What is the most beautiful thing you can think of? Take a minute to think about it. Is it a landscape? A person? Is it the smile of someone you made happy?
I’m going to tell you about the most beautiful thing I could think of in different periods of my life. I guess it’s a combination of all the things I just mentioned, but then it’s also completely different.
Imagine, being around 10 years old, looking in the bathroom mirror, thinking “This is me!”. And then almost fainting. Not being able to see anything around you anymore, because you realize, this person, standing in front of you, is the one who represents all your actions. This person is responsible for everything you do. Yeah, you probably think I’m insane, maybe I am, but the person I saw in that mirror, wasn’t me. This girl, standing there, was scared of talking to people, was scared of letting people in, was scared of being a disappointment, she was scared of everything. She just stood there, looking back at me, looking intimidated and out of place. Back then, the most beautiful thing I could think of was being able to identify with who you were born as.
Now, fast forward a couple of years, you’re 14 now. You are in front of that mirror again. You just got up and are about to go to school. You get out your makeup bag. You start putting on concealer, foundation and mascara, thinking about whether or not he will talk to you today. All your friends are dating, you are the only one who hasn’t even had her first kiss yet, you tell them you like him, so no one will realize that you’re different. You think you aren’t pretty enough, you’re too shy and probably too smart too. You look at yourself while putting all that makeup on. At this point there was no difference between the person I was seeing in the mirror and the person standing in front of it. I had changed myself so much that I couldn’t even remember what it was like being myself. I hated myself. I wasn’t intimidated anymore, but I was still out of place and scared of everything.
A couple days later, this time you are standing in front of a clothing store, looking at your reflection in the glass, wearing tight jeans, a tight shirt and a push-up bra. The guys around you are looking at you too. They are mostly older, but there’s also some in your age. I didn’t feel comfortable wearing that, but I was getting attention. The attention I needed, to feel at least a little prettier. If you had asked me about the most beautiful thing at that moment, I probably would have told you the name of a model or an actress. Someone who was popular, who had lots of friends and a boyfriend.
Another year, another place, another mirror. This time, you are smiling. You’re wearing an oversized shirt, baggy shorts and hardly any makeup. You have changed. You like the person you are seeing. She’s certainly not perfect, it’s certainly not all rainbows and butterflies, but you actually feel as if you two are the same person for the very first time. I had the chance to start all over, and I did. I was still scared, but I wasn’t out of place anymore and I learned how to overcome pretty much all of my fears. I actually liked someone and guess what, it wasn’t a guy. We never ended up dating, but at least she showed me that I was capable of having feelings for someone. Back then, the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, was definitely her.
So now you’re back to your old life and your old mirror. You’re not wearing the clothes you liked anymore and you started putting on makeup again. Apparently your other style wasn’t appropriate. But right now, you’re in your underwear. The smile is gone. You are looking down at yourself, at all the scars and cuts. You still see the same person when you are looking in the mirror, but that’s not a good thing. I hated myself, I couldn’t stand looking at myself. All I wanted was to be gone, to be erased from this world. I didn’t see anything good anymore, just the bad that was going on. I saw all the people being killed, I saw parents not being able to feed their kids, but I also saw that most politicians didn’t even bother doing something about it. I only saw hate. I looked at myself and felt so small, so unimportant and so weak. I was sure there was absolutely no beauty in this world.
We’re getting close to the end of this story. As always, you’re in front of a mirror again. It’s a different mirror though, and you’re not alone this time. You’re surrounded by people you love. They are all laughing and talking. Until a few minutes ago you were doing the same thing, but now you are just looking at yourself in that mirror. That was the moment I realized that the most beautiful thing was love and it had always been that way.
My 10 year old self only wanted to be able to love herself. When I was 14, I wanted others to love me, even if that meant not loving myself. When I was finally able to love myself, I noticed that I didn’t have to be someone else to be loved. Also, the person I loved the most, was the most beautiful thing to me. Later I couldn’t see any love anymore, which meant I couldn’t see the beauty of this world either.
Think again about what you said and if you can get that connection between the beauty of it and your feelings towards it. Humans are never really rational so whenever we express what is beautiful and what is not it is subjective. We are blinded by our feelings and the experiences we have made. Next time you see something you don’t like, think about that and try to remember that someone else might be seeing something beautiful looking at exactly the same thing.
Eine Kurzgeschichte von Luise Lorenz
Titelbild mit freundlicher Genehmigung von Lea Terlau