Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mirror Image

I'm calling myself out. I'm digging deep into my closet, pawing through all my skeletons, and I'm shedding light on them all. I mean, after all, I'm 39 AND a half years old. Isn't it about time that I drag out the skeletons, bury them deep, and let them rest in their own squalid peace?

It's vulnerability ... I'm laying myself bare in hopes that others may learn from my struggles.

I can't pinpoint when it all started, but as far back as I can remember, and admit it now .... I've had body image issues. Bad ones. Ugly ones.

Was it one person that planted the seed? Was it the media? Was it everyone? Who knows! But the seed was planted, and I've spent my ENTIRE life struggling to see my worth in the eyes of those that surround me on a daily basis ... both those that are close to me as well as those that I don't even know.

I find myself measuring myself against shallow standards, and it takes nothing more than a waif-like girl, sashaying past me in nothing more than a triangular piece of fabric and dental floss -- or well-meaning comment thrown out casually about my weight and food -- to toss me into a spiral of black thoughts that strips me of my fragile self-esteem, already dangling limply in the winds of "what's beautiful."

So what is beautiful?

In history, there are countless examples of the FAD of beauty.

  • Women and men that plucked their hairlines to make their foreheads seem higher ....
  • During the Elizabethan Age, Queen Elizabeth was quite the trend setter. Women, en mass, clamored for that pale, pale skin and red hair. Here's the thing, the powder was lead-based and poisoned many!
  • Men wore powdered wigs (WHAT!?!) ... again with the lead-based powder!
  • Women had GIGANTIC wig-like structures created that they wore on their heads. Some reached three feet tall. Unfortunately, these women weren't the only ones that thought these hair creations were all the rage. So did vermin! Can we say nasty, nasty diseases!?
  • Victorians swung the other way, down-playing makeup, slicking back hair, and valuing morally demure looks. They were pinched and stifled and lived miserable lives!
  • Roaring Twenties swung the other way, once again, shortening skirts and hair lengths. Very red lips and rouge were the looks of the day.
Thin, almost to the point of being ill ... no hips ... no boobs ... no curves of any kind ... slight features that fit neatly into body-hugging fabrics that skim over the boyish bodies ... pink skin, fresh and dewy ... does any of this sound familiar? It describes almost every, single girl you see on the covers of magazines and on the tabloid celebrity news shows these days... and it tells every woman out there one thing: HEY! THIS IS WHAT WE'RE VALUING RIGHT NOW -- WOMEN THAT LOOK LIKE THEY NEVER EMERGED FROM GIRLHOOD.

And you know what, they've excluded me and my curves and my stocky build ... they've excluded my acne-prone skin, and my big, can-not-be-contained boobs ... they've excluded everything that makes me, ME! To top it off, they've excluded every, single girl I know and love. And while we're on the subject of love, I love these girls, these sisters in life, NOT because of their bodies, but because of their brains! Because of their wit! Because of their resilience! Because of their ability to rock their worlds where ever they are! Dewy skin and lack of hips were never on my LIST OF THINGS TO LOOK FOR in these women I call FRIENDS.

I'm struck by the word EMERGE. I like the image of a caterpillar that weaves a cocoon and emerges a beautiful, delicate creature. Why can't little girls emerge from childhood, glistening in the beauty of being a woman? Women are multi-dimensional beings with amazing powers that can be used for good, and yet, each year, I watch fourth grade girls come and go through my classroom door frustrated by their "fat," very aware of their bodies in a very negative turn, and very unsure of how to use their bodies for good, positive ways. And, recently, I've realized that I have encouraged that by my very presence in the room, frustrated by my curves .... frustrated over my lack of waif-ness ... frustrated over my lack of self-confidence.

That's the real key, right there. Confidence.

By definition, (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/confidence), CONFIDENCE is "full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliabilityof a person or thing/belief in oneself and one's powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance."

I look at my reflection in the mirror, my friends, and at the girls I teach, and I don't see a lot of belief in oneself -- that makes me sad.

An article I read recently floored me further. The author stated true sexiness is in a woman's confidence. The author and a male friend had met another woman, a female friend of his, for a drink, and as the author wrote, both she and her male friend were mesmerized by this woman, this short, curvy woman that was soooo not at all his type, or any one's, just by looking at her. And yet, no in the bar could take their eyes off of her ... men tripped over her to buy her drinks. After she left, the author asked her male friend what this girl had ... what made her so doggone desirable.

This was his response (paraphrased here):
"She's sexy as hell, and it's because she is so confident ... I can't keep my eyes off of her, but I could never act on my feelings. She's waaay out of my league."

In my need to fit in ... in my quest to make myself The All-American Woman, I have lost my true self-confidence. The article was sobering for me, because I have spent most of my 20s and all of my 30s falsely convincing myself that I could never be what any man would want because I wasn't the picture of beauty that I was seeing. I blamed a lot of people for my lack of a dating life, when the only person I should have really pointed the finger at was/is me. I'm the one that bought into the lies ... I'm the one that allowed myself to internalize all of the "well-meaning" remarks about weight and food ... and I'm the one that slowly let my confidence slip through my fingers.

Surface beauty is fleeting. We all know the high school jock or IT boy that every girl longed to date ... or at the very least, be in the shadow of. Now, they are nothing more than an icky, middle-aged guy still reliving his high school hay-days in old tunes on Pandora and YouTube.

Inner beauty ... that kind that's infused with the confidence that comes from deep within, that's the beauty that lasts ... and is infectious ... and is attractive ... and is, to borrow that FANTASTIC phrase, sexy as hell!

I write this not as a cheap shot for some pity comments about how sad this all is. Rather, I write this, because, I want to grab that confidence and run with it. I'm casting off this surface beauty, and I'm looking for ways to celebrate the true beauty in myself, and the true beauty I see in the fabulous women around me! I invite others to do the same!

If we don't start celebrating TRUE BEAUTY, we will have yet another generation of little girls growing up, looking in their mirrors, and viewing a distorted mirror image. Celebrating TRUE BEAUTY means we stop the cycle. We celebrate our lumps and bumps and imperfections and find true joy in living a TRUE life.

Who's with me!?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love your post! You are a very beautiful person inside and out!

NeeCee