Abraham Lincoln didn’t let his looks get him down.

Lincoln drawing by Nathan Nash

Lincoln drawing by Nathan Nash

 

 

There is the story that I’ve heard over the years about Abraham Lincoln boarding a stagecoach and being reproached by an elderly woman for having the audacity of using public transportation. Why did she scold him? Because he was too ugly to expose others to his looks. That’s the gist of the story, anyway. I doubt if the occurrence actually happened. But the point of the tale is to state that Lincoln was not considered a good looking man. In fact, some would say he was quite ugly. I’ve mentioned this before. We in our day and age are so used to seeing Lincoln’s image that we don’t realize him for his true physical features. Now, I know, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”- as it is said. But let me point out the following: Lincoln seemed quite aware that he was not a handsome man-yet (and here is the main thing I want to say)- he didn’t let that prevent him from things. Think about it- he found a wife, obtained employment, built a career, established friendships, and lived a productive life. We might not understand this accomplishment today. Our cultural standards for who is handsome or pretty are very narrowly defined. The culture also tends to not value anyone whose physical features lay outside of those norms. Thus, people who don’t look like a Barbie or Ken doll are left to consider themselves “ugly” and not valuable at all. Some go to great lengths to modify their looks through surgery and other similar means. How sad, I think. I’m not saying that its wrong to alter one’s physical appearance necessarily. I’m only saying that the “self-esteem” movement leaves much to be desired. I advocate more on the side of “self-acceptance.” We are not all made the same. And we can’t all look like Barbie and Ken-nor do we have too. Abraham Lincoln knew who he was-and he lived with it. I think he cared more about a person’s character and beliefs-the inner beauty. Yes, he had big ears, a large nose, and deep set eyes. He didn’t let his physical features get him down. And by the way, he spent a lot of time having portraits of himself taken in studios. So there!

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