In the U.S., physical beauty generally is highly esteemed only if it fits the ideal set by Hollywood: a willowy size 0. While hiking a few years back in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, I realized the beauty I appreciate most in nature is in the hard-earned tenaciousness that allows an organism to thrive in even the harshest conditions.

Examples that come to mind are:

  • the sparse bristlecone pine, one of the oldest living plants on the planet, which wrenches its existence on rocky, unforgiving windswept peaks,
  • the desert flower that blooms despite nutrient-poor soil and scant rain, and
  • the gangly jackrabbit succeeding in parched environment.

I’d like us to recognize the same beauty in mankind. One where our wrinkles and scars (both outward and inward) testify to our strength. Badges of honor, these physical manifestations of survival are roadmaps of the adversity we’ve overcome, shaping our essence and evolving us into the beings we are today.

What would we be like if our lives had always been easy? For me, conquering those Mt. Everest-sized obstacles have shown me:

  • what’s truly important to me,
  • how resilient and persistent I can be, and
  • the importance of having empathy for and patience with others.

These hard-won revelations root my self-confidence and allow me to find peace in who I really am.

The most beautiful person I’ve known was a woman who overcame much hardship in her life. Her inner peace and wisdom added a glow to her countenance. She celebrated her victories over personal battles. When I think of her, I recall her serenity, the shine in her eyes, the perkiness of her smile. I never dwelled on her advanced age, the wrinkles she must’ve had or any physical imperfections. She embraced who she was and never shrank from living fully as herself. She was the ultimate survivor. Like the bristlecone, she stood strong.