While shopping at one of my favorite boutiques, I ran across this adorable little trinket that had a modest inscription on it that read: “Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful”. The timing was perfect for me to receive this message because I had just recently decided to end a long-term friendship that had become severely dysfunctional and was weighing me down emotionally. Like most people who experience an end to a long-term friendship, whether it was a positive experience or not, the finality of the split left me feeling relieved and out of sorts all at the same time. Feeling beautiful was probably the last thing on my mind at the time because the “friendship” had become so offensive to my psyche. It felt like an all-out assault to my spirit in an attempt to systematically convince me that I had nothing to offer. Yet, when I read the caption on the little ornament that day in the boutique, it spoke to me in a way that I cannot describe. I felt like my soul had just awakened by a fierce inspiration! I thought how wonderful it would be if each of us could feel the same reassurance that I felt that day by simply taking a step back and appreciating our own God given beauty! Not just the physical beauty, but our entire beautiful self, inside and out. I reflected on how important it is never to give anyone control over our perceptions of ourselves because God created each of us in his own image and He did not make any mistakes on any of his creations!Even though we know in our heart that we are uniquely designed by God, we all at some point in our life have fallen victim to allowing ill-intentioned “friends” or that nagging voice in our head that try to persuade us that we are less than. In so doing, we fail to fully appreciate our own individuality and the marvelous qualities that we have to offer. Not recognizing or appreciating our own unique beauty is similar to the inference in the quote by Alice Walker that says: “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it”, (The Color Purple). That may be putting it a bit bluntly, but sometimes we need a candid wake-up call. The same concept applies to how we view ourselves, not just how we view a color somewhere in a field. Even though we get the point, I have noticed that women in particular repeatedly fall into the trap of comparing themselves to others and not embracing their own beauty. Physical beauty has become such the end all, that many people have such blind envy of others because of their physical appearance that they have no regard to the personal struggles someone might be going through, despite how well put together they may appear on the outside. In spite of this and as straightforward as it may sound, if each of us would begin to practice being our own kind of beautiful, then we would realize that each of us is beautiful just the way we are.At any rate, although physical attractiveness can be quite enticing, outer beauty is fleeting. Therefore, a person’s character, morals and values should be the factors that true beauty should be judged. These core traits are not merely handed down through great genetics and more importantly; they never fade away. Remember the old saying, pretty is as pretty does? If someone is lacking in these three intrinsic fundamentals, then it really does not matter what they look like on the outside. Physical beauty has no correlation at all to the goodness or essential quality of a person. OK, for those who may be a little harder to persuade maybe we can take gradual, baby steps toward adopting this revolutionary standard of looking at beauty. For the sake of compromise, let’s say the new standard of judging beauty can consist of a combination of both physical and inner characteristics. However, in all fairness the fundamental core of who a person is should at least carry a higher weighted average than what the person looks like. Fair enough? Well, until this notion becomes widely accepted, which quite frankly may take an act of God; I will suggest a few simple ideas to help remind everyone to honor God by simply being your own kind of beautiful on the inside and out.One way to practice being your own kind of beautiful is to celebrate your God given gifts and beauty. The fact that each and every person on this earth is uniquely designed, down to our personalized fingerprints, is astounding! Whether it is an internal or physical characteristic that makes you uniquely beautiful, you should focus on just one trait at a time and celebrate it. We have so much to be thankful for, so celebrating one thing at a time can be as simple as showing gratitude for having that distinctive attribute. Once you begin to do this on a regular basis, you will begin to naturally appreciate how wonderfully designed you are. For example, I have always been into physical fitness, sometimes more than others, but overall I have been blessed that God has made me physically strong and healthy. Although I could have chosen to sit around and focus on someone else’s physical attributes, I have chosen to celebrate my own. As such, I joined a hiking club and push my physical endurance to the limit on a regular basis by hiking through rugged terrain to reach altitudes that I never thought I would reach by foot. A couple of added benefits are that for one I meet interesting, like-minded people and in addition I am keeping physically fit by doing something I enjoy. If you have never been hiking, you cannot imagine the beauty that can be seen from the vantage point from atop a mountain. For miles on end, there is the beauty of nature, including speckles of purple in a field of flowers. I thank God each day for giving me the physical ability to be able to do these types of physical activities; particularly after having been bound to a wheelchair for several months after an injury. I celebrate my blessings every chance I get by putting my gift to use. The more I use it, the more physically and mentally strong I become. You will be surprised at how doing simple things like this can help you discover your blessings which you may have overlooked in the past because you have spent so much time comparing yourself to someone else. So, get out there and keep it moving by discovering or rediscovering your beautiful self!This brings me to my next piece of advice that I will offer to you to practice being your own kind of beautiful which is to stop comparing yourself to others, period. Many times, no matter what our station is in life or how many compliments we receive from others, we somehow still feel like we fall short in comparison to someone else. What I have discovered is that a person will not be able to fully appreciate their own beauty if they continue to try and emulate someone else’s beauty. It is irrational to look at the external beauty of someone else and feel envious. First of all, envy is a sin and secondly physical beauty is fleeting, so why even bother. So, instead of comparing yourself to others you should thank God for creating you in his own image. On this subject, I want to share how moved I was by a speech given by Iyanla Vanzant entitled, “You Matter”. In it she stated something that really grabbed my attention regarding the whole concept of how wasteful it is to compare yourself to others. In her speech she said, “It is an act of violence to compare yourself to other people”. That is such a powerful statement! In order to fully appreciate the full force of this statement, you have to take a moment and absorb its significance. If you really think about it, not only is it an act of violence, it is also irreverent to compare yourself to others which in a way marginalizes your own beauty and uniqueness. Ironically, I found this concept also works in the reverse as it reminds me not to look at others with such a critical eye and to appreciate the fact that they too are uniquely designed by God. Psalm 139:14 says, ‘I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well”.One final suggestion that I will impart on the subject of being your own kind of beautiful is that it is important to appreciate and not emulate others’ beauty. It is one thing to admire a person’s beauty, however, you have completely crossed the line if your adoration of another leaves you feeling demoralized. Fortunately, there is a healthy balance between celebrating your own beauty and appreciating others’ beauty; particularly without feeling jealousy which is a by-product of emulation. The most confident women are those who embrace their own beauty and can appreciate others for their beauty in a healthy way. This confidence is reflected in many ways such as being graceful in how you carry yourself as it will reflect in how you view others. As the saying goes, “Elegance is [the only] beauty that never fades”. As I stated earlier, beauty is unique to each individual and it does not always mean physical beauty. Yes, it is important to strive to be your best self, inside and out. However, you do not have to jeopardize your self-worth in the process by impersonating others. That is why it is important to check yourself from time to time to ensure you keep a healthy balance between appreciating versus emulating others. Feeling confident in who you are and what you have to offer will allow you to appreciate others at a greater level for who they are without feeling envious by trying to imitate them.In summary, because each of us is uniquely designed by God, we all have an abundance of reasons to appreciate and celebrate our own beauty. Of course, beauty can be viewed in many ways either inner, outer, or a combination of both. We can begin the transformative thinking of being our own kind of beautiful by actively celebrating our own uniqueness one trait at a time. Once we begin to do this, we will become comfortable in our own skin and will be able to appreciate others for their beauty without allowing jealousy or envy to invade our space. No one has a right to try to make you feel that you have nothing to offer. As Iyanla Vanzant stated in her speech, “You Matter”. You do not need anyone to define you or to complete you because God has already done an awesome job at that. Embrace this concept and live it on a daily basis. In other words, start each day by boldly being your own kind of beautiful!