Beauty, in all its forms, has a healing effect. Music, nature, food, architecture, interior design, lovely gardens, art, culture, poetry – the list goes ON. We’ve all had the experience of being preoccupied with some sort of heaviness and then we experience a gorgeous sunset, are given a gracious meal, or hear a spectacular piece of music and we feel lighter, soothed, more open. We have been touched and raised up by beauty.
Your beauty is no different.
Lately I’ve been giving much more time to portrait photography – both doing shoots and learning Photoshop, lighting, and how to use my camera better. I’ve been inspired to do this because I am so personally elevated by people’s beauty but I’ve been wondering what effect these shoots have for the women who are being photographed.
This past week a woman I recently did a shoot with said this to me:
The pictures you took of me have made me raise the bar I hold myself to. Every time I look at them, I see someone different than how I usually think of myself but I’m that too. I look at the pictures and think what would she do, how would she have it? In thinking about this, I went into work and discovered that the people who have a similar position as me all make significantly more money than I do. Like tens of thousands of dollars more. I’ve been there awhile and didn’t know this but somehow in thinking of myself differently, I found this out and I see I need to do something about it. I’m not quite sure how to yet, but I’m looking into what my options are.
When she said this, there was a conviction in her voice that made it clear that she has stepped into a new chapter and is moving forward. This is exactly the kind of elevating and healing effect your beauty has. It picks you up from the plateau you’ve been on and places you on higher ground where what you feel, see, and perceive about yourself is altered… for the more expansive and empowered.
Because this is the effect our beauty has on us, it’s no surprise that the powers that be have worked, and do work, so hard to disempower women, to convince women that they are flawed and less than. That their curves are either too curvy or not curvy enough. That the lines of living in their skin decrease their worth and desirability. That their “inherent” less-than-ness not only invites, but can justify, abuse.
The program of disempowerment is so vast, and the trauma of it so deep in the collective consciousness, it’s difficult to grok. For instance, did you know that three to five million women were tortured and killed during the Holy Inquisition? Should you want to learn more about this, there’s lots on the internet. To give a brief overview, here’s a passage from Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth in the chapter titled “The Collective Female Pain-Body”:
This surely ranks together with the Holocaust as one of the darkest chapters in human history. It was enough for a woman to show a love for animals, walk alone in the fields or woods, or gather medicinal plants to be branded a witch, then tortured and burned at the stake. The sacred feminine was declared demonic, and an entire dimension largely disappeared from human experience. Other cultures and religions, such as Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism, also suppressed the female dimension, although in a less violent way. Women’s status was reduced to being child bearers and men’s property. Males who denied the feminine even within themselves were now running the world, a world that was totally out of balance. The rest is history or rather a case history of insanity.
But, like he goes onto conclude, things ARE changing. People are waking up, throwing off all types of illusions, lies, and controls, and are reclaiming their space and power. This is happening on many levels simultaneously like a wild cacophony of awakening but when it comes down to us, the individual, part of our personal empowerment rite of passage is to own our inherent beauty and radiance.
A few years back, when I first moved back to the Bay Area, I went through a challenging period of transition. The unknowns weighed on me and my spark died down for awhile. I sought a counseling session and the counselor, among other things, said to me:
This really stuck with me. The more I considered it and looked around for examples, including looking at myself, the more I saw how true this is. When we feel badly about ourselves we hide. We do this through toning ourselves down, hiding our bodies in our clothes, slumping our body language, and sometimes putting on weight.
But the opposite is just as true. Whether you feel great about yourself already or not, when you do things to celebrate yourself, you raise yourself up. In doing this, you give yourself permission to BE YOU — both the physical expression of your beauty as well as the POWER that’s within the elevated space your beauty inhabits and raises you to. You are saying to all the conditioning telling you to be small, insecure and afraid – I AM NOT YOU.
But because the collective conditioning to not only feel insecure but IDENTIFY as the insecurity goes so deep in each of us, we have to start where we are and bloom, not push. What would a deliberate yet graceful next step for you look like?
Real life examples I’ve seen recently:
• Deciding to stop complaining that extra weight is making life cumbersome and instead making some simple diet changes and exercising more regularly.
• Realizing that the so-called extra weight you’ve been stressing about is actually sexy and fabulous.
• Clearing out a closet of old clothes and leaving only what feels fantastic to put on.
• Switching from glasses to contacts to let yourself be seen.
• Taking 5-10 minutes in the morning to put makeup on.
• Getting new makeup of fun colors with glitter, shimmer, and red lip stick. (And, yes – I completely influenced this one!)
• Making more time to meditate and cultivate a clear, heart-full presence.
Although it may not seem like it, these are actions of a revolutionary. Someone who wants to feel free to be themselves – to shine, to inhabit the space they do, to feel expressed. Healing can be thought of many ways, but healing at the level of self often looks like throwing off layer upon layer of conditioning that’s had you identifying with insecurity and instead filling up that space with the beauty of your being, inside and out.
So the next time you find yourself drawn to do any of these things – or whatever else comes to you that inspires you to shine – don’t let conditioning convince you to get back in your small, safe box, to tone it down, or hold back for fear of what others will think. Instead, take action. Strike while the iron’s hot. Be a revolutionary in your own life and see how cultivating your beauty can truly raise you up and heal you.