Part of this journey for me is to travel outside my own comfort zone so I can be vulnerable and allow myself to grow from my discomfort. Meeting Cheri was part of this discomfort because this meeting was in her home, not mine. So I was more nervous than normal. Thankfully Cheri was so wonderful to meet and it didn’t feel weird or awkward at all for me. I felt an instant connection with her and was excited to hear what she had to say about beauty.
Cheri first learned about what beauty means from the female role models in her life – her mom, grandmother and her aunts. She remembers them fondly as they all were graceful, kind and compassionate women. As she has grown, she realizes they taught that beauty is making sure they were all put together on the outside and dressed appropriately. Cheri still finds herself following the family rule of putting forth the effort to be “put together”. All these women made such an impression on Cheri because although she could see the outer beauty and the maintenance that comes with it, she also recognizes the inner beauty of each of these women. These ideas from her family helped shape her idea of beauty.
Going to church was important for Cheri’s family. She learned to accept others as beautiful but also learned that others should believe as the church does, so it was conflicting to her at times. Cheri had to learn to come out of her shell and learn that it was ok to be who she was and find her own beauty and see other women as beautiful. She is a big believer in lifting other women up. I sensed that Cheri had changed so much throughout her life and wondered if she felt that with age people change their thoughts on what is beautiful. She believes that it doesn’t really have to do with age, but it is more about that person’s journey in life and how they develop themselves. Beauty isn’t dependent on age at all, it is dependent on the person’s ability to be ok with who they are in life.
Cheri had some moments in life that helped to change her thoughts about herself. She described herself as pretty shy until she was about 18. She got new friends, went to college and moved away from home. She worked hard to be open to people and to start being true to herself. She was in a relationship at one point that really challenged her way of thinking about herself. This person would say things such as “You should wax your eyebrows” or “You should lose a few pounds”. Cheri took those statements as the truth about herself and tried to make the relationship work by succumbing to that person’s wishes. Cheri realized it wouldn’t have mattered whether she did those things he had asked or not. She looks back at that period and realized that it didn’t help keep him around but it helped open her up to accepting herself they way she was then. Cheri has also been significantly impacted by the loss of someone close to her. She feels these are the moments when life shows you what is really important and they have taught her to ask “Is this really important?”.
Cheri read a statistic a few days prior to our meeting about how women in this country spend more on beauty than education. She was shocked by this statistic but wasn’t considering we are hit in the face everyday about how we must look a certain way, dress in certain clothes, and buy items to help us be someone else. Cheri got teary eyed in speaking about women in other countries that are abused, treated as second class citizens or forced to hide their faces. Yet women in America pay money to change their faces for acceptance. She wants women to wake up, stop worrying about how to fit in, and start supporting and helping other women.
Cheri didn’t struggle to describe how she is beautiful. Outward she can say that her smile gets a lot of attention, but her compassion is what makes her beautiful. It takes a long time for her to really open up and be vulnerable with someone which is where her beauty lies. But she also can feel unattractive at times too and these feelings came from an early age. As a female, we are taught to apologize for our emotions and being vulnerable, or being upset. We are told that being mad, crying, or emotional is ugly so when Cheri is any of those things, she feels unattractive. If you aren’t put together, you can’t be attractive was what she learned
Finding beauty in others is an easy task for Cheri. She surrounds herself with other females that have the same mindset as she does in her life. She finds these ladies by looking for things that they offer (such as talent, confidence, etc) instead of what they look like on the outside. Cheri is able to appreciate others beauty because she allows herself to avoid judging women and just appreciate what they have to offer the world. Talent is beautiful for her because it represents that persons true authentic self and she finds this attractive and beautiful.
Cheri celebrates others beauty easily and looking from the outside, it seems so free and easy to have. When I asked her why she couldn’t do the same for herself (in regards to talent), she explained that because we are attached to the emotion, the personal feelings, and the ideas behind it, it is inhibiting. If you can’t free yourself of that, you can’t celebrate it like you can in others. That idea is weighted down by past experiences, emotions, and judgements. She believes if you don’t have the same attachment to other people’s experiences, it is easier to celebrate their talent or beauty. Cheri does believe that we can all get to that place of allowing ourselves to be free of our own judgement and transform.
Cheri teaches young kids at her job and she wants them to feel good about themselves, about what they do and never have to apologize for who they are. If we all could start supporting children in this way, beauty would never be questioned. We would all be able to celebrate each other and ourselves.