How Could I Be Anything Less Than Beautiful?

Tanya Taylor Rubinstein
5 min readAug 19, 2021

Radical Self Love as Medicine for Patriarchal Narratives

Tanya sits smiling at the camera with her back against a tree

On my 57th birthday, I wanted to post this current picture of myself and state something that I know to be radical in this culture: I have always known that I am beautiful.

I’ve never had any desire to shave off years from my age. I’m aware that this understanding is not only a tremendous blessing but a huge source of my power.

From the time I was a teenager, I was aware that I wasn’t necessarily the “prettiest” girl in any room. I struggled with acne. I wore braces that my mother insisted upon, which you could never tell now as I didn’t wear the retainer, so my teeth moved back to where they began. I have always been many steps removed from cultural standards of perfection, and yet I always have known that I am beautiful.

I knew that I was sexy, not to everybody, but to “everybody” that mattered to me.

When I look back on my work as a story worker, as somebody who works intimately with women’s, men’s, trans, and nonbinary stories, I understand now that this radical acceptance of myself on a physical level has allowed me to hold huge space in my containers for everybody else’s story. High self-esteem around my conventionally average looks specifically, served as an inoculation against self-hatred and buying into the destructive kinds of beauty myths that have disempowered women for as long as they have existed.

Let me tell you my best secret: My superpower is GENEROSITY, as a storyteller, a writer, a teacher- as a lover, a friend, and an ally. This is the secret to every achievement, every connection, every miracle that informs my life. I learned early on to give first. When distorted, this notion can give way to all forms of codependency. But once integrated, it leads to a deep knowing of community “everywhere” and interdependency, an endless dance that leads us back to a remembrance of authentic identity. In an embodied sense for me, it bubbles as joy.

Boundaries are of course essential developmentally, though at some point, they too can be released, so the ancestors and trees, desert and Tao, ocean and crone, can dance your life, the breath can move you so moments become an ongoing ritual, constellation, performance, and path. Radical generosity in the embrace of self can’t help but lead to a generous relationship with others. I have made celebrating other women’s beauty, my personal JOY and as I have practiced this, it has led to blessings that are endless.

One thing I know for sure: Never again confuse your beauty for something as small as prettiness. Being beautiful is the unique, sublime poetry of who you are. The stamp of your body is a portal to the eternal.

Look in the mirror. Love yourself. Rejoice in your thoughts, in your weirdness, in your writing, in your odd connections. Embrace the lonely times while riding on buses or trains by yourself, always have a good book and a journal by your side. Flip the narrative of the death culture from the inside out by fearlessly allowing yourself to be you at every single age. No one else will grant you the permission. It’s you at the end who is controlling the narrative on your beauty, inside and out.

You are not just enough. You are actually everything, holding the world inside you, all the ancestral memory, and all the love, blessings, and trauma of their lifetimes, too. It is a great, good fortune to be the one in the family who has been chosen to untangle these knots, these wounds, and move the family legacy forward. I know it doesn’t feel good; oh, I know it in my bones. Yet, it is an honor nonetheless. It means your soul has the strength for the task.

As I come into my 57th year and reflect on all of this, what I know for sure is I am here for the matriarchy and the matriarchy is not the opposite of patriarchy. The matriarchy is all of us knowing that we are all beautiful. The matriarchy is a space of knowing the spirit that is alive in all things and the impenetrable truth, that no matter what we have gone through, there is a place for each of us in the circle. The matriarchy is not trying to learn or prove our individual worthiness, but knowing ourselves as life itself, life herself, moving through each body, weaving us together as the fungi and mycelium teach us, as the animal and plant kingdom show us, as our own indigenous root systems connect us back to when we all belonged to everything and to each other.

It’s not just about loving oneself, it’s about including everyone and supporting each one of us in finding our own right place with our own perfect directive to blossom with our specific gifts, talents, trauma, ancestral baggage, as well as a remembrance of the scents of earth, the mesas, the ocean kingdoms, and our connection to those who came before us and to the long story of our multidimensional lives.

At 57, I’m feeling like I’ve waited to be this age to actually step into my matriarchal medicine as a teacher, as a facilitator, as a mother to my now adult daughter, but also by stepping into my role as a crone, a witch, and a neurodivergent lover of trees, animals, and humans… as a midwife to not only the personal stories but to the collective story that we have been here since before time. We will be here after time. We are held together, not by a shallow and fleeting story of money or status or products or self-hatred or shame, but rather by the circles, concentric circles within concentric circles, that we hold inside each of our bodies. The story that each of our bodies is not just beautiful, but a full representation and cosmology mirroring earth and all of the galaxies, contained right here inside each one of us.

Happy birthday to me! How could I be anything less than beautiful? How could you?