of empathy would disfigure me more than a skin bump ever could. For a long time, my self-esteem remained fluid at best. In my late 20s though, it became apparent that there were far more important things than worrying about a mere reflection in the mirror. I often liken this kind of realization to a shifting of the tectonic plates that cause the earth to move. And move I did – from hackneyed beliefs, from narcissism, from who I was expected to be.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to be blessed with people who never let me forget my worth. My daughter, Rhea is one such person. She doesn’t use words to express her love, but when she hugs, it’s like the ardor of the love gods descending on you! She is without a doubt, one of the most loving people I know. Recently, I received a book in the mail; a surprise New Year’s gift from her. It was an adult coloring book, the kind used for meditative purposes. In choosing that gift she had expressed so much. It was her way of sustaining my creativity, encouraging my growth and in the process simply saying that I matter. To me, that kind of expression is beauty in its most dazzling form.
In his book, ‘Who Will Cry When You Die?’ Robin Sharma writes about creating a love account. He talks about how our random acts of kindness and selfless acts of beauty can make someone’s day better. He urges us to practice being more loving by making a few deposits in this very special reserve by doing something small to add joy to the life of someone around us. A simple text message asking how someone’s day was, sharing a favorite song, recounting an anecdote or episode, a warm hug, a small little surprise in the mail are little things that say ‘you are loved and appreciated.’ Making at least one person feel worthy should be rated as our best achievement on any given day.
There’s an interesting story about an African tribe that’s been doing the rounds on the internet lately. The identity of the tribe is debatable, but that’s not what I want to talk about. What fascinated me was the story itself. In this tribe, whenever a person misbehaves, he is summoned to the centre of the village. Everyone gathers around him in a circle. Then one by one, each person present speaks to him about all the good he has done in the past. They talk about his strengths, kindnesses and virtues. This ceremony stems from the belief that we are all inherently good, but sometimes we make mistakes. The tribe sees those mistakes as a cry for help. By reminding him of all his goodness, they reconnect him to his true, pure self. In my last post, I recounted how my teacher, Mr. George proved that faults are best corrected by love. This story corroborates that belief. How beautiful it is that someone reminds you of your wholeness when you’re broken; your beauty when you feel ugly.
One particularly enlightening lesson came to me from a friend recently when he referred to me as a ‘kasturi-mriga’ or musk deer. When this particular deer catches wind of the alluring aroma of musk, he rambles on in pursuit of its source. The poor soul doesn’t realize that the sweet fragrance resides nowhere but in its own navel. At a forlorn moment that little reminder lifted me out of my despondency. We are quite often like the kasturi-mriga, searching without for what is all along lying within.
As I open myself up to life, the meanings and lessons become more discernible. Every morning I wake up in anticipation of what lies ahead and as the day draws to a close, I deliberate over the significance of what ensued. My favorite realization is that there is so much yet to learn, but some things I am certain of. I am clear about my vision of beauty and uphold the importance of being beautiful. I am convinced that beauty is not about how you look. It is about courage and smiling through your tears. It is being there for someone who needs you, listening to a friend who is pouring their heart out even if you yourself are broken, making people feel like they are not alone. Kindness is beautiful. Love and empathy is beautiful. Being authentic is beautiful. Unfolding and evolving is beautiful.