I was invited to speak at a conference where 100 women gathered for a "Ladies' Beauty Night." My assignment was to help them embrace inner beauty.
As I took the stage, I talked about my personal and professional experience with the struggle we have as women to be content with who and where we are.
And we began to explore why-
The biggest reason I've struggled is because I've long felt like I'm not enough. Not... pretty enough, smart enough, savvy enough, funny enough, thin enough, fit enough, successful enough, tall enough, small enough, old enough, young enough, wealthy enough, skilled enough, patient enough, committed enough, spiritual enough, strong enough, brave enough, kind enough... (and the list goes on).
And since I'm not enough, I've tried to become enough, chasing contentment as if it existed somewhere beyond my own borders. If I could just...earn that degree, buy that truck, find that house, get that money, get that relationship, have that family, lose that weight, run that half, take that vacation, write that book, be that expert, get that accolade, reach that goal ...(and the list goes on).
But I learned that if I got those things, my satisfaction was fleeting. Like water cupped in my hands; contentment seeped through my fingers and onto the floor. I could not contain the pleasure for any length of time. I whined at where it went and took off chasing it again.
But what I'm catching these days is a glimpse of truth, as Love gradually transforms me. Contentment is not something that I will snag in external circumstances, but something that rises from within.
Even though I know this, I still struggle to detach from the outcome. When I let my guard down for split second, I catch myself madly running after the next big thing again. It's okay that I'm pursuing my passion with determination, but sometimes I get caught up in the race and forget to let Love take the lead.
And Love must take the lead for my life to work.
Soon after I finished speaking about inner beauty, door prizes were drawn and we moved on to the next segment of the evening. Elegant artists and savvy stylists showed us ways to enhance our outer appearances- hot hair tips, make-up maneuvers, and this year's trendy clothing.
I thought about how I used to be obsessed with what I looked like on the outside. I have spent insane amounts of time and money on hairdos, styling products, wrinkle creams, tanning beds, mani/pedi's, make-up, clothes, shoes, jewelry, fitness fads, crash diets, push-up bras, bags, boots, butt crunches, bulimia, and (this list is too tiring to continue).
I did these things hoping desperately that if I ever looked good enough on the outside, maybe my insides would heal. But the harder I tried, the worse I felt.
I looked at what wasn't working in my life and the cost was more than I could bear. Stress, illness, anxiety, fear, broken relationships, and worthlessness told a story of darkness and despair.
By letting Love take the lead, I slowly came to see that my appearance is temporary. This body I'm traveling in will take me only so far, for so long. But the spirit that lives inside of me will last forever.
So I began investing my time, money, and energy healing the inside. As my inner self grew stronger, I came to understand I was enough on the outside, too.
Don't get me wrong; I enjoy looking presentable (some days). I still spend time and money taking care of my outsides. (And the older I get the more time and money it seems to take.) But I spend significantly more time and money taking care of what's on the inside. I believe in investing the lion's share of my resources where beauty is timeless.
And I wonder what might happen in the world if we each shifted some of our resources from the external to the internal? I'm not proposing we spend time and money we don't have, but spend what we do have a little differently... learning to live a beautiful life from the inside out?
If you've been thinking about setting aside time to journal or committing to a spiritual practice or trying a new program or looking into counseling or hiring a coach- I encourage you to go for it. Notice the time and money you are already spending on looking beautiful on the outside and redirect some to your inner world where the dividends are immeasurable.
Trust me, you are totally worth it.