I have a confession to make. . .
I think I’m beautiful.
Because I am.
I honestly can’t comprehend why women hate their bodies, their faces, their hair, their boobs, the minuscule details that they pick apart in the mirror.
I’ve tried to get it. But, I don’t. Maybe that’s a good thing.
I think I’ve made a conscious choice, a change in my life. I think there have been a lot of influences that have convinced me I am beautiful, hot, attractive, etc. Many of those influences have been men. Many of them have been women.
When I was in 7th grade, I was in a carpool and I was sitting on a 9th grade girl’s lap (the car was very full) and she said, “You have the perfect thighs. They aren’t too big or too small. They are just perfect.” I considered her super-beautiful and beyond cool. So I took the compliment, figured she was probably telling the truth and just accepted that my thighs are perfect. Until that moment I hadn’t given my thighs a thought. I still feel pretty good about them.
Over the course of my 15 year dating career, I was told by boys and men that I “had the perfect breasts,” one man even said, “those will never sag because of their unique shape.” I still believe to this day that my breasts are perfect. The sagging is minimal. Perhaps because that man was right or perhaps because I accepted his statement as prophetic and my body, happily, didn’t feel the need to disappoint me or prove him wrong.
My thick blond hair, my beautiful blue eyes, my tanned skin, my ass, my bow lips and even my feet have received compliments.
I don’t reject these complements, I never did. I accepted them as true, and as I age, I still consider them true. I’m happy to see most of these features appear in my son and daughter. Lucky DNA.
Of course, others in my family share the exact same DNA, the exact same lovely features, and still choose to hate and criticize them.
Through childbirth and aging, I’ve had some weight issues. OK. But, as I lose weight, I’m realizing that I don’t feel pressure – social or cultural – to be more beautiful. I feel social and cultural pressure to be less beautiful, to criticize my body or my looks, to downplay my beauty and to say it’s unimportant or irrelevant or ridiculous or that the truth about me is that I am not beautiful no matter what compliment you give me.
To make the other women who feel bad about themselves feel better about themselves.
Which, I admit, I tried to do.
I acknowledge that the extra weight protected me from two things I genuinely needed protection from as I transitioned into the roles of marriage and motherhood: the criticism of other women and the unwelcome advances of men.
Except when I was overweight and not claiming my beauty I noticed that it had absolutely zero effect on whether other women felt beautiful or not.
Last year I had an incredible experience at a self-improvement workshop. We played a game where we sat across from a total stranger. We didn’t even know their names. We knew nothing about who they were or what their issues were or their families or jobs. Nothing. Except what we could see.
Then we were told to be harshly critical and tell the other person what we really thought about them.
I was very uncomfortable with this exercise because I did not know this other woman at all. I didn’t want to criticize a stranger and would have preferred to say something kind about her. I wasn’t sure this exercise was going to be useful or helpful.
She said to me a paraphrase of this: “You’re cold and untouchable. You’re fake and phony and mean and shallow.”
I think I said to her a paraphrase of this: “You’ve given up. You’re a victim. You’re not trying. You’ve put up boundaries.”
I was wearing my nicest jeans and favorite shirt, my favorite red scarf, bold earrings, make up and I had recently had my hair done. I had put my best self forward for the first day of an unknown and honestly frightening experience.
She was wearing sweat pants, an ill-fitting shirt, her hair was unkept and in a pony tail, sneakers, and had not bothered to take care of some unfortunate facial hair.
My take-away from the experience was this: how I felt when she said those things was not a new feeling. It was a very, very familiar feeling. She felt inferior sitting next to me. She felt angry about that. I was representative of all the girls in high school who she had felt less beautiful and less worthy than.
I asked myself after that experience, “Tracee, how many years have you been fat or played down who you are and tried to gloss over and hide your true beauty to gain the acceptance of women like her? How many women have you allowed to be mean to you and diminish your value as a smart beautiful woman because she felt bad about herself?”
And the honest answer was a lot of years. In some ways, my whole life.
So what is the point of playing small if it’s not even going to make them feel great about themselves?
I recently saw a statistic that only 2% of women would describe themselves as beautiful. It was on that Jessica Simpson show, The Price of Beauty.
The “price of beauty,” in some ways is the contempt of other women.
I see it in my friends who have lost weight and been subjected to harsh criticism from coworkers and family members and friends. When they hit a normal BMI people call them anorexic or skin and bones and unhealthy. I’ve experienced it myself.
Logically I know that way more than 2% of women actually are beautiful. Yet, only 2% of them believe it.
I believe they’re beautiful, but when I tell them so, they insist that I am wrong. Or they insist that beauty is unimportant, trivial or a harmful influence of the culture and the unreachable and unrealistic beauty ideal.
I am beautiful.
I wish you felt beautiful too. I genuinely do.
But, if you don’t, that absolutely doesn’t give you carte blanche to be a mean girl and try to make me feel bad about myself to somehow make yourself feel better.
I hope, my daughter doesn’t cave to the pressure of feeling less beautiful than she inherently is. I hope she accepts compliments. I hope she feels beautiful. Because she is. Just like her mother.
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