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Beauty, that elusive quality we all crave to be labeled with. It is an ideal we aim for, an ideal we recognize in others but seldom seem to find in ourselves. How many times have we been complimented "you are beautiful" and we smile and say "thanks" but on the inside, we think "I wish…".

We look at our dresses, our physique, our network of friends, our cash worth (like my dad calls it), our achievements, our gadgets and whatnots’, and we think “I’m not beautiful”. The issue isn’t that we are not beautiful; the issue is we are looking at it all wrong. We look from the outside in, rather than inside out. It is like trying to read the mirror image of a book. We know there are words on the page, we know the words make sense but we can’t seem to make sense of it.

The simple fact that we can recognize beauty confirms beyond doubt that there is beauty all around us. Even if we can’t articulate our recognition of it in words, we just say “that, is beautiful”.

Before I start giving those Zen and sagely advice (it will be quite useless for me to dive in straight), come with me on a journey in your mind using concepts we are all familiar with. Let us start with the basics.

What is this inside-out beauty or inner beauty?

Beauty is recognition! Beauty is cognizance! Beauty is what we recognize to be!

Inner beauty is that effortless magnificence that permeates all animate things. Beauty is the genuineness of a smile (not the lipstick on the lips, or the mascara on the face). Beauty is the open-heartedness of a child. Beauty is the trust of a friend. Beauty is in the pieces of a broken heart bound together by the courage to try again. Beauty is the inspiration to give your best. Beauty is the sweat of effort in doing something you believe in.

I would like to give you more examples of what beauty is. But my aim is to make you recognize it for yourself and in yourself. Like T.S Elliot wrote:

To discover beauty in a wildflower

I like to associate inner beauty with the five Chinese nature forms/affinities: Water, Air, Earth, Fire, and Lightning


Water is the element of change, capable of adapting to many things. Water easily mixes with many substances. I don't think there is any other substance that is found in all three states of matter naturally. Like water, Inner beauty is not precisely fixed or defined. Whether it is the frostiness of snow or the precise geometry of snowflakes or the meandering of a river, or the ease with which water soaks all things, or the seeming weightlessness of steam or the relaxing sound of rushing water, water in all its form is beautiful. Beauty of this type is vital just as water is essential to life.

What does this mean?

Beauty is self-love (the healthy kind, no one likes polluted water). Love your quirks, that’s what makes you beautiful. Come to accept those traits unique to you. There is no fixed way a human being is to look like.

I have a friend whose big toes curve downwards (that got us talking the first time we met). I have a cousin with crossover toes and a school daughter who has an unusually large space between her big toe and the next. They are quirks that make me smile anytime I remember them. If you can accept your quirks, laugh about them. Believe you me, you are beautiful. There are some traits we could work on, in the meantime…love them.

Let me conclude this section with my friend Sarah. My childhood friend, she had an infection that left big and somehow unsightly round spots all over her legs. Whenever she notices you staring at it, she beckons you and gives you a made-up story about her birth and a pack of Dalmatian dogs. (I'm not spilling the beans on such a good story, it cost me a slice of pizza). After the story, you would not even dare think of her spots as ugly cause you would be incredulous or smiling or something… anything other than ugly comes to your mind.

 I would like to know what quirks make you beautiful… We continue next week.

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