What is beautiful? Something that is attractive, pleasing to look at? Or is there more to it? When it comes to the first impression, no doubt, external appearance can make an immediate mark. If you look at a pretty woman or a handsome man, it is only natural to find them appealing. Regardless of your marital, social or religious status, you cannot artificially deny their external beauty. Pretty pathetic should you do that, if you ask me. That said, if external beauty was all that irresistible why would there be any breakups among the stars, luminaries and the well endowed? Allow me to help you reflect on the notion, definition and concept of beauty. I read a story once. I am quoting it verbatim. As follows:

An elderly woman and her little grandson, whose face was sprinkled with bright freckles, spent the day at the zoo. Many children were waiting in line to get their cheeks painted by a local artist who was decorating them with tiger paws.

“You’ve got so many freckles, there’s no place to paint!” a girl in the line said to the little fella.
Embarrassed, perhaps hurt, the little boy dropped his head.
His grandmother knelt down next to him. “I love your freckles. When I was a little girl I always wanted freckles,” she said while tracing her finger across the child’s cheek. “Freckles are beautiful.”
The boy looked up. “Really?”
“Of course,” said the grandmother. “Why, just name me one thing that’s prettier than freckles.”
The young kid thought for a moment, peered intensely into his grandma’s face and whispered: “Wrinkles.”

Aww… that’s so sweet, right? But will you marry or even look after the grandmother for her wrinkles? Probably not. Will you see the same beauty in her wrinkles as did the little boy? Only if you are that boy. However, it is not about that. Beauty cannot be chained by a string of words or some definition because what is beautiful is never about them, it is about you. It is not absolute, it is relative, relative to your state of mind, to your own perception. Whatever you connect with you will find it beautiful! With whoever you feel secure and complete, you will find that person beautiful. That is why, the wrinkles may truly be the most beautiful thing for the little boy because he shares a bond with his grandmother.

The youthful Mulla Nasrudin was determined to marry a beautiful young girl from a poor family. His father wanted him to marry someone rich. “What’s wrong with you?” he said, “the beauty that’s blinded you is only skin-deep.”
“That’s deep enough for me,” Mulla replied. “I’m not a cannibal.”

I find this joke amusing but it also makes a persuasive point: beauty is what matters to you. It is your own reflection. As you progress in life, intellectually and emotionally, your priorities change. What you find pretty at fifteen, you may not find it half as beautiful when you are thirty. As you understand yourself better, the importance of just external beauty declines in your eyes. It does not mean the visual appeal of something or someone beautiful diminishes in your eyes, it just means you place greater value on other traits. Mostly. In the words of Khalil Gibran: Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.

Swami Vivekananda, the awesome and brilliant monk, clad in his saffron robe, was taking a stroll in Chicago. The year was 1893. The outfit seemed unusual. A couple, dressed in formals, were ranging the same sidewalk as him and the lady said to her man, “I don’t think he’s a gentleman.”
Her statement reached Swami’s ears. He went up to the couple and said, “Excuse me for I overheard your remark. In your country, the tailor makes a man gentleman but in my country, it is the character.” I don’t know what happened afterwards and it’s immaterial in the current context. But was the woman right in her thinking? And was Swami right in his response? Actually, it does not matter. The lady expressed what she felt and she did so not directly to Vivekananda but to her partner.

If you retain the right to carry yourself however you like, let others have the freedom to form their opinions. Media, society, advertising, religion, they all bombard you with stereotypes, sometimes subtly and many a time explicitly. The more you let others’ opinions matter to you, the more you move away from your internal source of happiness. Besides, albeit on an extraneous note, I am doubtful if Vivekananda’s statement holds much truth in the contemporary India where corruption, at all levels and in all sectors, is more an accepted way of life than a grave governance issue.

Unfortunately, it almost seems that anyone who gets the opportunity is ready to plunder. Whether that’s a businessperson trying to dodge the taxes, or the employee polishing his time sheet, or a government worker who doesn’t mind openly asking for his cut or kickbacks. People who are honest, not because of fear and governance but out of morality and choice, are rare gems. There are many workers of honesty but a few volunteers. There may be an emotional denial to my statement but the facts are staring right into the truth — and it is not beautiful to the sane eyes. I enjoyed this little digression, let me get back to the matter at hand:

“Why do you want a divorce?” the judge asked the young man.
“Your Honor,” he said, “I can’t stand her when I’m sober and she can’t stand me when I’m drunk.”

When someone does not find you beautiful, please know that it is mostly about them. (Hope you don’t interpret this as a moral of the joke.) While you may change a little to work a common ground to see what the other person likes, but beyond that, there is not much you can do. If you want to win approvals of others, if that is what moves you, well then, you better dress, behave and be the way they want. If you vainly want to keep the world happy, you have to play a puppet in its inept and clumsy hands. You pay for the dress but the strings come attached at no charge.

If for a moment though, you remove external affirmations from the equation, if you eliminate their acceptance from your perception about you, how will you behave, what will you do? In my opinion, that is how you ought to look at yourself. It is infinitely more important to find yourself beautiful when you look in the mirror than for others to find you pretty when they look at your picture. No one is looking at you with naked eyes; who you are and what they see is out of sync. Their sight is filtered by their lenses of beliefs, perceptions and desires. They see what they want to see — this is where beauty loses its independence. Learn not to bother. It’s worth it. As long as you are honest with yourself and you are doing your best, you are just fine. A long post, this. Oh! even beauty can be a drag.

If you can complement yourself, you can complete yourself. When you feel complete, when your cup fills up, everything looks beautiful. Beautiful is what you connect with, what matters to you. You are beautiful.

Go on, tell someone how spectacular they are and how they have made your life beautiful! Once done, repeat it in the mirror. Don’t tell me you haven’t yet fallen in love with yourself.

Peace.
Swami