Beauty is More than in the Eye of the Beholder by Mara Kissinger
I wish I could remember who made the distinction for me between pretty and beautiful. I know I was in a class at University and I know that I will remember the concept for a long time but that’s about all I know. But what was said was that pretty is fleeting and what is fashionable and conventional at the moment. Beauty is terrifying and amazing and as old as dirt. We see a lot of focus on pretty and often to our detriment. At the end of the day, this concept has made everyone, even those who are pretty, anxious and sad.
For me, chasing pretty has meant chasing the conventional more than anything. There was a pretty house and a pretty husband and I was a pretty woman. Though I can safely say none of those things were what I wanted, they felt stable because every message I got said it was the best life. Unfortunately, I was just never meant to live that life. So to solve the cognitive dissonance, I dissociated, and I shoved my dissenting voice as far away from myself as I could.
(Art by: @mattgarvs_art)
There are so many forms of dissociation so I’ll just tell you mine. In simple terms, I go somewhere else. My body and some version of me are operating as they perceive they are expected to perform but I go somewhere else. Some people describe it as floating above themselves, some people like playing a video game, for me it’s like taking a back seat in a car. I’m sort of passively supervising my body and myself but I’m not really driving. For a long time, the worst part was looking in a mirror because for a very real and terrifying moment, I had no clue who was looking back at me.
Chasing pretty for me was at its most intense with my body. When I went through puberty and gained weight and realized everything felt weird and wrong (hello gender dysphoria) I lost all faith that I would ever be pretty. Without the words to articulate what I was feeling, dissociation was a way to cope, it was a way to release my attachment to my physical body and stop having such a painful reminder of everything about me that I thought wasn’t pretty. But it also went deeper, it meant leaving who I really was behind as well until everything felt fractured.
(Art by @the_lily_the_rose)
Rediscovering each part that I had hidden was a challenge. First, it was my sexuality, then my gender, and finally, I have begun to find my way back to my body. There are some people who never repress who they are, who are themselves from day one and the core of who I am has never changed. But many parts of my identity weren’t conventionally pretty. I’m queer, I’m non-binary, and I’m fat. Those things to me felt unlovable and very ugly. But now, re-embracing these things, especially the physical form I use to interact with the world, I don’t feel pretty. Instead, I’m starting to feel beautiful.
Beautiful to me is every time I have a moment when I’m perfectly in touch with who I am. Because it’s a terrifying, amazing, and very old feeling. I still dissociate sometimes. Sometimes I look into the mirror and don’t recognize who’s there. But at the very least after that one moment, I simply can acknowledge that the person staring back is beautiful. Even with all that I have had to deal with, there are some who have dealt with even more. All I can say is that I think you are beautiful. So much better and more than just pretty.