On the Elusiveness of Contentment


A line from a letter written by a close friend:

“What else is it to feel pretty than to be happy to be oneself, just as one is?”

What else indeed? I don’t know. I’m hardly modest, but it wouldn’t occur to me to call myself pretty, let alone imagine what it feels like. Like most women who started out as little girls who felt grossly unattractive, I decided to be very, very smart.

(Unfortunately, being very smart can also add to one’s unattractiveness. But I digress.)

This doesn’t mean that I went to the extreme of not making an effort entirely. I liked to dress well (and I still like dressing well, though wearing a uniform seven days a week doesn’t leave much room for fashionable self-expression) and I like to keep fit. I just don’t pay attention to makeup and I will almost always ignore my reflection in a mirror (unless it’s to examine my alignment in a yoga pose).

(Funny how we instinctively and inerrantly evade those parts of ourselves we don’t quite like.)

But to go back to my friend’s line, what is it to be happy with oneself, “just” as one is, if it isn’t to be pretty? I don’t really know, because to feel that kind of contentment is almost as alien to me as it is to feel pretty. It’s a strange thing to admit, given where I work and what I do for a living, but then again, we search hardest for that which we feel we lack the most. If I work in a wellness studio and teach yoga for a living, it’s precisely because, like most of my students, I’m looking for something (even if it’s just a ten-minute respite from thought borne from intense physical exertion).

In the end, maybe all I’m really looking for is a respite from looking.

And where I am is a pretty good place to start.

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