There have only been brief moments in my life when regardless of what others might have seen, regardless of weight issues, big feet, a long nose, less than perfect skin, and frizzy hair, I’ve felt beautiful – only brief moments when I could look in the mirror and not feel disgusted with myself. And those brief moments had nothing to do with dieting or teeth whitening or the right hair cream.
Five years ago, I looked back at pictures of myself from 10 years ago and thought, “Wow, I was pretty then. Why didn’t I realize I was pretty? I wish I still looked like that now.”
Now, I look back at pictures of myself from 5 years ago and think, “Wow, I was pretty then. Why didn’t I realize I was pretty? I wish I still looked like that now.”
For health reasons, I know I need to lose weight. I know I need to get in shape so I can walk up the stairs without my knees hurting or to the bus station without intense back pain.
But for psychological reasons, I need to learn how to accept myself as I am. I need to learn how to be happy with the face I see in the mirror. I need to figure out how to undue a lifetime of self-deprecation that started with me wishing I was beautiful like them.
You know the them I’m talking about. The ones in the magazines and on TV and in movies. The airbrushed Barbie dolls who aren’t even real themselves.
I read a blog today about a 13-year-old girl who is speaking out against the airbrushed beauties and pushing for portrayals of real girls in the media. I’m impressed by her determination and I agree with her completely. And I signed her petition to get Seventeen Magazine to publish one spread a month with real, unaltered photos of girls.
However, I think it’s going to take so much more than that. Sad as it may be, we will never get the mass media to portray women and girls as they are. If we can make any kind of impact there, that’s wonderful, but I’m not holding out for it.
The lessons need to start at home. We need to teach our children (girls and boys) to be themselves and to love themselves. We need to encourage their strength of character. And just as importantly, we need to teach by example. If you show your children that you will only be beautiful once you’ve lost 10 more pounds or after you put on make-up, you’re teaching your children that they need to do the same things.
In order to teach those lessons, we need to learn to love ourselves as we are. Faking it isn’t enough. Our kids are too smart for that. I’m starting with me. I know it will be difficult. I know I’ll have pitfalls. It’s easier to be insecure than it is to find beauty in what I’ve deemed to be my faults.
But I will continue to work on building my own self-esteem, continue to lengthen those brief moments until the day I finally accept that I’m beautiful like me.