Posted by: dacalu | 25 April 2013

You are Beautiful

“pardon me, but I want you to know that you’re beautiful”

 

A friend asked me today:

“As someone who has had (and continues to) have some trouble feeling ‘comfortable’ in my skin, how do you suggest going about increasing both ones own comfort, and the comfort of others? Going up to someone and saying “pardon me, but I want you to know that you’re beautiful” rarely seems to be the right thing to do – not least because of the unavoidable subtext.”

 

There’s two questions here.  How can I be more comfortable in my own skin?  Much has been written on that topic, but in brief:

 

1)    Have faith.  Really, join a church (or temple or sangha).  Here’s the trick.  It has to be full of people who actually love and support you.  Otherwise, it will have the opposite effect.

2)    Take up martial arts.  Same caveats apply.  It has to be a supportive place where people are constantly learning, including the instructors.  It has to have healthy, happy people who want you to be healthy and happy as well.  Otherwise it will have the opposite effect.

3)   Don’t compare.  We do this to ourselves and to others.  True beauty is something intrinsic, really.  It’s not relative to anything else.  I’m not saying it’s mental, emotional, or abstract.  I’m saying that every truly beautiful thing is a beautiful example of what it is, not trying to be something else.  Judge yourself on your merits.  Find out how you are beautiful as you.

4)    Treat others well.  All things worth having in this arena can only be had in relationship to others.  Treating others better will lead to them treating you better.  It’s the best type of positive feedback loop.

 

Second question, closely related to number 3:  How can I help others be more comfortable in their skin?  I think this is an important skill and one I’d like to be better at.  Here are my first thoughts, but I’d love to hear from you.

 

1)   Give people your full attention.  We multi-task so much, we rarely do this.  Put down the phone and give people your 100% attention – even if you can only do this briefly.

2)    Make appropriate eye contact.  This is a tough one as appropriate is different in different circumstances.  The key is to make the person know you see them, actually see their self – not their social location, cultural role, or body.  In my experience, this usually takes a full second of direct eye contact.  Warning: Prolonged eye contact can be seen as threatening, or romantic interest.  It’s an art form, people; it takes observation and practice.

3)   Listen to what they have to say without preparing to say something yourself or focusing on something else.

4)   Compliment them.  There is always something to compliment.  It may be physical, intellectual, emotional…  We don’t compliment people enough.  Now, here’s the trick.  Compliment them on something over which they have control.  Unlike flirting, where you’re giving a whole suite of complicated cues, simple compassion calls for compliments of things the other person has actually done.  Haircut and clothes are easy answers.  Notice details.  Notice what they have put effort into.

5)   Use encouraging body language (when you want to be encouraging).  Crossed arms and inwardly curved spine indicate that you are inwardly focused.  An easy smile (not a forced smile or a grimace) send the message that you are open to another person.  One challenging aspect of this is that it works best if you are comfortable in your own skin.  You need to be calm and confident to help another person be calm and confident.  Once they’re feeling safe with you, they are a step closer to feeling safe all the time.

6)   Be confident, relaxed, and positive.  Note, this does not mean happy, though that’s even better.  These dispositions (not emotions) are contagious.  And yes, being this way make you better which helps others be better as well.

 

To wrap up, I posted this here because I find it a profoundly spiritual issue.  It has everything to do with how we see our selves and others in relation to the world – and in relation to God, if God is part of your vocabulary.  More than this, I really think we should take responsibility for the effect our attitudes affect the attitudes of others.  We make a difference to one another in very concrete and observable ways.  If I’m going to change the world, I’d like to do it in a positive way.

 

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”  Psalm 139:13

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.  When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” Tao Te Ching 44

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