“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart” ~ Khalil Gibran.
The other day I met up with someone I hadn’t seen for a while. And to be truthful, I did not immediately recognize her. She was an acquaintance rather than an old friend, and it was only through the conversation that I realized, oh yes, that is who she is. And being me I then felt bad, guilty that I didn’t recognize her. And so I fumbled with an apology, blamed her change in hairstyle, and made sure to mention her past accomplishments to reassure her that I did indeed know who she was.
When you are programed to be a people pleaser, it is not difficult for your ‘guilty’ button to be pushed. But what was the most interesting thing about the encounter was that even as I was covering up for my poor memory, trying to make sure I didn’t offend her, I got the distinct impression that it didn’t matter to her one way or another. She was not sitting there being hurt, it made no difference to her. And I realized that she was one of those women who are not dependent upon others’ opinion of them. Her confidence comes from within.
Of course it is very possible that I am wrong, but remembering other stories I had heard about her, I think I got it right. Unfortunately we don’t do a good job at raising strong, self-confident women. Men, (gotta love them) on the other hand, seem to own self-confidence as a right of birth. Somewhere in our teenage years we females learn to shut down our assertiveness, our belief in our opinions and ideas, and take second place to anyone in the room who seems to know more about a subject than we do. Studies show that girls who attend girls-only schools do better in the STEM subjects than those in co-educational schools. They are not holding back to let the boys shine.
Then there is the challenge of outward appearances. Our society seems to place more weight on outer beauty, on the perfect shape and size, on a one-size-fits-all approach to acceptance. Those who dare to be different can have a rough time of it, often giving up and conforming rather than ruffling the feathers of opinions. The joy of moving beyond middle age (especially for women), is accepting who you are, and radiating that confidence which is more beautiful than any makeover.
Having grown up in the 70s, when Black is Beautiful was the mantra of the era, I bemoaned my white skin, my straight blonde hair and my blue eyes. Inside I was Angela Davis, which was quite confusing to those who didn’t know me. But I rejoiced in the movement that allowed black people to celebrate themselves rather than had them try to look like something they were not. It has been very gratifying to see that look come back into style at a time when people of color in the USA are being made to feel once more as if they don’t have the same rights as white people. It is wonderful to have images of natural beauty for my grandchildren to see, replacing (to some extent) the standards of white beauty that have dominated the media for so long. And even though I still can’t rock a ‘Fro, I happily rock my ‘Euro’.
On the national stage, the mores of democracy are currently being rocked by three young women of color, who are unafraid and unashamed of who they are. They are calling out the tired, stale practices of non-threatening female behavior, of ‘knowing their place’. They are not waiting for permission to speak, they are not waiting their turn, they are calling out hypocrisy and injustice as and where they see it. It is interesting to see the older politicians fumble in their responses, not recognizing that a new world order is at hand.
In the classroom and workplace we are all finding that generational differences can be tough to navigate. A generation raised on instant everything, with answers at their fingertips, are not satisfied with the status quo. We have to adjust our delivery to their needs even as we try to teach them the importance of patience, of trusting the process, of the value of taking time. But if we can swallow our pride we may learn from them. Why should we do things the way we have always done them? Is there a better way? Can we blend some of the old ways with new ways to marry the best of both worlds?
This Friday morning I hope you have found your own way of expressing your uniqueness, and let your inner beauty radiate out into the world. I hope you have the confidence not to care whether people remember you or not. I wish you the patience to laugh when confronted by those who don’t respect your ways or your traditions. I hope you can be open to new possibilities and new ways of doing things.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!