With Eyes That Look Out

With Eyes That Look Out | Darling Magazine

Time for honest talk: I have picked up the bad habit of comparison. Along the way, I’ve also shouldered bitterness, conceit, envy, and—heaviest of all—fear. You might have done the same, and our backs are now sore. When did we learn these very heavy habits.

I think we picked up the weight the first time we believed the cultural paradigms for beauty. A devious myth says that women must adhere to certain standards in order to be seen as beautiful. We’ve added requirements year after year, swallowing the idea that beauty entails dressing a certain way, possessing certain features, and following a certain trajectory. You’re probably familiar with some of these myths: Beauty is thin limbs, a small nose, smooth skin. Many friends, success in the workplace, creative prowess. Education, job, marriage, kids—in that order.

The truth is that buying into a blanket-statement definition of beauty and womanhood limits our potential to live gutsy, generous lives. Bending and compromising to fit a mold means entering a destructive cycle, one that starts with insecurity and ends in dissatisfaction. In our mission to maintain appearances, we have forgotten that our imperfections are not antagonistic to beauty. But fear is.

The fear of not being perceived as beautiful can immobilize us. I have shied away from risky opportunities because they didn’t fit the way I thought my life should look in that season. I have denied jumping in the ocean on a hot August day because the features I carefully concealed would be exposed. In the end, the most dangerous thing fear does is train our eyes inward, toward ourselves and our perceived flaws.

Self-focus makes us critical of each other, and even harsher on ourselves. Conversely, by denying cultural requirements for beauty and taking our eyes off our own imperfections, we radiate more brightly. Audrey Hepburn wasn’t far off when she said that happy girls are the prettiest girls. But more than that, I believe unafraid girls are the prettiest. Women are most lovely when their faces are out turned, fearlessly and generously, toward others and away from their perceived shortcomings.

Real beauty is being unafraid to claim our unique selves and to help others do the same. What would it look like if we sought to make the women in our life look better, instead of trying to subtly tear them down? To help our sisters and friends stretch to their full potential as we bravely stepped into our own? What if we said, “You look amazing,” and meant it with an honesty and courage that superseded our personal fears and flaws? It would be a radical move against a standardized vision of beauty.

Let’s be women with eyes that look out. Let’s be unafraid to claim our distinct bodies, gifts, and stories—however distinct they may be from the cultural ideal—and generous enough to encourage each other toward the same goal.

Photo by {Sarah & Sunbeams} on Flickr


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Annelise is a California native who lives in San Diego after a brief spell on the East Coast. She is pursuing her MFA degree in creative writing and will drop everything for a leisurely breakfast, good conversation, and outdoor activities. Find her trying to keep up with the twitter-verse and collecting words on her website.

2 COMMENTS
  • Debbie September 23, 2013

    Very wise and beautiful!

  • Stephanie September 20, 2013

    Bravo! Beautiful piece. When we look outward instead of inward, we’re able to give more of our inner beauty, which is what the world really needs and what people truly desire. Radiant and fearless love!

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