“You are beautiful,” he says. And I blush. Because all my life I’ve been conditioned to see this as the highest of compliments. Because I exist in a world where beauty seems to be the center, where beauty equates to people listening, where beauty means so much more than what it is—a label based upon my physical self.
I live in a world where it seems promising to have a pretty face, but a world where this beauty determines my worth, where respect is based upon the physical aspects of me.
I am not a cynic. I know when a man says, ‘you are beautiful,’ he is not minimizing me to the features of my human skin. I know that his intent is not to diminish who I am, to see me as a body, rather than a soul. I know that the words are meant as a compliment, to raise me up, to praise me.
But I can’t help but wonder why being beautiful has become such a goal we strive for. I can’t help but wonder about all the things I’d rather be.
Maybe I don’t want to be beautiful. Maybe, when you look at me, I’d rather you see my strength first, tangible, powerful. Maybe instead of writing me off as an object of desire, I want you to see my mind, my thoughts, my way of thinking that pushes far beyond the physical realm.
Maybe I don’t want to be placed in a certain category, a category that presumes the way I will act, behave, and think. Maybe I don’t want the expectations that come with this presumption of who I am—that I will be a certain way around men or uphold a certain set of values.
Maybe I don’t want to be labeled, limited by what you can see without you taking the time to read through my stories, to discover what lies beneath.
Maybe instead of being beautiful, I’d rather be bold. I’d rather be brave. I’d rather be kind or fearless or intelligent or passionate or complex.
Maybe I’d rather be a woman that simply cannot be chalked up to the physical aspects. A woman who cannot be held back by what you can see because there’s so much more. A woman who is filled with layers and emotions and values and ways of thinking that you cannot wait to explore.
Maybe I don’t want to be an object, described like an item on a shelf—restricted to features, to the way someone else sees me, rather than my self-definition.
Maybe I want you to see me the way I see myself, as a person who thinks, who feels, who loves, who laughs, who is far more than a face and a body, but a beating heart and a vibrant soul.
Maybe I want to be a force, a presence. Maybe I want to be an entity—immeasurable and forever changing. Maybe I want to be a being you crave knowing rather than holding. Exploring rather than defining. Opening rather than closing.
Maybe, of all the characteristics and descriptions of the world, I want something that reflects my spirit, my heart, my tenacity and lust for life.
Maybe I don’t want to be seen as beautiful because beautiful confines me to my physicalities, rather than my potential. Maybe I want to be multidimensional. Maybe I am, and forever will be, more than this body that I dwell in here on earth.
Maybe when you call me ‘beautiful,’ you’re following the focus of this world. You’re unconsciously shallowing my worth. You’re shifting the focus from who I am to what I look like—teaching me, teaching yourself—that we must chase this sense of perfection we’ll never obtain. That we must be in pursuit of physical attractiveness before anything else.
And honestly, I could care less about that.
I know that when you call me ‘beautiful,’ you are speaking out of kindness, of adoration, of love. I know that when you call me ‘beautiful,’ you are not intending to hold me back, but to lift me. And I will attempt to see the truth in that.
But maybe, when you call me ‘beautiful,’ I can teach you that I am far more than what I am physically limited by. That perhaps I don’t want to be beautiful; I want to be more.