It Hurts to Be Beautiful


Death and a generation can change a perspective in an instant.

When I first signed up to participate in August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest IV , I flip-flopped between a couple of different topics I might write about. Little did I know that in the days to follow, I would experience the most major paradigm shift of my life–the loss of my mother.

In my mom’s last week and the days following her death, my family has reminisced about all the things she used to tell us. Here are a few of our favorites:

  1. Good morning, Glory!
  2. You’ll catch your death of cold!
  3. Be sure to text me when you get home.

But the one saying at the top of everyone’s list was, “It hurts to be beautiful.”

My mother said that to me so many times throughout my life, and I must admit, I grew tired of it, even angry at times, as she’d pull my hair into a ponytail, spray hairspray that stung my eyes in her feeble attempt to hold my fine hair in place, make me wear itchy slips or scratchy wool sweaters, all the while, giving stern warnings that scratching would be most un-ladylike. I often thought to myself, “This is ridiculous. It should NOT hurt to be beautiful. Leave my hair flyaway and unruly! Let me wear jeans and my old, comfy sweatshirt.”

I saw beauty as superficial, and there were times I resented the importance my mother placed on it.

Then came my daughter, Andrea. Her relationship with my mom was so different from my own with my mother. The generational distance seems to soften grandparent-grandchild relationships.

My mother recited those same words to Andrea throughout her life: “It hurts to be beautiful.”

But as I learned during Andrea’s eulogy at my mother’s funeral on Thursday, somehow, one generation can make a huge difference in how words are interpreted.

Here’s an excerpt of Andrea’s eulogy:

One of Grandma’s earliest lessons was, “It has to hurt to be beautiful.” This was not so fun when I was a little girl, when beautiful meant hair pulling, itchy foofy clothes, and patent leather shoes that were too tight. But as I got older, I began to understand the true meaning behind this saying, and I believe what Grandma really meant was how important it is to always try to present your best face to the world—to be kind even to people you may not really like, to hold your head high, and to smile when you don’t feel like it. Given how much pain Grandma experienced so often throughout her life, and how many people’s lives she still managed to touch, I believe this concept is something she understood better than just about anyone else.

The deep sobs I cried upon hearing Andrea’s interpretation of my mother’s words were not tears of sadness, but joy and pride, maybe even a little shame that I had not seen it on my own.

How proud I was that Andrea took words that had often irritated me and turned them into something beautiful to remember my mother by. Though I’d learned the same lessons about “presenting your best face to the world,” I had not related it to “It hurts to be beautiful.”

It’s true that sometimes it hurts to be nice when you don’t want to be nice. To smile when you don’t want to smile. To hold your tongue when you want to lash out. To give when you feel you have nothing left to give.

All this time, I’ve grumbled that it shouldn’t hurt to be beautiful–on the outside. But real beauty radiates from inside, and it’s true that sometimes maintaining inner beauty might hurt just a little.

I smile when I remember the times my mom pulled my hair to make it look just right. I know very well that usually, when she told me “It hurts to be beautiful,” she was talking about outer beauty. But, in so many ways, she also taught me the importance of inner beauty.

I’ll always be grateful for what my mom taught me about beauty, both inside and out. And I’ll always be grateful for what Andrea taught me about my mom.

My mom, Andrea and me.

My mom, Andrea and me.



This entry was posted in Life, love, nostalgia and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to It Hurts to Be Beautiful

  1. Beautiful, and painful, Jan. Striking how often poignant things are this way.


  2. Jacqui says:

    A lovely message beautifully worded. #BOAW2015


  3. icoachgirls says:

    Sorry for your loss. What a touching and inspiring message. It’s heartwarming to see the relationship your daughter and mother shared.


  4. Mustang.Koji says:

    Reblogged this on Masako and Spam Musubi and commented:
    A most beautiful story of a mother and grandmother… Enjoy.


  5. Mustang.Koji says:

    Jan, what a beautiful post… Your heart and kokoro freely flowed onto your keyboard. It is a wonderful story that made my eyes well up (and you know Japanese men don’t cry, yes?). The photo of the three of you is perfect… Andrea looks as if your face was transferred to her. The same eyes, nose…and smile. 頑張ってね。母はニコニコしてるよ。


    • Jan Morrill says:

      Thank you, Koji. Kokoro–that is my favorite Japanese word, I think. I am very honored that my story made you cry, because yes, I do know that Japanese men don’t cry. 🙂 Thank you, my friend.


  6. You’ve made me tear up again, in a lovely way. Thank you, Jan, for participating, for sharing your mother with us and for being you. I’m keeping you and yours in my thoughts!


