This time of year there is a particular theme – something about the New Year brings out a heightened consciousness of physical appearance.
I guess it’s the chance to start over that makes us refocus on where we are in our lives, to try to exert some kind of control over who we are. We’re also bombarded on all sides by images of physical perfection – air-brushed, surgically altered beauty that stares at us from the TV, the computer, the magazine covers, along with ads that promise us that we too, can look like this, which in turn will cause us to achieve perfect happiness.
I’m not immune to all this. As someone who is overweight, I often don’t like what I see in the mirror. Besides my weight, I see the wrinkles, the bags under my eyes, the gray hairs and all the other signs that I am no longer 20-something.
But here’s the thing that always strikes me as odd about our collective obsession about the “us” we present to the world, I don’t understand why we can’t spend even a small fraction of that precious time worrying about our inner selves – the part of us that interacts with those around us everyday.
If we could only think more about our manners, our thoughtfulness, our kindness towards others at least a tenth of how much we worry about how we look, we and the collective “us” would be a more beautiful society altogether.
Because here’s the thing – most people are not really looking at you. Oh they may notice how you’re dressed, how nice your hair looks, etc. and they may even comment on it, but for the most part, especially those we meet or know as merely acquaintances, are looking to see if we’re paying attention to them.
For example, do you ever notice how you make contact with someone and they start telling you random things about themselves? They do this because they are wanting to be noticed, wanting to be acknowledged and maybe find some common ground. What they really want is a universal thing – they want to feel as if they “matter” in some way.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all keep this in mind, understand that it’s a basic need from the time we are born, and give that mutual interest to each other, even in passing? When I think about those who have this gift – those who’ve touched my life in this way, I don’t remember what they wore, how many fat rolls they had (or how skinny they were), I remember the kindness, the tone of their voice – the light in their eyes and the sweet genuine smile on their faces.
My friends whom I’ve known for years, my husband, parents, children – their physical appearances hardly ever cross my mind. I remember who they are, what they mean to me, not how they look. I remember how I feel when I am with them – loved, safe, special — in other words, as if I really matter in some way.
In a word, I think I see, I think we all see, those people as truly beautiful.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for The Madison County Journal.