After writing a post about teaching our daughters to always believe in their own beauty, I couldn't help but reflect that my reaction to the idea of my own beauty was not quite the same as that of my 4 year old daughter. When we tell her she's beautiful, she truly believes us and skips off joyfully, undoubtedly pleased with herself. My reaction isn't so cut and dry. I'm sure most of you can predict the mental hoops I jump through every time someone calls me beautiful, pretty or even cute. Unlike my daughter, I don't automatically agree and say thank you. And I certainly don't skip away. I may skulk though.
I go through my mental list of what I consider to be flaws at lightning speed. Yes, I'm beautiful except for my greasy hair, my possibly dirty clothes, the big bags under my eyes, not to mention my flabby middle section covered with long stretch marks. Given time, I'm sure I could easily fill this whole blog with descriptions about every part of my body that I don't like. I'm only 29 but my body has been ravaged by four pregnancies clustered over four years. I'm pretty sure that if I were on display in public the quiet whispers in the crowd would center around the idea of a woman who has let herself go. That's part of the human condition for both men and women. We self judge and the theme is rarely positive. Unlike my 4 year old daughter, the first thing on my mind isn't how pretty my hair is, or how much I like the dress I'm wearing (if I was wearing a dress instead of pajamas anyway).
I think in this instance I need to follow my daughter's lead. I need to learn to embrace her innocence. The other day when I was helping her get dressed, I noticed a jagged little scar on her knees. She saw me looking and smiled. She then proceeded to proudly tell me how she got the scar with great pride. She had simply tripped and scraped it at her grandparents' house, but told me the story like it was a great adventure. She recalled every detail about the special attention she'd received and that she got to wear a bandaid. She didn't remark upon the fact that her skin was no longer perfect. She has no problem wearing shorts or dresses even though her little scar is visible. For her that scar is a badge of honour, a battle scar earned during a grand adventure.
Why can't I try to look at myself that way? I may not look my best now. I am worn out and my body tells the tale with every glance. But, rather than judge the appearance, maybe I need to remember the hows and the whys of how I came to look this way. My eyes have bags under them because I was up very early feeding my baby girl. I may be a little greasy, but that's because I was working hard making bread with the kids. My clothes are dirty, but only because I spilled jelly on them while making lunch and haven't stopped moving long enough to change them (let alone take a shower yet). And as for my wiggly midsection and long stretch marks, maybe I should look at those battle scars too. I earned every inch of belly fat and every one of those stretch marks over my four pregnancies. I can't have my four kids without four pregnancies worth of affect to my appearance. I have to say, looking at it this way, it was all worth it. Sure, I'd love to be thin, unblemished, clean and awake, but not if it means I don't get to be Mom. Not if it means I don't get to be the Mom of these four children. Everything about me sings the battle song of my life, and I need to learn to be proud of it, just like my daughter is proud of her little scar on her knee.
That's the face of true beauty. Not the airbrushed and photoshopped "women" (most of them are still girls) we see in the media. True beauty is a life lived and enjoy, not Snow White trapped in her glass coffin. So let's agree to love what's truly beautiful about us.