Does anyone else hear Damian from "Mean Girls" singing "Beautiful"?
For most of my adolescence and well into my college years, I was collecting two things: compliments on my beauty and a sinking level of self-esteem. I would lie in bed, not understanding why the correlation fell short.
I could stand in an evening gown and feel so exposed and tarnished by the anxiety.
In the last two and a half decades, I've grown to understand there is a vast difference between looking beautiful and feeling beautiful. T
his realization has humbled me in ways I couldn't have imaged and by things that cannot be found in the cosmetics aisle.
Once I started examining these differences, I concluded I feel most beautiful when I look my ugliest:
When I have no makeup on.
I don't feel this way because I'm a natural beauty. (I have the faint acne scarring and dimple-butt nose to prove I'm not.)
I feel beautiful when I don't wear makeup because it means, for me anyway, I am secure enough to walk into my work and Walmart alike barefaced.
Selfish? Yes. A habit grown in college, I would prefer to sleep in for an extra 30 minutes or squeeze in another episode of "Orange Is The New Black" than take the time to look acceptable for people who could never make me laugh as hard as Taystee does.
I guess I would rather be lazy and lethargic than polished and pretty.
And, catering to that side of me — the very real side of me — makes me feel more honest. And, honesty is so goddamn beautiful.
Aside from being an inconsiderate slob, I love that the features I find most beautiful stand out when mountains of mascara and sculptured cheeks aren’t distracting people.
When I do get dolled up, I usually collect the most compliments on my almond-shaped eyes that I rim with liquid eyeliner and glitter-mimicking eyeshadow.
But, I think I have a stunning smile, which is likely my most underrated feature. (Lord knows I endured enough tortuous years of wearing braces and retainers to earn it.)
When I step out au naturel, my smile really stands out. And when it beams, I feel the most beautiful.
After a good cry.
It's not because I’ve mastered the Lauren Conrad single-stream tear. In fact, my cry face is way uglier than Kim Kardashian’s.
But, every time I wipe away that last tear, I feel as though I have shed layers of decaying, consuming and skin-sinking sadness.
This is likely too extreme of a comparison, but a good cry is like a small-scale baptism. I feel most pure and most confident in the future after a cathartic release.
In a hoodie and sweatpants.
If I were a millionaire, I would totally Zuckerberg it and wear my hoodie and "f*ck you" flip-flops all day, every day.
Truthfully, I choose outdoor activities and movie-pizza options for dates because it provides the opportunity to wear sweats.
I was not athletic in high school or college (and I have a fashion blog for Christ’s sake), but I have a swagger I cannot replicate outside of sweatpants.
I have dozens of photos of me looking like a mushroom or stuffed scarecrow in my dingy sweatpants, but I feel most "me" when I can drown in comfort.
I love embracing my more masculine side because the corporate and dating world mostly conditions me to suppress it.
When I can ask (and grant) forgiveness.
It’s pretty much the basis of my entire Christian religion, and I’m starting to see why.
I'm stubborn as a bull. (Actually, I'm as stubborn as a ram. I’m an Aries and am going to fault my stars for why I'm so resilient in my thoughts and fights.)
When I am fighting, screaming or trying to make someone feel small, I look ugly and feel disgusting.
My words may be mighty and pack a punch (below the belt), but they are pushed by insecurity and unbending behavior.
So, in the moments I ask for forgiveness and shine a light on my vulnerability, the ugliness begins to dissipate. Asking forgiveness — and granting it — is a very beautiful experience for the soul.
To consolidate this stream of consciousness, I feel most beautiful when I am being honest, vulnerable, masculine and human, which can unfortunately be seen as "ugly" in our world.