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You don’t know you’re beautiful, but it’s time to notice


Apparently I’m the last to hear about any cyberspace phenomena. A little research suggests I’m the 27-million-and-ninth person to see The Dove Beauty Sketches. If you, too, are a member of Not Cyberhip of America, you can watch the video right on YouTube.

A series of women are invited to sit and describe their faces to a sketch artist, who sits behind a curtain and draws the faces they describe. The women are paired up and spend some time talking and getting to know one another.

Then, the sketch artist draws another composite, this time based on the description of the partner.

The results are startling. The two pictures were quite different.

Conclusions?

Other people tend to see us more generously than we see ourselves. They are more willing to admire and revel in us than we are to admire and revel in ourselves.

No surprise. In our culture, the great commandments are Thou Shalt Not Revel in Thyself, It’s Important Not To Notice If You’re Beautiful and We’ll Call You Humble If You Constantly Criticize Your Looks.

Because, of course, there could be no more terrible outcome than to know you’re beautiful and to have fun being beautiful.

Then women in the video behold the two sketches. Now they look humble. Not the pretense of humility this culture teaches and lauds, but authentic humility.

One woman stands, stunned, before the two pictures, “That’s very different. Very strange.” She sighs deeply and thoughtfully. “(The woman I described) looks closed off … fatter … kinda shut down. Sadder, too.” Now her eyes twinkle. She looks shy. Self-conscious. Joyful. Her eyes fill with tears. “The second one is more beautiful. She looks more open and friendly and … happy.”

There are some surprising attributes of beauty. Openness and friendliness and happiness are beautiful. Who knew?

I interpret the tears two ways, double-duty tears. Sad to have to recognize just how unfriendly we are to ourselves. Often just plain mean. But also weeping for the joy and the hope that maybe, just maybe, it might be OK to notice “the light” in ourselves that others see so much more often and easily. To have fun being beautiful.

The sketch artist asks another woman standing astonished before the two finished pictures: “Do you think you’re more beautiful than you say?”

“Yeah,” she says.

Her face looks sober, almost grim, like someone finally conceding there is no other course of action but to shoulder a terrible burden.

“Yeah,” she repeats. and nods, as if to say, “I suppose I’ll just have to learn to live with being beautiful.”

I know this ad campaign was supposed to be specifically about women and the burden placed on them by a shallow society about what beauty is and who is allowed to have it. But, why should women have all the fun? I think it’s a good idea for all of us to notice our chronically crippled capacity to see what is beautiful about us and in us. One antidote is to notice how love beholds us.

So often I see a tired empty eloquence

I see a clever crippled confidence

Yeah, I see the vacuum of my common sense

I like what you see better

I like what you see better

Too often I see a heart of simple selfishness

I see a vision bathed in bitterness

Yeah, I see another day of wasted breath

I like what you see better

I like what you see better

Everyone inside my head has spoken

They’re all in agreement here

They tell me I should see myself as broken

To be embarrassed by the man in the mirror

But in your eyes another path has opened

A choice between the voices loud and cruel

To see the man you see is what I’m hoping

Self-hatred is against the rules

I see a man who’s quite ridiculous

You see the man who brings you happiness

Please hear the echo of my thankfulness

I like what you see better

I like what you see better

Now I can see me better

— “You See Better” by Steven Kalas and Paul Taylor

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Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). Contact him at skalas@reviewjournal.com..