November 21, 2011: A is for AUTHENTIC

“I stared into the mirror, long and hard into my own eyes. Right then is when it hit me, I began to realize…” (from New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith by Vera Jones)

I never was fond of my own eyes. I always thought they were too small, too dark and my eyelashes were a complete disaster, sharing no semblance of unity or uniformity. In my mid-twenties I decided I should do something to spruce things up a little. Upon a trip to the optometrist, I decided to get a pair of hazel-colored contact lenses. Surely this would make my otherwise dull and boring eyes pop, glisten and garner compliments galore! Mission accomplished. Almost everywhere I went, people would stop and say, “Wow, your eyes are so pretty!” or “Excuse me, Miss, but your eyes are simply gorgeous!” Oh I ate up those compliments like hot and fresh movie theatre popcorn. Having felt like a relatively unattractive tomboy most of my childhood life, suddenly hearing people using words like pretty, beautiful and of all things, “GORGEOUS,” about me was music to my ears!

Over a decade of colored-contact eyeball charades had passed when I began dating a man I knew had a strong attraction to my Acuvue hazel- browns. Thus, I dreaded the possibility that one day I would be exposed for the plain truth that my eyes were not very pretty at all. “Heaven’s no!” I thought. “This man must never see my eyes for what they really are!” One night I fell asleep while watching movies with Mr. Wonderful. My contacts had dried out during my slumber. I woke up rubbing my irritated eyes, unknowingly causing one of my contacts to fall out. Just before sharing a goodnight kiss, there I stood gazing at him with one hazel contact gone AWOL and both eyes looking bloodshot and homely. “Hey!” he said, “What’s wrong with your eyes? They’re different colors. Do you wear contacts? I thought those pretty hazel eyes were real!”

My heart stopped! “The gig is up!” my soul cried out as I stood before him with a mop for a hairdo, not- so- fresh-breath and a discolored cockeyed stare. I felt so ashamed. I felt like I had lied to this man who I really liked. But the true journey of self- discovery began when I realized for years I had been lying to myself, someone I don’t think I liked very much at all. I was a woman desperate to feel beautiful and thought the missing link was prettier eyes. I took great strides (and expense) to sow for prettier eyes, and I subsequently reaped many compliments for them. But I realized I wasn’t hearing the word beautiful as a descriptor of me as a whole person, but rather just about my cosmetically enhanced eyes. When true ludicrousness set in, I was actually angry with the people extending the compliments for being so superficial and shallow. How dare they not recognize I was a beautiful woman all over, not just a great set of fake eyes! What was this world coming to?

Because I am now comfortably Authentic, I welcome you to laugh at me. Lord knows how much I’ve come to laugh at mysel!. But I invite you to check your own mirror now. We all have great need for love and acceptance. But we often fail to realize true love and acceptance begins with loving and accepting ourselves, complete with all of our physical and psychological quirks and peculiarities. We lack faith that God created us in good measure the way he saw beautiful and fit, for purposes he sees just and necessary. We sometimes also lack faith that our inner beauty is true beauty and that in the long run, it is what truly matters. If we spend a little more time being authentic with our inner-selves, sprucing up those qualities accordingly, we might find it easier to accept our outer-selves. We soon find others will too. Think about your closest friends or family members. Do you love them most because they have great eyes, perfect teeth, beautiful hair, or model-like figures? Or do you love them most because you trust in each other; they laugh with you, cry with you, encourage you, and generally share an empathic heart? Faith is the friend who will help you see how you genuinely treat others is where your beauty lies. Faith will help you see you are good, your life has meaning and purpose, and ultimately, as a child of God, you are beautiful. This is true no matter what your eyes, nose, lips, stomach, buttocks, breasts, or any other physical qualities look like. It is also true no matter what others say, do or look like.

We’ve heard the adage many times, “To thine own self be true.” While I admit, in a superficial world this is not always easy, it is indeed most rewarding. I write this today, color-contact lens free, with eyes that can now clearly see how just having faith in and acceptance of my own authenticity makes me far more gorgeous than a pair of hazel colored eyes. If you stare into that mirror and find the courage to be authentic, at all times with all people, you will not see just a beautiful you, but a much more beautiful world of truth and acceptance. If you still decide you want something cosmetic to brighten your smile, your eyes, or any other portion of your body, that’s your prerogative. Just make sure the changes you make to your life help you enhance your authentic self, not escape from it.