Th Importance of Being Ugly.

A topic of thought from an unexpected source

I recently red a fluff article about what makes a relationship ‘real.’ After thoughtful consideration about how anyone can say what is real and what is not, and what it actually means for the relationship to qualify as ‘real,’ I decided to go ahead and read the article.

After about 2 paragraph I began to skim, as i quickly deduced the writing to be anecdotal and superficial. It pointed out the things that might, on the surface, be considered negative in a relationship such as ‘it should make you angry’ and ‘it should make you feel uncomfortable.’ Basically, it was a different perspective on what makes a relationship exciting and worthwhile. Simply put, if your not feeling the extremes, its not worth feeling at all. I cant say I agree with this idea whole heartedly, but I understand what the author was saying.

As i started to thumb-swipe through the rest of the article, one caught my eye. “It should make you feel ugly.” I stopped here and read what i thought was an incomplete idea; that exposing your true self and taking off your ‘mask’ is part of a great relationship, and for many of us, that can make us feel a big hideous since we spend so much of our days developing a facade of our true selves.

Again, I could see exactly what the author meant by this, but cant fully agree. Taking our mask off is scary, especially if our reason for wearing one is a dissatisfaction with our true self. The author goes on to explain that finding a comfort level with someone where you regularly show your true self if a beautiful thing. But I think this deserves a deeper exploration.

What I believe qualifies as an important and strong relationship (choosing not to say ‘real’ since I’m not qualified to!) is being with someone who, when you take off your mask, makes you feel even more beautiful for who you are. Its the cheesiest sentiment in the book, but I’m living in it right now.

Living with my ugliness

My husband and I have been married for only two-and-a-half years, but have been together for almost 10 years. He has always made me feel beautiful; at first with his compliments and adoration, and then later with his personal care and consideration. I’ve learned over the years to make peace with stripping down the layers of my outer-self and allowing him to see my broken, flawed, crooked, and generally ugly self. And for a while, thats exactly how it felt, and I loved him so much for seeing me that way, and not running for the hills.

But lately, I’ve noticed a change in myself that I think comes directly from the state of my marriage.

Ugliness as part of the process

I’m a fine artist and graphic designer, and I get great deal of joy from creating each day, but finding a solid balance between creative exploration and actual work can be challenging.

Once my career stated gaining traction, an imbalance started taking place. Where once I made time for graphic design simply for fun and exploration (much in the same ways I created fine art), my work load slowly increased over time and I began doing graphic design strictly for work. The more the work-load increased, and the bigger my side jobs became, the less time I spent on my art. This created a divide between the pleasure of creating and the necessity of completion. Creative exploration through design died off, and i tried desperately to maintain my personal connection with my fine art. I struggled to protect what time i had with my paintings and illustrations, But they, too, became more about commissions and less about pure desire to create.

There was a shift. I noticed it. My husband noticed it. I wasn’t happy with the work I was doing anymore. I give credit to my husband as he continued to gently guiding me back to the canvas to paint for stress relief, entertainment, and to just take a break from my digital daily grind. But going back to the canvas became just that… a personal event. I needed space from my paid work; I didn’t want to do commissions any more…this was supposed to be me time! So I stopped seeking them out, and painted only for myself. My art practice became so intensely personal, that it was almost a secret. It introverted me, which is very strange ground. And the more I isolated my art, the less confident I had become. My lack of confidence became so strong that I would give up part way through my paintings and just paint over them. And that feeling of isolation, introversion and fear started spilling over into my personal life. I was lacking lustre and motivation to be who I am. I became ugly in my own sense of the word.

My husband watched me spiral with this for years. I can’t comment on what his thoughts were..he is a man of few words but many emotions. But he definitely noticed. We didn’t quantify it as a problem with my creativity and need for personal expression, but we both knew there was something off. We didn’t know for sure what it was, but it became such a topic of discussion and concern that I began seeking medical help, and eventually pharmaceutical intervention. Medication helped to level things out, but I wasn't fully me. Something was missing. Now when I chose to be medicated, I was calm and ugly, rather than ugly and upset about it. Not a great improvement.

Cue my husbands amazing unwavering support, which, with my greatest apologies to him, I didn’t fully recognize until now. While I struggled to find a balance among my creative outlets, he did nothing by constantly and gently encourage me to continue to find what works for me. Even when I would come to him excited about doing a completely off-the-wall project (concrete art, building furniture, sculpting, knitting… you name it) he never once showed a sign of questioning or resistance. In fact, he showed the exact opposite. Often times, he would take the initiative to help me gather supplies or research methods. Whatever it was, he was on board, weather it meant a project together, a project just for me, a brand new passion, or a complete failure. He simply wanted me to find what makes me happy. And most important, he saw that ugly part of me as natural, normal, and completely okay.

The affect of acceptance

Without me knowing, his actions and attitude had a very profound affect on me. He created an encouraging environment for me to try new artistic outlets, which was the first major step away from the Ugly. Meeting no resistance from him along the way helped me move forward. Eventually, I started coming back to what I was good at: painting and drawing. And through it all, he never changed. He didn't pressure me or show outrageous gestures of support or happiness every time I came back to the canvas… he just maintained his solid support at all times, letting me progress at my own pace. Though that, I began to feel differently about my ugliness. I progressively found the strength and confidence I was looking for. His support showed me that my ugly state is nothing to fear, and I am a whole and complete and beautiful person no matter where I am in life. As it started to become clearer to me, I felt an overwhelming sense of love and respect for the man I marred; A man who wants nothing of me but to be my best self, and to find that ‘best self’ any way I know how.

To be ugly is to be human

My ugliness now is an integral part of me. Every time I start to feel too raw or too broken, I look to my husband, and I’m reminded that he sees those flaws differently, and I don’t have to feel so bad about who I am. After all, those flaws are what got me here. It motivates me to continue to be who I am all the time, and give myself permission to do what feels good and brings me happiness. ◽

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