Offhandedly, she referred to her face as, "...this ugly mug." Her comment shocked and saddened me. Here was an accomplished woman, intelligent, educated, brimming with decades of hard-earned wisdom, and the only thing she could mention about herself was, "...this ugly mug." She said it with a self-effacing smile, that tight-lipped smile we use when masking the pain behind the words. Yet, the pain - old, deep, a TEN on that ONE TO TEN scale - rose up in her eyes and threatened to spill over.
I imagined she had been bullied and criticized, and God knows what else, throughout her childhood. No doubt her teen years were a
nightmare too. I say, "no doubt," because we are kindred spirits.
Getting back to the "mug:" Where this woman saw only ugliness, I saw beauty. I saw in the structure of her face the determination and
strength it took for her to attain her current success in her chosen career. The firmness of her rounded cheeks and the lines around her eyes and lips attested to her use of humor through the
rough times. Kindness and empathy abounded within her gentle dark eyes, abounded despite (or because of) a lifetime of struggle. This was what I saw the first time we met. I saw a woman of
character whose tremendous life experience filled her with grace. I saw a woman whose smile and confident voice were rooted in the maternal genes of Eve herself, and I immediately felt safe
and comforted in her presence. This is one's true beauty.
And I told her, "I think you're beautiful."
She tilted her head at me and gave me a disbelieving half-smile.
"Really," I said. "You are beautiful."