Deborah Heath

How would you explain what beautiful is to your granddaughter?
I would explain to my granddaughter that beauty is on both the outside and inside.  You show beauty through your actions, your words, the way you touch something or somebody; this shows how beautiful you are as a human being.
But beauty is also on the outside, and you will be attracted to beauty. That is your first instinct– to see something, like a flower or a house or a car or a boy or a girl, anybody, and be attracted to that beauty, but you might get to know them and discover that they aren't a nice person, and that fact changes your perception; their outward beauty isn't as alluring or as strong.

When do you feel the most beautiful?
When my body is all where it's supposed to be, and I'm not looking to do anything more to it; I feel at peace, and I feel good.

When I was younger I went by looks, as I think we all do.  As I've gotten older I have realized that beauty is only skin deep and some of the most beautiful people that we see are not beautiful on the inside.
I've never been really beautiful myself so people, and certainly beautiful people, don't gravitate to me for that; it always felt like I had to work a little harder to have people take notice of me.

When you were younger, how important was it for you to feel attractive?  
We all thought it was important! You wanted to be attractive, and I don't know how to say it except that in my family, if you wore makeup or your best clothes, you were being too showy. The attitude was, “Who do you think you are?” My sister and I had a conversation not too long ago about how if you wore nice clothes or makeup and actually looked as good as you felt like you looked, there was something wrong with you; you was shunned.
It felt like I had to hide things. It's not a good feeling when your family makes you feel like you are thinking too much of yourself.  That was the general way. Now, I'm 64-years-old, and I refuse to make an excuse for wearing a nice looking outfit.

It's interesting because so much of the beauty industry focuses on the outside and that's what you're talking about, but also when you are not allowed to express yourself in that way or are made to feel bad for wanting to feel beautiful on the outside, how do you deal with that? How do you deal with it on the inside?
I was never pretty, and that's something that was brought to my attention recently.
My mother said, "You were always so shy,"
and I said, "But mom, I was looked at, my lip was distorted."  
People would look and stare and I would look down; I had a hemangioma.  
And she said, "Oh, that was nothing,"
and I said, "No that was something!"
hemangioma is not pretty, it's like a big blood clot on your face, and my mother likes everything to be beautiful and perfect. How much of a disappointment was I?
The flip side of that is that I had a decent childhood; I couldn't have asked for anything better.  I was accepted by my brothers and sister, and I was accepted by my friends, but I knew what they were looking at.  You draw a strength from the fact that there's nothing you can do about it.  Let them look.  You get used to it.  You learn to maneuver yourself so maybe it's not so noticeable; you look down a lot.  You get used to people whispering or giggling.
Years later,  I had had a couple of surgeries on my lip, but it still wasn't right and I had never heard anybody say that I was pretty. I was working at the Stop and Save in Maine, and a lady and man that worked there came walking up behind me, and he said, "Boy, isn't she pretty," and she said, "Shhh she's right there." It felt like the sky opened up.  That's all I needed.

What is it about someone thinking we're pretty on the outside that makes us feel so good?
Acceptance.  I was accepted by  at least one person.
My whole childhood experience of having a growth on my face, having heart surgery, and being held back in school because of the time I missed– those things changed my reality. You have these experiences in your life, and you could be the most beautiful person in the world, but if you feel stupid or ugly, which I did, it doesn't matter.  It's like eating crow.  How do you wipe crow off your face?

How do you do that?  What would you go back and say to that little girl? How would you get her to feel good about herself again?
If I could go back and say something to myself as a child- if I could go back and say something to make that little girl feel good about herself– I would tell her: ‘You did a damn good job. You are strong. You haven’t done anything wrong. This is just where you are supposed to be.’ You just have to accept certain things. You learn by living through them. You're not in charge.
Who was the most beautiful person in your life?
My grandmother.  She was so understanding.  She could see things.  My grandmother was with me the whole time I was sick.
How did you feel when you were around her?
Protected.  I felt accepted.
What are the most beautiful things about you?
I can pick up on people’s attitudes, fears, apprehensions and adjust to how people are.  I think I'm kind-hearted, and I try to be as non-judgmental as I possibly can.  I'm learning to be a little bit more assertive about being honest without worrying about causing a fracas, and I’m learning to call a spade a spade without being upset and aggressive.

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