In my Business Administration 200 class, we took a quiz, BuzzFeed style, which estimated our core values based on our responses. My results were as follows: spirituality, connection, beauty, gratitude, compassion and responsibility.
At first, seeing beauty as one of my top characteristics seemed a little strange. Or at least, in my experience, the more professional the environment around you is, the less likely it will be seen as a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing place. When I think about a traditional office setting, I picture grey walls, black chairs, and people, all wearing suits and ties, sitting in them. Being told I valued beauty from a quiz that indicated what I should incorporate in my business career seemed contradictory because I believed that there was a strong link between how successful I wanted to be and how dull my environment should seem as a result. Up until now, in my life, I thought of beauty as the one thing that is not necessary but makes life more enjoyable in two main senses: external aesthetics and internal realizations.
Aesthetics are important to me because visual beauty reminds me of how simply beautiful life can be if I just look around. Sitting in the law quad, on the bench in front of the pink rose bush, I think of how it could have been a possibility that I may not have attended college, and may not have had the opportunity to sit on the bench and watch the roses grow as I would be doing at that moment in time. The small details, like the way my floral laptop case matches my phone case, give me a sense of order and serve as a reminder of how privileged I am to have a phone and laptop to enclose in a pretty case. The way my fairy lights drape over my blanket inspires a certain appreciation for my ability to go out and buy whatever I choose to decorate my room, and the way my bookmark matches my coffee cup suddenly begins to make my coffee taste better. These simple aesthetic pleasures inspire so much gratitude and give me that much happiness. Being able to appreciate the smallest things like the relaxing sound rain makes when it falls or the way autumn leaves seem to dance when they float off a branch makes me all the more appreciative of the fact that I am able to witness such a peaceful experience.
In another sense, beauty presents itself internally as character and character development. Internal realizations mostly relate to the way people are, how much goodness and kindness they have in them and the way they perceive the world. This year was my first year on the University of Michigan campus and I have met an incredible variety of people. Some people I met seemed too good to be true following our first few interactions. Their hardworking fashion, gentle demeanor and compassion for those around them were consistent traits amongst each individual that I found unfathomably beautiful. These are people who are the first to stand up to make space for others on a full bus. When you ask for help on a calculus question, they stop doing their own homework to give you a 15-minute tutorial detailing how to solve the problem until you understand. With each individual I encountered, their kind and gentle nature made them beautiful beyond visible aesthetics; they are beautiful down to their core.
Reflecting on these notions of beauty made me quickly realize that, if anything, it is vital for these two aspects of beauty to be present in a professional setting. Contrary to my original misconception, beauty doesn’t just exist to make life more enjoyable. It exists to improve the lives of other people, to approach everyday activities with a sense of gratitude and appreciation. In a professional setting, especially when you need to build relationships with your peers, developing the kind of character that helps others on your team and appreciating all the little details that remind you of your privilege fosters a positive work environment. Your relationship with your coworkers improves and noticing the aspects of external beauty remind you that you have been given the opportunity to be where you are, an encouraging boost to help you work even harder and improve your performance. Beauty isn’t a light-hearted ideal. It’s something that can transform your mindset and reality if only you can observe it and let it seep into your character.
MiC Columnist Syeda Rizvi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.