What is Beauty?

“Curly Hair Is Not Beautiful. You Look Better With Straight Hair.”

Ever since I can remember, beauty has straight hair and curly hair is only beautiful when it’s straightened, then curled to perfection.

“Smooth out those frizzy curls. Straight hair is glamorous, beautiful, and classy. Curly hair is wild, messy and big. After blow drying, use the iron to get rid of bumps.”

This is what I believed. So I did as I was told.

In the years to come, I blow dried and ironed my hair. I did this for every party, event, dinner, concert, photoshoot, whatever! My hair quickly became all of those things they tell you curly hair is: frizzy, unruly, dry, sad, and at times damaged in its natural state. So naturally, I continued to straighten my hair, to hide all of that. 20 years later, my perception of beauty began to shift and I found myself looking at life through different eyes. It was a time of intensive internal work. I had never realized what it meant to love and appreciate my beauty or beauty for what it is.

I had been disconnected from myself and nature for so long that I didn’t see the beauty of “people”, or humans, the way I saw beauty in a sunset, a mountain, a rabbit or a horse.

All these years I had been striving to become ideal based on a limited understanding of beauty. But life is abundantly beautiful. When looking upon ourselves as we do a painting, a magnificent tree, celestial cloud patterns, or exotic wildlife, we begin to understand what beauty really is and an appreciation and awe for life in its many forms.

A beautiful rabbit will never be a beautiful flower. The rabbit is beautiful in its natural state. It’s beautiful because it is a rabbit.

A beautiful flower will never be a beautiful rabbit.

The flower is beautiful in its natural state.

It’s beautiful because it is a flower.

After that realization, I decided it was time I put some love into my own natural state. I wanted to see myself for who I really was. So I started where it all began, with my hair. For most of my life, hair was always the most important aspect of my beauty. I used to say, “as long as my hair looks good, everything else will look good.” Even my soul.

That’s why, the day I chose to cut it all off was such a big deal. Like I said before, this was a time of introspective work for me. I had no idea who I was going to find underneath all of that hair but I’ve had this nagging feeling telling me that this was something I needed to do.

I scheduled my appointment, stepped into my friend’s salon, and he got to snipping. I actually tried to play it a little safe the first time; leaving myself some hair to play with. Well, I soon found out that the job is not done until it’s done right. So, I walked back to the salon and told Mario, “just take it all off”.

The next three days I had a bit of a nervous breakdown...I remember looking in the mirror in disbelief.

Am I still beautiful without my hair?

Eyes reflecting an empty stare. Who was I was expecting to find?

A beautiful mind and a beautiful soul.

I remember being afraid that I would find no substance at all. It wasn’t long before I realized the gift that I given myself. Chopping off all of my hair was a right of passage. It was a way to detach from the past, make space for the future and spend time with me, in my natural state. I stopped wearing makeup, I gave away my heels, I wore clothes that made my body, mind, and spirit feel happy. As for my hair, all I could do was accept that it was gone and look.

Look at your insides.

Look at your character.

Look at the words you speak.

Look at the way you speak.

Look at the way you treat yourself and others.

Look at the way you view yourself and others.

Look at the way you give back.

Look at the way you smile.

Look at the way your eyes light up.

Look at the color of your freckles.

What do you see? What did I see? I saw plenty that I wanted to change. Some things I have managed to change and others take more time.

But I saw so much I never wanted to change again! My perspective on beauty had changed and I witnessed beauty that I had never noticed before. How could I have been so stupid? How could I not have seen it?

I love my strawberry-blonde curls.

I love my pink-tinted skin.

I love my freckles.

I love my eyes.

I love my heart.

I love my silliness.

I love my determination.

I love my compassion.

There is so much I love about myself. There is so much I can appreciate about myself. This is why, I can finally turn around and have this same appreciation for others. To view the differences in every person and find something unique, find something special, find something beautiful.

There is so much beauty in the world and we often miss it. We don’t understand what beauty is so we pull it, cut it, straighten it, color it, curl it, paint it, spray it…

A human is beautiful in its natural state. It’s beautiful because it is a human.

Shop wiser. Dress smarter. See beauty in diversity.

Be inspired,

Andie & AJ

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© 2021 A.J. Dunlap