Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

This prompt kind of gives me the heeby-jeebies.  Why is it that beauty has to be unique?  The things I find most beautiful in myself–patience, creativity, passion, empathy, vision–these are qualities that I admire in others as well.  Sure, I manifest them differently, but the essential qualities are the same. 

When I lived in Malawi 2007/2008, I realized that a lot of the things I thought were a part of my core identity were actually just trappings I put on myself to feel more special.  But in another country, these things just didn’t work the same way.  My sense of humor was a flop.  My interests were not shared by anyone else.  My sense of aesthetic was snobbish and weird.  Even my core virtues were put to the test, causing me to realize how far I still needed to grow!  So the idea that my quirks are my beauty doesn’t fly with me. 

But while I don’t think they are the basis for beauty, they can be beautiful.  I love coming from two wonderful, quirky families: Canadian Jewish intellectual performance junkies on the one hand, who pun furiously and sing Gilbert and Sullivan at the drop of a hat, and small town, basketball-loving, meat-and-potatoes Hoosiers on the other, whose three religions are Christianity, common sense, and the Democratic party.

I love that out of this came me: punny with an oversized vocabulary, but more relaxed among people who value “good” over “smart.”  The wanderlust, the propensity towards service, the need I feel for poetry and dance and trees in my life, these are all patterns I have woven (mostly unconsciously) with these familial materials.  If I am beautiful, it’s because of this: that I now choose to create beauty with what I have been given.  It’s the beauty, not the uniqueness, on which I need to focus.  “Unique” comes from staying true to the beauty I most believe.