Updated: May 14, 2021
What is elegant contrast? What does it even mean?
Elegant contrast is an impactful concept to my personal life. To illustrate, let me tell you a story.
When I was 16, I studied to take my first ACT test. I was hoping for a top score to embellish my highschool homeschooler status. The hope was to have third party proof that my homeschool curriculum was rigorous, and hopefully impress the Ivy League university I wanted to attend. My score on the first test wasn’t what I hoped for. It was above average, but that wouldn’t be enough.
Some time later, I decided to try my hand at the SAT. I spent several weeks alone in an apartment, working up to eight hours a day to boost my math skills (my weakest area) and SAT score. It took a lot of self-discipline to choose to focus on my test preparation instead of going out to have fun with my friends. After the first two weeks, it became evident that I needed to balance my extreme study regimen with a little leisure. That level of focus, self-enforced work, and cognitive effort was surely beneficial. However, the extreme focus on academics threw me out of balance. I lost weight and found myself replaying the same upbeat songs over and over. In short, the isolated study, while cultivating my self-discipline, was having a negative effect. In an effort to restore balance to my life, I resumed attending my brothers’ weekend soccer games.
Balance is a key concept here. I needed to be disciplined, but I also needed to take the time to relax. The pressure I put on myself wasn’t sustainable, but it was necessary. Just having fun all the time and not putting in hard work is also not sustainable. Having grit and knowing your limits are both important.
In essence, this is what elegant contrast means to me. It means finding the right balance between two different ideas.
When it comes to aspects like strength and gentleness, or decisiveness and flexibility, having one or the other is impractical. It also eliminates a level of uniqueness. What makes us different is not being something no one else is, but through our combination of varying levels and mixtures of things.
For example, family members may tell you you have your grandfathers eyes, mother’s eyebrows, fathers jawline, and aunts nose. Is is the unique combination of these features, with your own variants, that make your face special to yo
Elegant contrast is about being your own person, and about finding your own balance between opposite or complementary ideas.
Don’t confine yourself to generalized labels. While it can be helpful to see yourself as strong, there are also times when you must be gentle. You can value yourself without de-valuing others. You can be seen as assertive, decisive, and confident, and also be accommodating, flexible and humble.
It is in the synthesis of these opposites and in these shades of value that our true uniqueness lies. Anyone can become confident, strong, or caring. The unique combination of different levels and different kinds of these different aspects of ourselves is how we become individuals.
A great visual reminder of elegant contrast is a horse. Horses are immensely powerful, and can be very dangerous. However, they’re also gentle and highly empathetic creatures. These things combine to form an elegant contrast of grace and power.