Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Layers

There's a song by Labrinth that's been out for a while now, Beneath Your Beautiful. It's a sweet, kind of average pop song (just my opinion - no need for rancor if you disagree). Nothing to despise, nothing to get all excited about - unless maybe you're suffering through teenage angst. Still, I heard it on the radio the other day and the two main lines of lyrics earwormed their way through my weekend until I really paid attention:

Would you let me see beneath your beautiful? 
Would you let me see beneath your perfect?

We tend to put our best face on for others. It's expected. Most of us are taught that from childhood. I can't tell you how many times I heard my mother say, "You can't go out of the house looking like that! People will think you're an orphan!" Whether it was a smudge on my cheek, rumpled clothes, or even a frown, it didn't matter. Presentation was everything, the whole package.

To this day that lingers. Although I don't get "dolled up" by any stretch of the imagination, when I go out in public, I have on clean clothes and my hair is brushed. And, no matter what else I might be feeling, I try to slap a pleasant expression on my face. ("What happens in this house stays in this house. There's no need for the whole world to know our business!") I'm not alone. Most of us do that to one degree or another. It's just part of our social upbringing.

Ironic then, isn't it? That most of our real selves lies beneath the beautiful and far beyond the perfect. Our humanity is anything but beautiful or perfect - which is what makes us so doggone perfectly beautiful to begin with! It's our messiness that makes us amazing. People see a sweet-smelling, sleeping infant and coo, "Oh, what a perfect little baby..." The baby that, hours before, was born in a storm of ooze and blood and shit and screaming and tears where the real beauty and perfection of life took place.

What if we allow people to see beneath our beautiful and our perfect? And, even better, what if we make a concerted effort to see beneath the beautiful of others? The woman who is perfectly put together was once abused by her ex-husband; the child with the perfect teeth and athletic build has a sister who is dying from leukemia; the buff guy at the gym is worried that he's never enough for anyone; the homeless guy was once somebody's baby; the woman with the bags under her eyes and the rumpled shirt is running the cash register, trying to keep her family together until her husband can find work again; the chubby, uncoordinated kid just wants someone, anyone, to like him.

Beneath the beautiful there are a million different things going on. Beneath the perfect is where we really live. So, why do we try so hard?

Why do I try so hard? Beneath my beautiful is constant self-doubt and self-criticism. Beneath my perfect is the litany Am-I-Getting-It-Right? Beneath my beautiful there isn't a fear of failure (been there, done that, ain't no big deal), but a fear of success. Beneath my perfect is a shy, terrified little girl hoping that someone will understand without her having to explain everything.

Who are you beneath your beautiful? I'm listening.

4 comments:

  1. Wow, almost made me cry, Barb. Notice I said, "almost". Didn't want to ruin my beautiful...

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    1. Ahhhh, but crying is part of the real beautiful. :-)

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  2. Ah this is amazing. I love you so much!

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