A woman is captivating in every sense of the word. In the beginning, she was the curtain raiser to the big reveal that was the world. Ladies, you complete creation. Nay. You crown it. Aah. Words to truly live by. When I was much younger, I remember watching my mother put her make up on during her morning routine. She’d never put too much. A little foundation, powder and some lipstick and it’d leave me gawking. She looked resplendent. Goddess-like. Confident. It is then that a familiar ache was birthed within me. I wanted to be admired. I wanted to be looked at by people silently oohing and aahing in their hearts, as one would while beholding a sunset or during a heart warming movie ending. And I wanted to look just like her.
Save for the few moments when my mother would let me use her lipstick and try on her shoes, I grew up feeling like beauty was out of reach. Something to aspire to become or have. Like I had to work a little harder for it. I never felt like I had the right clothes, the right shoes or the right look. And I never quite felt like I fit in.
So growing up, I tried all sorts of fashion fads. Platform boots (the go-go dancer vintage types which are still in my closet, by the way, in case anyone’s looking for a pair), the metallic ‘shiny’ skirts and pants (pre-Y2K years were seriously the prime of alien inspired fashion *shudders*) the skirt slits (the one side thigh slit and the double side thigh slits, these I miss) the monochrome matching pattern top and short skirt get up. Yeah. I did everything. It was never really enough. If you’re chasing fashion trends in Africa, you’ll likely be months behind. Trust me. I’m not sure it’s even worth it.
My lovely friend Zoe Glorious, who curates all things Tanzania Travel, Lifestyle and Luxury over at Tamani Tanzania, would agree. Ever since Uni, Zoe was something of a fashion and style savant. She would literally roll out of bed, grab one of the random tops and jeans smattering her floor and she would look like she walked straight out of Harper’s Bazaar. Believe me. I saw it with my own eyes. She was the type that would wear hot pink socks with brown open toe heels and strut it on her way to class. And this was before Gossip Girl made it cool. She’s a true guru. I learned from observation that your style is simply your true self expressing and curating your life journey. It changes, it grows, but it remains uniquely you. Thanks Zo.
What I don’t understand is why we sometimes put ourselves through unnecessary hoops and hurdles to feel beautiful. Am I the only one who feels like it’s a winding chase? Do this. Get that. Have that. Be that. Chasing. Pacing. No time to rest and just enjoy being. And all that for a feeling. Dear God! Feelings are great. I mean, I love feeling like I nailed it with an outfit selection or a look. I love turning heads as much as the next girl. I love the high. But feelings can be fleeting. They can mislead you. They can be replaced. And they can never be enough.
You see, beauty is transcendent and somewhat eternal. That’s too massive to fill. Try cramming generations and years into eternity and you’ll always come up short. And maybe that’s the problem in the first place.
Beauty doesn’t always have to be a longing to become. It needs you to simply be. Like many things in life, beauty is an inside job. It’s not in chasing anything. Just be. Your existence, your being here on earth, who you are, is eternity pulsing in the present.
To be beautiful demands that you be present. That you be fully yourself, knowing that you already are beautiful. If you’ve watched the movie ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’, you remember the time when Walter Mitty accompanied Sean O’Connell to the Himalayas so that they could take a photograph of the snow leopard for the last issue of Life magazine? Because the animal is so elusive, its nickname the ‘ghost cat’ makes it harder to get a photograph of it as it never allows itself to be seen. Then a magical moment happens. After much time spent quietly waiting to spot the ghost cat, the snow leopard appears. Sean O’Connell lets Walter Mitty see it through his camera lens while he just stares into the mountain ridge as the snow leopard was stretching. Walter asks him when he’ll take the photograph only for Sean to respond saying,
“Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”
That’s the thing about beauty. It needs one to be at rest – both the bearer and the beholder. It needs you to put away distractions. We can chase ideals of beauty just the same way photographers chase photos of the ghost cat and still come up empty. Even nature doesn’t try too hard. It’s still. It simply is. And just the same, to deeply appreciate nature, we too have to be still to take it all in.
It’s time to let go of the try-hard life. Be yourself. Appreciate yourself. You are a little piece of breath-taking eternity pulsing presently on earth. Allow that to sink in. And because beauty is an inside job, express it on the outside in a way that only you can. If you are a Bata Ngomas or espadrilles chica like me, wear them like they’re on Vogue’s hot list (and they are, by the way). Whatever your style is: smart punk, classy chic, cool rocker, still-figuring-it-out, begin from a place of knowing. Know that you are firstly beautiful. And only beautiful things, only people that know they are beautiful can naturally express true beauty like they were born to do.