Positive Beauty | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Positive Beauty

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A year ago, in our first beauty issue, I wrote in my editor's note about struggling with body image and about the dangerous impact media has on our women and men. I wrote about women judging each other. I wrote about my personal journey to find beauty in my own skin.

All those things remain true and relevant. The media continue to present a more damaging and more warped vision of womanhood every day. But this year, I'm not going to write about my past or my present struggles with beauty.

I realized something sometime in the past year. At first it was subconscious, but as I began to realize this truth, I started trying to make it a mindful part of my personality.

Making other people feel beautiful makes me feel a little more beautiful, too. Making other people happy in any way makes me happy as well.

It's a simple concept, but it packs a punch. Over the last year and especially the last several months, I have very consciously worked to point out the beauty, intelligence, and other great qualities I see in my friends and the women (and men) I know. When someone looks amazing, I compliment them. When someone does something great, I praise them.

Of course, it's not like I never complimented my friends and loved ones in the past. I wouldn't consider myself a mean person before this big epiphany of mine. But I can be petty. I can let my jealousy of women who seem to have it all—the looks, the style and the brains—keep me from getting close to them. What I decided, though, was to overcome that. To make anyone and everyone I could feel good about themselves. To push jealousy aside and tell people about the beauty and the intelligence I see in them.

It is funny to think this is a topic even worthy of writing about. Complimenting people isn't anything new. It's an innate act for most children. But it is an unfortunate part of our society that women are subconsciously trained to stop doing it.

Movies and television are mostly filled with women who are catty and horrible to one another. They are petty, envious, backstabbing and more. They push the idea that women should only be focused on getting a man, and should knock down any other woman who might get in her way.

We learn to mistrust other women in this way. We learn to see them as rivals, to be jealous rather than proud when they succeed.

Leave it to Amy Poehler to show us the way. Besides her real-life friendship with fellow funny woman Tina Fey, her sitcom "Parks and Recreation" offers a new way to approach female friendships. One of the most beloved and genuine relationships in the show is that between Poehler's Leslie Knope and Rashida Jones' Ann Perkins.

Knope is not shy about her love for her best friend, and proclaims it as often as possible. Leslie addresses Ann with an endless supply of creative compliments—"Ann, you vivacious rainbow of joy," or, "Ann, you beautiful tropical fish," or, "Ann, you spectacular cloud 
of brilliance."

It's entertaining as hell, heartwarming and, above all, a great reminder that we can do more—and we can be more—when we help each other.

What it all comes down to is actively choosing to be happy, and to making others happy. It can be hard to choose to be happy. It's actually much easier to choose the opposite—something I know all too well, and do all too often.

But over the weekend, something very negative reminded me of the power of thinking positive. Somebody or bodies broke into our home while we were out and stole many of my husband's and my most expensive possessions.

Not only did we lose several things that we are in no financial position to replace, I felt great unease at the thought of a malevolent stranger going through our home and our things.

This is the type of occurrence that could easily derail my happiness for weeks. But this weekend was also Millsaps College's homecoming, and many of our beloved yet far-flung friends were in town for the occasion. We had no time to dwell on our misfortune, no time to wallow over the lost money or blame ourselves for what we could have done better to prevent it.

Rather, we were so busy visiting and reminiscing and laughing and loving that, once we came through the initial shock, anger and sadness, we barely thought about the break-in.

In fact, it was one of the best weekends I've had in a long time.

And while the week before homecoming, I was worried about my stress acne and wishing I had observed a more regular diet and exercise plan, once all my people were around me, I felt great. I felt beautiful.

I chose to be happy, and to do my best to make those around me happy, creating the best kind of self-perpetuating circle.

So I'm taking this idea to the next level, and I have a challenge for you. The holiday season is tailor-made for celebrating others, for lifting them up and sharing why you are thankful that they are in your life. So until the next year, I'm going to do just that.

Since most of my people are spread across the country, I am aiming to write letters to 50 people in my life, to tell them how they have made an impact on my life and why I think they are amazing. They might be family members, childhood friends, my bridesmaid or college roommate—or they might just be people I don't know that well but always thought were pretty great.

I urge you to join me. It doesn't have to be 50 people. It could be five, or 15. But sit down and make an effort to tell someone they are great. Tell them they are beautiful, and I'd be surprised if you don't feel a little more beautiful yourself.

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