The Trouble with Beauty

Images above all from my pinterest

I have somewhat of an addiction. The addiction is to beauty, in all it’s forms. Art, photography, crafts, ideas, typography, design, and even fashion. The invention of pinterest only feeds the content beast. It’s easy to be addicted because beautiful things that people create are all around us. Besides pinterest, there is flickr, twitter, blogs, magazines and more all with the focus of seeking and finding beauty and inspiration.

The trouble with all this beauty is it can breed discontentment. Maybe discontentment with our own skill sets. Or discontentment with what we have or don’t have. It also creates an insatiable appetite for more. Maybe I’m weird and I’m the only one like this. Or maybe not. But this is something I’m constantly having to keep in check.

My worldview was profoundly changed one year ago when my husband went to Kenya, and I saw these amazing people who had so little, yet found beauty and meaning despite their ugly surroundings. I immediately took a few phrases out of my vocabulary:

If you think about it, the context in which those phrases are heard and said in our culture seem pretty silly when you compare them to the true needs of others.

My blog also took a different turn. I stopped blogging about things with a consumeristic approach and started working on more of my own creative projects. That has helped immensely with my own personal creativity, and has helped me stay balanced.

I do believe you should have inputs. As Twyla Tharp, author of The Creative Habit says, “Everything is usable. Everything is relevant.” Every artist should feed into themselves somehow. But I have personally found I need to set limits on inspiration I look for via the internet. Otherwise, it inhibits my own creativity and it just makes me feel empty instead of full. These days I’d much rather go on a walk or visit a beautiful place or even explore an old run down building.

I wonder if we could just shift our mindset to see things online and not think thoughts like, “I wish I had thought of that” or “I’ve got to have that” or “I need that.” I wonder if we could see beauty and just appreciate it. To appreciate the talent of the artist. To admire and respect. To let it feed into us as artists and let it change us.

For discussion: What makes you seek out beauty and inspiration? Do you feel fulfilled by it, or does it leave you wanting more? Does it inspire you to create? Does beauty exist simply for our enjoyment? Or consumption to regurgitate it out? Or does it exist to inspire and motivate to action? To create change? To give people hope? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

22 thoughts on “The Trouble with Beauty”

  1. I completely agree! I love pinning beautiful things and seeing what my friends are pinning. But it makes me long for stuff that I can’t afford or is really impractical for a college student. It’s nice that it makes me more crafty–but the need to have THINGS! I realize how unimportant stuff really is. Loved your post!

  2. Thank you for the thought-provoking post and questions. Your experience of your husband going to Kenya seems to point to beauty in one of its most authentic configurations. I’m most encouraged and inspired by beauty when I experience it in such honest ways. This is something I really struggle with, not being content with just lots of pretty things but actively seeking out the richly beautiful things that will deeply affect me and others. But I don’t know, would we be inspired to create or act if there wasn’t such tension with which to grapple? Would I seek beauty in words, poetry, images or people if the contrast wasn’t spurring me on? Thanks again for these challenging questions.

  3. I agree. For me, beauty is a kind of food. I can indulge, crave, create, and sometimes i need a different kind or to take a break altogether. And it’s main purpose is to give me energy for other tasks. So bearing that in mind helps me stay balanced between pleasure and purpose, making my own stuff or doing without, and getting inspired and motivated without fostering discontent or too many ‘some day’ dreams. 🙂

  4. Thank you! I struggle with this addiction myself and always trying to curve it. As of late I have been stepping away from the computer. Going back and revisiting my old books for inspiration or just taking time to look out my window!

  5. well said. A word I try to keep in my head constantly is BALANCE, so I never get too focused on one thing (say: what everyone else is doing) and forget about my responsibilities/what i can/should do.
    so glad to have found your blog!

  6. I find that pinterest helps me ease the “wants”, because (and I know this may sound a wee pathological) when I pin something I kind of “have” it in a way. Also, it’s help me connect with others on issues such as body image (LOL, see my pinboard “Big Girls Don’t Cry… “thinspiration” is a ‘hole ‘nother ballgame though… but it’s presence on pinterest inspired me to COUNTER it. And lo and behold, to my surprise and delight, there are like-minded folks.

    But I wholeheartedly agree with you on looking inward for creativity and utilizing THAT as a source- because in the endless chasm of the internet, we can loose track of what’s *ours* as far as inspiration/creativity goes.

  7. Evie, you said it. Everyone’s creations should help us create a community for one another rather than fuel negative feelings of “I wish I would have thought of that” and “I need that” and — I’ll throw another one out there — the “I already made that and didn’t get any credit.” I like your ideas for helping to break out of these ruts.

  8. Wow…I really needed to read this. I’ve struggled with the problem of loving beauty for most of my life, and I also came to be obsessed with all of the wonderful “things” I could find online. I wholeheartedly agree that it causes great discontentment. This is also something I have been thinking about lately, and I have realized that I would rather feel validated by WHO I am, not by what I have, or what I make, or what I do.

  9. Yes. Yes. Yes. I struggle with the same things! I haven’t joined Pinterest for fear I would be inseparable from it. I stumbled across your blog and love what you do. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Oh No, you are not alone! I swear you just typed out the words that mirror the thoughts in my mind. Especially lately. I’ve been coming to the realization that all of the inspiration I’m seeking feels more destructive than helpful and that I’m in a constant battle with the stuff I want vs. the way I feel about being surrounded by too much stuff. The crazy thing is that several bloggers that I follow have been voicing similar concerns. I’m wondering if it’s a natural ebb and flow or coincidence.

  11. Yes! I am feeling it, too. I feel pressure to measure up and to not miss out on the latest thing. I often tell myself this lie, “When my house looks like this, then I will be happy.” I know I won’t be. My happiness does not come from stuff. I do not want to be so focused on decorating, making things for my house, buying stuff to fill it that I miss out on my kids growing up, investing in them and spending time with my family and friends.

  12. Thank you so much for this- I found it profoundly helpful & refreshing. Blessings to you as you seek to find the balance between admiring & creating beauty while being content with what you have.

  13. i love this.

    it really makes a difference how you define beauty. i try to make sure my lens is set to see beauty in things that reflect hope and create promise. things that remind me of something bigger and stir something deeper. in anything good, there is beauty. you just need to find it.

  14. I’m in the mist of correcting those little thoughts of “I want or I wish” and trying to just appreciate the beauty. Thank you for the reminder and encouragement.

  15. Loved this! Thank you for your insights. I am one of those people who will sit around and take in LOTS of input but never do anything with it. This blog make me stop and think about where my perspective is focused and where it should be. Thanks!

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