If you were to Google images using the word “elegance,” you’d see pictures of cars, beautiful women in evening gowns, and ads for watches, perfume, alcohol, and fountain pens.
But is that a reflection of true elegance? When I went looking for definitions of elegance, I found the following, courtesy of the British Dictionary on dictionary.com:
- dignified grace in appearance, movement, or behaviour
- good taste in design, style, arrangement, etc.
- something elegant; a refinement
To me, while some of the pictures I mentioned above are certainly beautiful, they border on tasteless, and could even be described as excessive or opulent – concepts which are quite different from what I think of as elegance.
I might even add a little bit to that definition: elegance is those qualities mentioned above, even when the circumstances aren’t conducive to such qualities.
Here’s an example: I happen to work with a woman who took her young daughter and moved clear across the country to escape an abusive relationship. She has single-handedly raised and provided for her daughter over the past few years, doing her best to fulfill her responsibilities as a parent. There have been more difficulties than I can imagine – emotional, financial, scheduling, etc., but her daughter will soon graduate from high school, and she’s matured into a strong, beautiful young woman.
I’ve never seen my coworker wearing an evening gown, and she most assuredly does not drive a Rolls Royce. However, she has taken the circumstances that life has given her and made something that I think is beautiful and, yes, elegant. She 1) conducts herself with a quiet dignity, 2) has tastefully designed and arranged her life to make the most of difficult circumstances, and 3) has refined her behavior and taste over the years.
There are examples of elegance all around us, if we’ll just look for them. Take some time today to look and observe the people around you for the hidden, everyday elegance in their lives.