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Published January 11, 2012, 11:30 PM

Mathison: Owning your beauty

Over the past few months, members of our community have stepped forward to honor beautiful people in our lives through The Forum’s “Beautiful Women” projects.

By: Dr. Susan Mathison, Areavoices.com blogger, INFORUM

Over the past few months, members of our community have stepped forward to honor beautiful people in our lives through The Forum’s “Beautiful Women” projects.

I’ve particularly enjoyed the stories written by children describing the inner beauty of a special someone close to them.

There are so many ways that beauty manifests in our lives: the innocent smile of a baby, the gentle hug of a parent, a painting that stirs the imagination, a song or poem that says it all, a photograph that captures an incredible moment – anything that stretches our spirit to experience a new aspect of reality is beautiful.

Love, kindness, loyalty, courage and integrity are beautiful.

“Beauty will save the world,” Dostoevsky once wrote.

It’s a lofty, beautiful thought, but how? Is there an understanding of beauty that can shelter the heart from fear and end oppression? Is there a form of beauty that exceeds all others – a universal beauty that is the essence of life?

Fellow Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn explored this concept in his 1970 Nobel Lecture, stating, “Perhaps that old trinity of truth and good and beauty is not just the formal outworn formula it used to seem to us during our heady, materialistic youth. If the crests of these three trees join together, as the investigators and explorers used to affirm, and if the too obvious, too straight branches of truth and good are crushed or amputated and cannot reach the light – yet perhaps the whimsical, unpredictable, unexpected branches of beauty will make their way through and soar up to that very place and in this way perform the work of all three.”

In our culture, women get conflicting messages about beauty, truth and goodness. Is it all about looks? What about aging gracefully? Are we vain and superficial if we color our hair, wear makeup or fix a flaw that bothers us?

It seems to me that truly beautiful people are those whose physical presence lives in harmony with their spiritual essence. We can take care of appearance and present our best selves so that it lifts us up and enhances our confidence. This is real beauty, not a superficial imposter.

We all know of women, and men, who are not physically beautiful by media’s definition, but are come across as stunning and magnetically attractive. They seem to have an inner glow. What’s their secret?

I think it’s all about creating a personal definition of what beauty means to you that works from all aspects: physical, intellectual, spiritual and mental.

For me, beauty is taking great care of myself. Beauty is walking into a room, standing as tall as my 5-foot-4-inch frame allows, with great posture and a deep breath. Beauty is not caring so much about what others think of me, but caring about them and being curious about their lives.

Beauty is taking time to look my best. Beauty is feeing my body with great healthy food and my mind with positive thoughts. Beauty is loving myself, despite the flaws. Beauty is celebrating life’s many pleasures.

I often turn to this Marianne Williamson quote for inspiration:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. … We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

When you frame beauty in this way, maybe it can save the world. But I think we all need to figure out what it means and use it to save ourselves first.

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com.