What is it about the new year that makes us long for reinvention? How does a trick of the calendar subject us to so much self-reflection, in which we inevitably come up short? Turn on the TV, open a magazine, and you’re bombarded with ads for gyms and facial resurfacing and cellulite removal. Make a resolution! Get fit in 2013! Be a whole new you!

What I find most interesting about this phenomenon is its emphasis on externals. Don’t get me wrong; I’m just as guilty as anyone of daydreaming what-ifs: What if I had a smaller nose, better cheekbones, a thinner waistline, a whiter smile? And of course the aspiration to a new you is often bound to a longing for better health — something all of us should subscribe to. Yet I can’t help feeling that even if I woke up tomorrow in a body that featured a tiny waist, cheekbones that could cut diamonds and full, pouty lips, I wouldn’t be very new at all. Because changing the outside means very little without a change to your insides.

Interior beauty isn’t quite as easy to define as exterior beauty. It comprises kindness, charity, wisdom, honor, loyalty and love, certainly, but there’s more to it than just that. My friend Maria, one of the most beautiful people I know, isn’t beautiful simply because she’s fit, although she is. Her beauty radiates from a kind and committed heart that she expresses in her everyday life though acts of love, mercy and justice. She doesn’t talk the talk at all. She merely walks the walk, and in doing so, colors her entire being with the kind of beauty that starts inside and radiates out to everything she does and everyone she meets. Now, that’s real beauty.

Of course, if I measure myself against my friend, I will come up just as lacking as when I measure my exterior against the latest super-hot 20-something actress. And that’s the rub. We are not all meant to be beautiful in exactly the same way. All the cellulite-removal and facial re-contouring in the world won’t make us Halle Berry. Nor should it. What would be fun or interesting about everyone looking stunning, yet exactly the same? The same applies to our interiors. I can’t be exactly like my friend; I’m too shy and retiring. But I can do things only I can do. Things I’m particularly good at. The things that make me, me.

So in this new year, let’s concentrate less on a new outside and instead make ourselves new inside: Us, only more so. Us, only more understanding, more forgiving, more humble. Forget about beautiful skin. Let’s have beautiful souls. It will cost less money, and the returns will be amazing. A beautiful new soul can have a far greater impact than any nose job.

I’d love to hear your “soul resolutions” for the new year. Mine is to focus less on being “right” and more on being kind. What’s yours?

Advertisements