By:  Lisa Hayes

Recently, I often find myself looking in the mirror, wondering what my 25 year old self would think of the reflection staring back at me.  I’m not sure why I pick 25.  Frankly, that was a bad year for me.  I was 25 when it first occurred to me my world was falling apart, and maybe it was because I wasn’t pretty enough to hold it together.  I somehow believed that the integrity of the man I was married to was tied to my ability to be hot enough to keep his eyes and penis from wandering.  And he was wandering, and I made that about me, when it was really all about him.

At 25 I thought I was heavy.  I was in fact a waif, a whisper of a woman.  I had a flat iron straight blonde bob.  When I look at pictures of myself at that age, what jumps out of the images are piercing brown eyes that look like windows into a very turbulent soul.  But I was thin.  So, there was that.  Not quite thin enough though.

The mirror image of myself today looks nothing at all like I imagined it would.  I don’t look anything like I used to or like my mother did at this age.  My hair has apparently morphed red, it’s curly, it’s long, loose, and wild.  I am heavier than I ever than I ever thought possible when I weighed 119 lbs.  I am curvy, in an hourglass way.  I have D cup sized breasts that weren’t there when I was rail thin. My skin is porcelain and mostly smooth, but I’m beginning to see lines that look like a roadmap of my life through all my pain and joy.  What’s most obvious when I look at myself now is I am happy.  Happiness looks good on me.  It’s way more effective than going under the knife.  You can’t buy it in a bottle at any price.

There is a concept that beauty is skin deep and it fades.  The pretty people of the world are ok with that.  Skin deep is plenty deep enough to get dates or spouses, and promotions, and all the other perks that come with having a lovely exterior.  Those women who don’t meet the commercial standard of “traditional” beauty fall back on “beautiful on the inside” as if on some level that makes them feel better, like a good person merit badge.

I am closer to 50 than 40.  I know first hand how time changes the veneer.  However, I can’t say I believe beauty is skin deep or that it fades.  Why?  Because at 25 I fit the bill.  The right height, weight, proportions, with flawless skin, and a makeup bag the size of a suitcase, and you know what, I was not beautiful.  Looking a certain way did not save my marriage or make me happy.

I believe beauty radiates from inside and oozes out. It does not fade, it evolves.  A “pretty” girl with a soul that’s rotting can’t be truly beautiful.  We all know that.  However, the most giving, generous, loving woman on the planet, that hides from the world in insecurity about how people see her, isn’t beautiful either.  I’m sorry, but it’s true.

A beautiful woman is a woman that owns herself and carries herself boldly.  The inside and the outside cannot ever really be separate.

As a woman, at any age or any weight, I will not renounce my desire to be radiantly beautiful.  Any woman who says it doesn’t matter to her is lying to herself.  Beauty is a potion, it is power, it is a currency and it is truly possessed by all kinds of women who understand it’s not a finite resource only gifted to the young or thin.  

I think my twenty five year old self would be mesmerized by what I see in the mirror today, at least I hope she would. I think she would be shocked to find my makeup suitcase is a snack sized baggie these days.  I think she would wonder what the magic is, if I’m not painting on my smile everyday.  For that matter, I think she would be relieved to see what a real smile looks like.  I know I am, because it’s a beautiful thing.  I guess I’m evolving.

What do you think it means to be a beautiful woman?