  7. KM Huber says:

    You reveal the heart of beauty in this thoughtful post. Certainly, you imparted it to your daughter and she returned it to you. What an amazing trio of beautiful women. Thank you for letting us have a glimpse as well.


  8. Jeanie Horn says:

    Jan, Once I had gotten to know you, I’ve seen you as beautiful, on the inside and on the outside. What a great lesson to learn from your mom, daughter, and yourself.


  9. Beautiful post, Jan. This was my first introduction to you, and I like what I read.


  10. Jan, I read this before getting out of bed this morning but wanted to respond. It’s taken me a bit to get back to it. Sometimes we’re too close to another relative (or even friend) to be able to see a/o appreciate the truths they tell or show. Someone a bit further removed, (relationship-wise, not with less love, but with different love) might be able to see and understand more clearly, to the benefit of everyone. Even though I’m sure you wish you’d realized the truths of what your mom said earlier, it’s a blessing that Andrea helped you to see them and to appreciate them even now.

    I think that too often now, too many people think it’s fine to just “let it all hang out” with their emotions, etc. I know there’s a place between never letting anyone know you hurt and telling absolutely everyone everything that troubles you and I think your mom knew that, too.

    Many blessings,



  11. amyskennedy says:

    Oh…Jan. I am sorry. But, wow, what a gift your daughter gave you. Thank you for sharing this with us.


  12. Oh, Jan. This brought tears to my eyes and a painful lump to my throat. I lost my mom six years ago. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story. I will not tell you I am sorry for your loss, because you and your daughter will carry your mother with you–she is not truly lost. I will say, however, much love and many blessings to you and your family through this difficult time ❤


    • Jan Morrill says:

      Kate, I’ve realized that those of us who have lost a parent form a special club. There’s no way anyone can really explain to you how it feels, until you’ve lost a parent yourself. I agree, my mom will always be with me. Thanks for your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, Jan. That is so true–there aren’t any words to describe the special grief you experience when you lose one of the people who created you…who are responsible for your existence. Sometimes, it takes the breath away. It’s been six years, and sometimes the grief is far away and sometimes it smothers me in its closeness. Ultimately, I’m not sure it’s anything we ever really get over.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. susieshy45 says:

    Thank you for sharing.


  14. Glad you have fond memories of your mother. Sorry for your loss. I can tell you were very loved ❤


  15. Thank you for sharing this incredibly tender time with us.


  16. bethtrissel says:

    What a wonderful tribute to a dearly beloved mom. She sounds like a lovely lady, the very best. I’m so sorry for your loss.


  17. Eli Pacheco says:

    You’re going to see so much of your mom’s legacy in yourself and in your daughter in the years to come. What a beautiful examination of your mother’s words.


  18. mrsmariposa2014 says:

    My first read, and what a powerful read it is! Such a profound lesson, one I have had to learn so often in my life without ever thinking about it in terms of that. Thank you for sharing such a lovely message.


  19. susielindau says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. This was a lovely tribute. I love this and agree that sometimes being beautiful on the inside is so much harder! I keep on trying! Loved your reverie of your mom and the photo at the end. Beautiful.


  20. Kourtney Heintz says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s amazing how words can be interpreted and read into in ways that can turn something annoying into something poignant. What a wonderful daughter you have!


  21. This one brought tears to my eyes, Jan. How beautiful are those three generations of women in that picture, inside and out!!


  22. This may sound silly, but when I saw your picture I chuckled to myself and said, “Of course her mom’s Asian.” (You also had me in tears)
    Because mine is, too. And the fact that she gets dressed up to the nines just to go to the grocery store and used to expect the same of me used to drive me batty. Then I found out that the rest of my Asian friends had moms that did the same thing. That pride and honor was a huge deal. But it was also my mom who taught me that true beauty radiates outward, but starts at the heart. That my body is a temple to be treated with reverence and respect. That I was created in God’s image…. So although we have our Margaret Cho mother/daughter moments and culture clashes she’s also my hero. Like you, it took me a while to understand that her need to dress up was simply her way of showing the world her “best face.”
    Sorry for your loss. I think I need to call my mom now and tell her that she’s my hero and I love her.


  23. Your mother and daughter are both women to be reckoned with, respected and honored. How lucky you are to share your life with them. And my condolences on your loss.


  24. peaceof8 says:

    I am reading this a year delayed. Just discovered your blog site. So glad I have! Lovely story, beautiful writing! Following! Very nice to meet you!

    Liked by 1 person

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