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The room smelled of honey, like a warm, inviting slice of predawn toast. I leaned back in the chair watching her intently, bracing myself as she took what looked like a thin popsicle stick and rhythmically stirred the thick concoction brewing away in a small, metal vat. Her steady hand carefully turned the wood and gathered a precise quantity of the goo, and she brought the sticky substance up near my unsuspecting brow. Her fingers stretched my skin like a slab of dough on a board, pulling to the perfect angle before applying what turned out to be pleasantly warm wax. With dogged artistry, she refilled her wooden brush and painted a number of well-placed strokes on the canvas of my face. In the end, all left exposed was a tufted row of hairs peeking out from within the hardening borders. My whole body instinctively retreated into the chair cushions as the glob upon my skin cooled to the touch. Then, with an abrupt tug and yank she nimbly ripped the wax away, quickly pressing her finger in its wake attempting to muffle the red, screaming skin. The tiny hairs that were birthed thinking they would live full lives and fall out of their follicle homes of their own accord suddenly found their destiny to be forever embedded in the cold, hard, waxen strip.

The result of this somewhat torturous procedure was to be two perfectly shaped and symmetrically matched eyebrows.

Instead, after the waxing and a number of strategically placed snips with a tiny pair of scissors, the singe of disappointment lofted into the air. The defiant hairs went where they pleased instead of bowing into submission. I heard her sigh as she resolved herself to the truth of my asymmetrical face. She stepped back, took stock of her handiwork as one of her brows raised ever so slightly. With a deep, resigned exhale, she said, “Well. Your eyebrows aren’t twins. They’re sisters.”

The Distorted Allure of Sameness

As an artist, I love studying the human face. My eyes are inevitably drawn to what is different from the norm – the Christmas tree shaped chip betwixt the two front teeth; the crooked smile where one side of the mouth determinedly climbs just a wee bit higher than the other; the wrinkly whorls on the expressive forehead that’s embraced many years on the planet. And, the eyebrows that are not twins, but sisters. We all have the same features – eyes, nose, mouth, etc. – yet we look so fascinatingly different. With billions of people on the planet, how amazing is that?

Yet, in this era of photoshopped perfection, there seems to be a striving for sameness.  And a seeking of an unattainable, non-human standard of physical perfection that’s easy to get lured into trying to meet.

Aren’t our differences much more interesting? Aren’t our little (or big) imperfections or deviations from the norm what makes us uniquely, us? And who in our culture is defining the “norm” for us, anyway? If we were all the same in appearance – and to take it further, in belief, thought and action – wouldn’t that make a robotic and boring world.

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

How we look is only the beginning of this striving for sameness. What we believe and how we live our lives are choices we can make under the influence of a societal mainframe that’s running us without our conscious knowledge. Learning to make choices from our own deepest truth, daring to be who we are apart from expectations outside of our true selves can be one of the most challenging, yet fulfilling experiences and lead to a life that is authentically ours.

So how do we peel back the layers, and get to the core of ourselves? How do we know when we’re being run by influences that are not our own? I’m in inquiry about this, and I think it begins with really tuning into our thoughts about ourselves, and questioning those thoughts. If I’m thinking something highly critical about myself – such as I’m not good enough or I don’t deserve whatever goodness has come my way – where is that coming from? Have I heard that somewhere in the past? Is this a societal dictate I’ve unknowingly embraced? And, most importantly, do I want this to be my truth?

Be Wildly Self-Compassionate

Accepting our humanness and imperfections as we journey through this life, and committing to treating ourselves with the love and compassion that we so often freely show others is a practice. It takes reprogramming ourselves to recognize when we’re heading down some rabbit hole of being unkind to ourselves. Sometimes I’m face to face with a number of rabbits before I realize I’m really beating myself up. And sometimes I catch the self-defeating thoughts right away, I love up on those parts of me who need attention, and I reiterate to myself what my wild truth is – in this case, that I am enough and deserving of love.

Here’s the beautiful thing. We get to define and choose our truth. We have that power. Whatever your wild truth is, the world needs your expression of it. Out of the billions of people on the planet, there’s only one you.

Photo Credits in order of appearance:
Photo by Soroush Karimi on Unsplash
Photo by Jack Moreh on Freerange Stock
Original artwork “Radiant Woman”  ©Andrea Christensen