At one point I was sitting in a restaurant in Copenhagen and had a deep, difficult and very present conversation. I was sitting facing the other guests in the restaurant, and my companion sits with his back to the guests. It’s around Christmas time, the 2nd or 3rd day after Christmas Eve, I believe. There are very few guests. Besides us there is only one table with French tourists.
At one point, I notice a lady coming in with her little dog. She is a beautiful woman, maybe 10 or 15 years older than me. She sits down at the table closest to us and I notice that she is looking at me. I smile at her and she smiles back.
I immediately start to worry about why she’s looking. I think I might not quite live up to the standard. It was a public holiday, after all, and I had not taken a shower, I wore a hat because we were sitting in a heated patio, and I had absolutely no make-up on. I signal to my companion that it’s weird that she keeps looking. We keep talking, and it ends up being a good conversation, I remember.
As we get up and are about to leave, the woman reaches out to me. She asks me in Danish, with a strong American accent, if I know how beautiful I am? Uhh no, I say and am sure she’s lying because she wants to sell me something. She keeps giving me compliments and I get really embarrassed and just want to get away from there. We exchange a few polite phrases and then we walk out of the restaurant. When we got out, I was quiet. We picked up our bikes and walked down Bredgade. I thought about what the woman had said. I did not believe it – I could not take it.
Then I came to think of all the boyfriends I had had in my life. They had all said the same, but I had not believed any of them…
It suddenly struck me that it was an impossible task I put the men on. An impossible task to make me feel beautiful and loved, because no matter what they said or did, it would never be enough. I did not even believe it myself. Deep within me was the belief that I am not beautiful, not skilled enough, not good enough.
I was thinking about how many of my girl friends do not feel beautiful. Instead, they (myself included) often feel wrong. We feel that our appearance is wrong, but also our emotions – what we feel is wrong. Although it gets better with age, and I certainly feel a lot more balanced today than 10 years ago. Then I felt the feeling of being wrong right at that moment. Despite the fact that I had just received a compliment.
Beauty comes from within!! Yes, we know that cliché well! But it’s damn hard to believe, when we live in a world that pays tribute to outer beauty.
I once asked the universe what it means to be beautiful. The answer was that beauty lies in the light that surrounds us and that is in us. The light shines purest and clearest when we are ourselves – when we dare to be ourselves. That is beauty – to be you.
So I continue to practice daring to be myself and feel beautiful as whom I am, and with everything I am, both on the outside and on the inside. The “ugly” and the pretty. I have good days and less good days – I’m on the journey and on the way.
So next time you get a compliment, take it in. Practice receiving and noticing if you, like me, do not feel beautiful? Notice if you put someone on an impossible task…
I want to share something with you.
I once wrote a poem on a spiritual education I was on in the US – maybe you can use it.