Sometimes I feel myself transform into a bit of a mental monster, which is a clear indication of the need for a helpful technique.
This is one of my favourite, practical ways to completely alter an emotional state without having to change anything about a present situation. It takes very little energy and no subscription to beliefs, but it’s results are amazingly quick. I enjoy it more than gratitude/positive talk exercises because it is an engaged activity with your surroundings, and it is also entertaining because you do not know what you will encounter next. I suggest you give it a try and let me know if it works as well for you as it does for me!
I was walking the streets of Toronto one day when I noticed how incredibly mean I was being. Every person who passed me by was met with a shockingly negative judgment or stereotype. My competitiveness and insecurities seemed to have teamed up and were running my mental show. Like most people, I want to be a good person. So I decided to take an active role in my thoughts and try an experiment…
I forced myself to carefully look at each person I passed until I noticed something about them that was beautiful.
- Look closely at someone asking yourself what about them is beautiful.
- Accept the first thing that comes to your mind no matter what it is. Say it in your mind with a simple noting phrase like “chin”.
- Let that person go and repeat with the next.
For some people it was difficult, and others the answer came right away. But I got better at it very quickly.
By the time I had walked a block, I was excitedly looking into the face of each person I saw, and I couldn’t wait to discover the unique and beautiful nose they had grown or the colour of the scarf they wore.
Within a few minutes of doing this you will start feeling the benefits (or even seconds depending on how many people you are around). Very likely you will be shocked at how easy it becomes to notice the beauty in other people. Is everyone always this stunning? Why haven’t I noticed it before?
Eventually, each person you meet will come to you as an intricately whole and beautiful being. You will notice that the commonly accepted standards for age, size, scars, disabilities, race, style etc will not be a determining factor in the presence of beauty. Having undertaken the task of seeing it in every person, the idea of competition will fade away since you see that no one is lacking.
When we are truly aware of the stunning features of people in our lives, we lose sight of the need to follow a beauty guideline given to us by the magazines.
Perhaps the best part of photoshopped advertisements is that it replaces the actual awesome humanness of a person with a moulded mask that no one can emulate. Since no one looks like the dolls we sell, we are all left on the same playing field of human beauty.
I’ve seen hair that was glowing with animation, and eyebrows that looked like they came from cowboys. The intricacies of mouth shape, and the different ways that teeth arrange themselves inside. I’ve seen people whose eyes are instantaneous centres of depth, and others whose facial hair perfectly suits their face. I become still listening to the statement that someone was conducting that morning as they dressed themselves, and find beauty in their daringness to share their style. I’ve found a person who was so beautiful because they embodied “comfort”.
I’ve walked past women who dropped my jaw in awe and instead of feeling threatened, I was filled with joy and appreciation that they shared the world with me. And I’m filled with the same joy watching an angry expressions transform an old man’s face with intriguing symmetry and comical geometry.
When I arrived home that day I felt pure love for the world. And I felt surprisingly safe and secure in its future. I was excited by the idea that everyone was beautiful, because it meant that there was a feature in myself that would cause awe just like everyone else. I could let go of my insecurity, and my competitiveness, knowing that I was enough.
“I see her radiant hair – and I envy her – but when I take off my own shell, she becomes my friend.”
- If no one is around you, try this thought experiment with inanimate objects, nature, pets, or a mirror. Just look until you find something beautiful about each subject of your attention.
- Remember that we may not even experience colours the same as each other, and so when you discover these beautiful traits they will be subjective to your eyes and your view. Other people may not agree with you, and it is generally a bad idea to try and recreate aspects of someone’s beauty in someone else. A typical example of this is that if you find that women without makeup look stunning to you, that is a wonderful discovery for you to make! But it is not possible for you to tell everyone to stop wearing makeup because it improves your view. The goal is to find beauty in everything exactly as it is without needing to change it in the past or the future. The experience of beauty will transform and pass as quickly as any of your other sensations do, it is best to simply observe it and receive the depth to your emotional experience that it gives, but you do not need to hold on to that experience. It will come again.
- Noticing beauty is simply for your emotional benefit it is not an accurate way to judge a person’s character.
- This is easiest to do with strangers in a busy area. You will have gotten used to the faces of people that you know, so you may have to look at them longer before you can “see them for the first time” again (though, this can be extremely eye opening and wonderful to do, and it may make you appreciate them on a different level).
- I have not experimented with telling the person about the thing that I have found is most beautiful in them, though with some people it is so hard not to run after them and ask if they know the effect they have on the world. I do end up smiling at everyone which seems to be a fine way to be engaged without having to break for conversations etc. If it is with someone you know, I would encourage you to tell them the specific thing that has taken your breath away, as they may have never heard it.
I am also aware of the lack of diversity in my photographs. That was not intentional! Wanting to remain authentic/avoid plagiarism, I use only the photos taken by myself or my family, which means that we are often the subjects.