Saturday, June 4, 2022
This week, my daughter Charlotte decided to go through, then digitize, a number of old paper photographs that my mother had taken and meticulously catalogued in album after album during her too-short lifetime. Mostly, Charlotte was interested in finding photos of her infancy and early childhood which, of course, her grandmother had troves of. Charlotte was having a ball mining for these little treasures. She sat by the printer-scanner for hours, well into the evening. Each time she found a photo of note, she’d joyfully describe her new discovery loudly enough for the entire neighborhood to hear, including her mother, Annie, who appeared in many of the photographs and, who seemed, as the hours dragged on, to be enjoying the festivities a great deal less than her daughter.
See, Charlotte’s common refrain upon finding a picture of Annie was to exclaim, “Mom you were so beautiful!” or something to that effect. As I watched this wider interaction unfold, I could see Annie becoming more and more upset. The issue wasn’t that she wasn’t beautiful. Of course, she was. She was often confused with actress Jeanne Tripplehorn as a young woman. More than once, she was asked for her autograph when we were traveling or out at dinner together. The trouble with Charlotte’s exclamations though was that Annie no longer recognized herself as the person in those old photos. So, she heard each outburst from Charlotte as, “Mom, you don’t look this good anymore.” And it hurt her feelings. But what the photographs failed to capture was the person inside. To me, that version of Annie is even more beautiful than the one in those 21 year old photos (as if it were possible). To me, and I think most people, that’s what truly matters anyway.
See, people care a whole lot more about what’s on the inside than what’s on the wrapper.
And that’s the point for the week.
Annie is not going to look like the person in those 20 year-old photographs ever again. Neither am I. Neither is any of us. But to even hope for that would be entirely shallow and superficial. Because it doesn’t matter. How a person looks never improved the life of anyone, except maybe the person staring back at them in the mirror or in the thousands of images and videos they post on social media. But who a person is inside does matter. It determines how they show up for others. It determines what they do for others. It determines how they care for others. It determines whether they are the center of their universe or if that space is reserved for others.
Ultimately, those who are beautiful on the inside attract more people around them. That’s because true charisma lies in inner beauty. It’s like a magnet. It’s a thing that draws people near because it inspires them to become better versions of themselves. More than that, it’s eternal. Looks fade. But the wellsprings of inner beauty – things like kindness, empathy, and love for others – are enduring. These are qualities that inspire others, reassure others, and make others believe in themselves and in the goodness of those around them. Those with true inner beauty tell others, without saying a word, that they matter, that they are important, and that what they believe has value. It’s because those with inner beauty make it abundantly clear that it’s not about them.
Meanwhile, those obsessed with their own beauty tell others that feeding their own narcissism and sense of self-importance are what matter to them. It’s a psychosis that eliminates concern for anything or anyone besides who they see in the mirror. It’s rooted, though, in feelings of inadequacy and insecurity and a belief that self-advancement requires the tearing down of others. It’s why almost no one – except sychophants and those just like them – willingly follow these people. Life with them never improves, not one little bit. That’s because they only feel filled up when they are emptying another person out.
Run from those who are obsessed with their own reflection. Seek, instead, those, like Annie, whose inner beauty reflects the authenticity of their soul and invites others to draw near for a minute, an hour, a day or a lifetime to know love and to know that their life can be made better by someone who cares more about them than the person they see in the mirror or a faded photograph from days gone by.
Seek inner beauty.
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Image credit: Caroline Hernandez | Unsplash.com