Beauty and What I Mean

Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to attend a number of very cool events and to meet many people I like and admire- - some bloggers, some writers, some advocates, several celebrities.

I always take in a person's looks first. I suppose we all do -- first impressions begin here. My own insecurities are numerous; it is impossible for me not to focus on other women and to compare, at least a little. And that is often how I begin my description of such a meeting.

A few months ago, I was asked to "live blog" at Katie Couric's daytime talk show, Katie. The week before, I met Christy Turlington Burns at an event for her organization, Every Mother Counts. Both times, I commented immediately on how stunning/cute/adorable/pretty each is -- to a friend with me, and then to each of the ladies themselves. And they are. I was awed by Ms. Burns' legendary beauty in person; our conversation was delightful and filled with stories about our children. Ms. Couric was engaging, smart and funny. She is utterly lovely.

While I am often self-conscious, hopelessly unsure of my outfit or my eyebrow shape, I am simultaneously smitten with many of the women I meet. I rarely feel competitive or diminished in the presence of great personalities and great beauty. I don't know why this is. It may be from so many years of comparing myself to others and coming up short -- from finally exhausting that worn out play in my head. Or the maturity and earned good sense that accompanies being someone's mother, or being over 40. Somehow, I feel more adoration than envy these days. Yet, always, I am critical of how I look in photographs with gorgeous celebrities and friends -- my makeup looks wrong, my face old, my hair limp. I force myself to use the pictures in my posts anyway -- although I may never look at them again.

I love being able to point out how beautiful a friend looks when I run into her on the street, or how stunning a celebrity was in person. But I think about how that sounds and seems, in my writing and in person. It may appear unnecessary. Perhaps I seem shallow; perhaps it makes the recipient of the compliment uncomfortable. I hope not. Because I have little girls and a boy that I want to teach about beauty. And there is much I am not saying.

I am not saying you are beautiful because you conform to my standards or anyone else's. I am not saying you are beautiful because you are a size 2 or 4 or 10 or 14. I am not saying you are beautiful because your hair is shiny and straight, or wavy and cute. Not because your makeup is applied flawlessly or your eyelashes are long and flirty. And not because your skin is free of wrinkles or is the perfect shade of peach or tan or brown or beige. I don't mean you are beautiful because of anything you've done today or put on or are wearing. Although any or all of these may be true.

I say, and I mean, that you are beautiful because of your smile, your warmth, your laugh. You are lovely because you seem kind. I mean you light up a room because you are confident and strong. Or maybe you are attractive because you are vulnerable and unafraid. You are beautiful because you offered help when I needed it. And you asked for help when I needed to do that. When I tell you how pretty you are, I mean I like talking to you and hearing your story. I relate to you or I am curious about you. You are generous and selfless. Or raw and desperate. That you make me laugh more than anyone else has lately. Or that I can cry in front of you. I want you to know that at least one person today was happy to see you. You are beautiful because you are real and honest. And I honestly want to tell you that.

This originally appeared on Mama One to Three.