“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller
Leah Darrow is more qualified to answer this question than most.
After being discovered as a contestant on America’s Next Top Model she spent several years at the top of the modeling industry. She graced advertisements, magazine covers and even billboards in Times Square. She was young, attractive and well-compensated. Leah was on top of the world…
And yet, every time she saw herself in a magazine or on a billboard she wondered how she’d stay there. Every day there were other girls auditioning for her place; every day there were new blemishes on her skin or imperfections on her body. Every time she glanced in the mirror, she heard the faint, nagging whisper, “Am I enough?”
While at a photoshoot in New York, Leah unintentionally looked directly at the flash as it went off. Temporarily blinded, she had an out of body experience. She saw herself, hands cupped in front of her, she felt a pang of disappointment upon realizing they were utterly empty. There was nothing in her grasp.
She then heard five words that changed her life. “I made you for more.”
Leah again glanced at her cupped hands, which remained totally empty.
The voice of the photographer broke through her experience and beckoned her back to reality. He encouraged her to compose herself, get back to work, regain the pose. Overwhelmed with emotion, Leah was unable.
She walked off the set, changed back into her clothes and walked toward the exit. The director of the shoot insisted that if she walked out that door he’d personally guarantee she’d never find modeling work again.
Leah looked at him, smiled and said, “Do you promise?!” She then turned, walked out the door and stepped away from the set and her career.
It turns out that as a model, even at the height of her career, she never felt as if she was truly beautiful. Reinforcing that perspective was the reality that every photograph ever published of Leah – or any other model – was Photoshopped. With tummies tightened, curves exaggerated and all other imperfections removed: The picture could finally be considered worthy of print.
Almost a decade after walking away from that career, Leah now has a totally different perspective of what it means to be worthy and beautiful.
The once “top model” is now a self-described “common mom.” And she’s enjoying every moment of it.
Between changing diapers, refereeing arguments and preparing sippy cups for three small children, there is little time or interest in masking her imperfections. Over the last few years she’s earned stretch marks, wrinkles and a few gray hairs. When she looks in the mirror, she’s aware of the changes… and she’s never felt more beautiful.
Leah finally feels that she is enough. She knows who she is, whose she is and what really matters.
(I visited with Leah Darrow during my most recent Live Inspired podcast. You will love her remarkable story and passion to share it. Check it out here. You’ll be glad you did!)
So, what does it mean to be beautiful?
Even super models struggle with self-worth and confidence. Today, let’s liberate ourselves from the unrealistic standards society puts on us and, instead, redefine what real beauty is and what it means to each of us.
It turns out the best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. Instead, real beauty must be felt with the heart. It will change what we see in the mirror, how much we can hold in our hands and what we’re able to do through our lives.
This is your day. Live Inspired.
So, what do you think it means to be beautiful? Please share in the comments below. Looking forward to hearing from you!