What I Learned from Anne Shirley about Beauty

I wrote this piece a number of years ago and thought I would share it.

There is a scene in the movie Anne of Avonlea where Marilla Cuthbert says to Anne, “You have tricked something out of that imagination of yours called love.” She then proceeds to give Anne a list of all the ways Gilbert (her childhood friend) has sacrificed for her in ways that showed love. But Anne couldn’t see it; she didn’t want to see it. She was afraid of it. She had high ideals, romantic ideals—standards of what she though Love ought to look like, feel like, and be like. So she goes on a journey in search of those ideals. Her quest leads her to another town, a handsome and rich suitor and an indescribable emptiness which leads her back home to her heart’s true desire, Gilbert.

Too many times we are like Anne. We think we know what it means to look beautiful, feel beautiful and be beautiful. We go searching for this ideal, only to come up empty-handed and aching-hearted. Like Anne, we search the physical world, finding counterfeits of true desires. But they crumble to dust with age, infirmity, accident, loss. We are haunted by a never-ending emptiness, the insatiable, unsatisfied pain of invalidation telling us that we are never quite enough.

The remedy? Come home. Come back to your roots of true beauty. Return to the Green Gables of innocence, before your mind was plagued with the insecurities, flaws and standards of false perfection and deceptive advertisement. Come home to the freedom, foundation and peace of self-acceptance. The kind of self-acceptance that lets real beauty flow, like a clear mountain stream, down into your heart and out to quench a thirsting world.

The secret is not to go seeking or searching for beauty, as Anne thought she must do for love. You cannot find true and lasting beauty in a bottle, a pill, a surgery, or the latest fashion, just as Anne could not find real, abiding love in the handsome millionaire who took her touring, dancing and dining. No, to find true beauty you must come back to your roots, embrace your true essence and let beauty into your heart. You must align with your core ideals, not what the external world says. Beauty is inside of you. Only you can let it shine. You must accept it, learn to see how it expresses itself through you, share it; own it. Only as you quiet the voices of perfection can you hear the voice of truth. Only as you remove the images of perfection can you see the intricacies of real, palpable, deep, lasting beauty. Real beauty is a journey home, to the interior of the heart, essence and spirit. Where are you looking for beauty? Are you on a quest? Or are you heading toward home to soak up the truth that YOU ARE beautiful?