Appearances seem so important. Most of us believe that our appearance is very important, and we work very hard at looking a certain way. This is especially true for women, of course, and this conditioning is very difficult to overcome because there's a lot of fear that not looking good will have drastic consequences. For many people, appearance is a top priority and often remains that way right up until death. My mother, for instance, insisted on “putting on her face” even on her deathbed after her body had been diminished to skin and bones by cancer. Even then, she was still trying to improve herself, still not seeing the beauty that she was as this old dying woman, still not allowing herself to just be as she was.

Our appearance does affect how others initially react to us. However, it's not as important as we
make it. We suffer over it and try so hard to look other than the way we do. All of this trying is
exhausting and takes time and energy away from things that are more fulfilling and important in life.

That's the problem—when we are consumed with our appearance, we aren't giving our attention and
energy to other things that might be more meaningful, fulfilling, and rewarding. We might not
discover that cultivating kindness is more rewarding than cultivating beauty. We might fail to notice the beauty that is here, within ourselves and others, just as we are.

Inner beauty and outer beauty can be at odds, since there is only so much attention and energy we
have. Where your energy and attention go reflects what you value. Do you value outer beauty more
than inner beauty? You might say you don't, but where are you putting your energy and attention?
What are your thoughts on?

The funny thing is that others love us for our inner beauty, for the unique expression of Essence
that we are, although they may be attracted to us by our outer beauty. However, that allure doesn't mean much if they don't also fall in love with us. What people fall in love with isn't our outer beauty (that's attraction or infatuation, not love), but something much more subtle—our being. They love us because they see lovable qualities that belong to Essence: goodness, creativity, kindness, joy for life, patience, compassion, courage, wisdom, strength, clarity, and so on.

The beauty of getting old with someone is the opportunity it presents to really get that appearances
don't matter. You watch as your beloved changes before your eyes into an old man or old woman, but
you may love him or her more than ever, not because of how he or she looks, but because you love your beloved's being—you love how he or she is in the world and with you. That's when you really get that all this emphasis on appearances is false.

Appearances never were that important. You only thought they were. Just because most people believe that appearances are important doesn't make it so. People are under the illusion that appearances are far more important than they are, which does create that reality to some extent—it makes this seem true. This illusion results in a culture that's sadly misled into putting too much
energy and attention on such things. This cultural illusion makes it more difficult to discover the
truth—that appearances aren't that important. But life is wise and ages us so that we can discover the
truth. It is perhaps one of the greatest lessons of our lives, although it may take a lifetime to learn it.

If we realize that appearances aren't that important, then aging can be experienced as fortunate, as it gives us the gift of finally getting to relax and stop striving to improve ourselves. We finally get to put our attention on what's important— on loving others (and ourselves) just the way we are.

This is the greatest gift we can give others and ourselves, and the most important thing we can do
in life.

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