Finding the Beauty

Finding the Beauty

Finding the beauty in ourselves is not an ability that comes naturally to everyone. Since Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches video came out, I have read several takes on the message Dove was attempting to share. There were a number of the blogs being negative, basically telling Dove, “Nice try, but not enough.” They felt that there wasn’t enough diversity (true) and the women were thin (true). Based on how often I saw it shared on Facebook though, their intent hit home to many women.

As a parent of a daughter, I had become more aware of keeping my words positive about my body and my looks. From the time she was in elementary school, we would look in the mirror with her face smushed up to mine and say out loud, “We are beautiful.” Though I wondered if she realized that I only thought that of her. I never wanted to lie to her and I continue even up to this day to work hard to change that.

At the time I originally wrote this post, it was 2013 and I was 44 years old. It was two years prior to that when my daughter was about 5 or so that we started this exercise of looking in the mirror and repeating our affirmations. Even though I am now 54, the fight continues to convince myself that finding the beauty in me is healthy.

It wasn’t until I was 42 that I learned to look at my entire face versus just pieces of me.

I hated myself - everything about myself
Young me. Maybe 8th or 9th grade? I cannot tell.

I don’t think I was born with that innate confidence gene that some people possess. Couple that with early peer sexualization so by the time I was 12, if a boy was interested in me it was never because of who I was inside or how I looked from the neck up. I was just a body. It got to a point where if a guy did show actual sincere interest, I would waver between thinking he was stupid and having the overwhelming desire to make him realize that I wasn’t good enough for him. If there were kind words spoken about the way I looked, you couldn’t have paid me to believe them.

I did believe…

the boy in 7th grade who told me I looked like Barbra Streisand (who I had hated at the time). I did believe the kids who made fun of my nose and my overbite. I was on the fence with the ones who called me Casper in high school.

During my teenage years, I had an abusive boyfriend. One of the first times he was violent with me was a night we had gone to a party. I was actually happy with what I was wearing and the way my hair turned out. When he first picked me up, he looked angry and eventually cut our evening short. I wasn’t wearing a seat belt and he drove the car really fast.

It came as a shock when he suddenly and deliberately stopped short in the middle of the road. I was thrown like a rag doll into the dashboard while my head bounced off the windshield. He yelled at me, but he didn’t make sense. He told me that I had looked too good and I wasn’t to wear that outfit again. By the way, I think it was a loose jumper-type thing… really just fancy overalls, an 80s fleeting fashion.

During those teenage years, my wonderful girlfriends tried to teach me that nothing was wrong with the way I looked, but I didn’t trust their judgment. They were biased, right? That’s what friends did for one another. And besides, for the record, I had some really truly gorgeous friends who were innately confident in knowing their beauty. Many teenage girls have self-esteem issues, but the extent of my lack was something they couldn’t comprehend. But, I appreciated their kindness. Finally out of high school, a guy told me “You aren’t conventionally pretty. There’s just something about you.” and that actually made me feel better about myself.

That was a statement that made sense to me. I wasn’t beautiful. I wasn’t pretty. But there was something about me.

I had written this post about finding the beauty in ourselves because I needed to get better at it. This knowledge would not be coming from some outside source and was something that required self-teaching. I’d come a long way by the time my daughter and I would look in the mirror together. I was finally able to see my entire face when I looked into a mirror. Growing from the super-focused look I would use when brushing my teeth or applying mascara. The woman I have become is more comfortable with what is reflected and can find things that I like about myself.

Finding the beauty in me
2022 Me

What had also prompted writing this back then was that a great-looking male friend was brave enough to post on Facebook about how it has taken him over 30 years to see himself as something other than ugly. As his words broke my heart, it reminded me that I not only needed to work harder and faster on my own self-love, but also to get my sons in front of a mirror with me, smush our faces together and say out loud that we are beautiful. Finding the beauty is just as important for men as it is for women.

Boys, girls, men, and women — YOU —  all of us need to know that we are beautiful and worthy of love – especially from ourselves.

You are worthy of love.

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