Primping Our Souls…

Pretty is as pretty does. Beauty is only skin deep. Be more than just a pretty face. All these adages pay proper patronage to our supposed moral code, but blatantly belie the truth. In reality our attitudes on beauty are generally cute from far and far from cute. The ugly truth is that we spend a great deal of time and effort tearing ourselves and one another down because of appearances.

How many times have you berated a perfect stranger for thinking she’s cute; or judged a fellow female harshly for her weight, style of dress, hair color or skin tone? This is to say nothing of the damage we inflict on ourselves. How many of us have skipped a night out on the town because of a few extra pounds or the unwelcomed arrival of a zit? Have we refused the offers of a potential suitor who measured up in every other way except for being cute enough or tall enough or fashionable enough?

Despite how self-assured we may appear, or how pro-woman we try to be, we all are susceptible to being shallow sometimes. Our best defense is to own up to this weakness. If we don’t, then we can’t possibly gird against all the ways in which our best intentions to look past appearances to find the beauty within are subverted by unattainable standards of beauty promulgated in every sector of our society.

We have whole aspects of mainstream culture where the only requirements for getting ahead are a pretty face and a thin body. These so-called success stories populate our magazines and dominate our movie screens. Lackluster talent and poor performances are repackaged and sold to us as aspirations for success based on looks alone. It’s hard to swim against this tide.

Merit and hard work, moral fiber and goodness are sloppy seconds in a world of instant gratification where the only fixins for success you need are the trappings of beauty you can buy online and in a plastic surgeon’s office. But beauty and looks alone should not be the key ingredients for fame, fortune and success. Happiness and contentment form that foundation. Character and good judgment count. Empathy and intelligence should spur you ahead in life, not thin thighs and high cheek bones.

But we’re never going to move past the lip service to make all the old sayings ring true unless we are as vigilant and deliberate about grooming our inner beauty as we are in maintaining our outward appearance. This means we have to primp our souls as much as we do our weaves. We have to excise the dead weight from our lives as readily as we cut our split ends. We have to make sure our hearts shine as brightly as our teeth or our shoes!

We have to challenge the women we love to do the same. If you can keep a weekly hair appointment, ask yourself why you can’t mentor a young lady once a month? The next time you plan to meet up with your girlfriend at the nail shop, consider a trip to the local soup kitchen instead. For every time you tell your sister or your daughter how beautiful she is, make sure you tell her ten times over how smart and kind she is too.

It may seem uncomfortable and forced at first, but no more than the first time you curled your eyelashes, permed your hair or donned a pair of Spanx. If you do it often enough, it will eventually become second nature. Like looking into the mirror before you leave the house-only this time you’ll see past what’s staring at you to catch glimpses of your true humanity. Before you know it, you’ll be reveling in the fruits of this labor. It will be measured in the way your daughter walks taller when she enters a room, the confidence that gives you the moxie to ask that guy out, and the strength that tells you to do more than just think you deserve a raise, but to ask for it too!

Erica
wife, mother, communications maven…

Erica has worked in communications her entire career, filling the roles of writer, editor, producer and communications director in such venues as ABC, MTV and the Fresh Air Fund. She is a graduate of Wesleyan University and received her Masters in Journalism from the University of California at Berkeley. Erica loves to travel the world, but currently resides in The Bay Area with her husband and her two children, and serves as the Communications Director for the San Francisco District Attorney’s office.