Embrace: Seeing Beauty

Tonight, gentle reader, I offer you a twist on our regular Embrace:Me theme.  Instead of a story of body positivity, a guest post from Tara, who runs the blog Uniquely Beautiful and, here, reflects on what it means to see beauty.

I’m starting to change the way I see: how I see myself, and the women around me. There is beauty in all of us, be it gorgeous curls, glowing skin, strong hands, or bright eyes. And I’m realizing that the women who have these things are beautiful themselves, as a whole and not just in their individual parts.

They are not, however, perfect. They do not have shining hair that blows in the breeze, size 0 frames, or faces with no texture. And so they compare themselves with the women in magazines and find themselves wanting. They go on diets, try new makeup, and spend big money on their hair, constantly striving to improve something about their bodies. There is always something to fix.

But you know what? Perfection is boring. And true beauty should never be boring. I’m realizing that we’re beautiful – that I’m beautiful – because of our imperfections, and never in spite of them. A crooked smile, an unexpected scar, a big nose: these are the things that first catch us off-guard, and later surprise us with their beauty.

I think we usually don’t see the beauty in them until we love the owner. I remember when I was in college in Paris, there was a girl in my class who looked like the perfect, ideal young Frenchwoman: wavy blonde hair, strong nose, big eyes; in short, what we generally are told we should try to imitate. And then… she smiled. It was a huge, toothful smile, and I thought it was such a shame that her smile ruined her beauty.

But as I got to know her, laughed with her, and became friends with her, that changed. One day I realized that her smile was the most beautiful part of her face. That suddenly I found her much more attractive when she smiled than when she was stoic.

These are the things we need to recognize before love enters the picture. I’m trying to do this on a daily basis, because the truth is that there is beauty around us every day. The women we see every day are beautiful, and it’s amazing how the media, via TV, fashion magazines, and Hollywood, make us forget this. We actually forget to notice the beauty that stares us in the face.

I remember, also, when I was about 8 years old, I was walking down a street in NYC with my mother. As I looked around me, I gazed at all the older women who were so beautiful, and dreamed of looking like them someday. I asked my mother, “Mom, what percentage of women do you think are beautiful?” I was gobsmacked by her reply.

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe 25%, I’d say.”

“Really?!” I replied.

“Yes, why? How much would you say?”

“I think more like 75%!” I answered, thinking she had a lot to learn.

I was right, and I was wrong. It turned out I was the one with a lot to learn. I grew up, and I received an education in what feminine beauty ought to look like. It should be free of imperfections – whatever those were temporarily determined to be – it should be slender, it should be neat, ideally it was white, and extra points if it was blonde.

But of course, my Mom – and myself today – and all of us – are the ones who should learn better. At the age of 8 I saw the world free of self-hatred, free of media brainwashing, and ignorant of the distorted idea that beauty has rules.

We acknowledge that the Mona Lisa or Picasso’s paintings are beautiful because they are intriguing. We are in awe of Lauren Hutton’s gap, Padma Lakshmi’s scar, and Barbra Streisand’s nose. Instinctively, we know that imperfection is beautiful in and of itself. Beauty is interesting, not airbrushed. We have to remember this, and recognize it in the people around us and in ourselves.

That’s why I started the Uniquely Beautiful Project. It’s a place to celebrate the beauty of the women around us – so far I’ve put up photos of my friends and loved ones. It’s meant to train us to see the beauty in women who are not supermodels, just as we train ourselves to appreciate fine art. These everyday, real women should define our sense of beauty, not the 8 top models selected by a flawed fashion industry that spends millions to reshape and distort them.

So I’ll end by asking Emilie’s readers two favors. First, look around you and find the beauty in the women in your office, on the streets, and in your homes. Acknowledge that beauty, and admire it. Think about it the next time you glance at the cover of Vogue. The more you do this, I believe the easier it will be to see the beauty in yourself.

And second, please submit your photo to the Uniquely Beautiful Project! It’s a one-year challenge so we need lots of photos. I would love to add your beautiful face to the archive, and further our efforts to promote a positive body image for girls and women. Please email your pics to tarainjapan@gmail.com.



  1. Uniquely Beautiful is an amazing idea for a site! And her first request, about seeing the beauty in people around us is precisely why I got the kanji for beauty tattooed on myself! I think I’m doing alright with seeing the beauty in others, but it’s still hard to turn that onto myself.

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