Do you ever walk by a mirror or see your reflection in the window of your car and think, “Who the fuck is that?” Like, seriously…what actually happened to my face? Why is there a line there? And what is this black hair doing coming out of my chin?
Yeah. Me too.
A friend of mine posted something on Facebook a few weeks ago. She wrote a few paragraphs with a photo of herself stating what she likes about her appearance. And it occurred to me that this was an act of bravery.
How many of you can find ten things you like about your physical appearance? Your body, your face, your hair – what do you like when you look in the mirror?
Alright, maybe I was being kind of ambitious. Is ten too many? How about eight. Still too high? Do I hear…six? Anybody have four? Three?
So I know we don’t exactly live in a society that encourages us to compliment ourselves, especially in a public forum. But, this is just between you and me. So think about this, please: what do you like about how you look?
As for me, I have four things I can admit aren’t bad. But I am sorry to say, all four things are conditional.
- I like my hair. It’s good hair, even if it is prone to go flat in overcast weather and my bangs took 45 years to train.
- I like my eyes – they’re a good color and bright…but they’re starting to get these heavy lids as I get older. I don’t love that.
- I like my smile, even though I think my mouth is too small.
- I like that I’m tall, even though scoliosis has robbed me of a couple inches and gives me a crooked back (and my BACK actually used to be one of my best features).
Sadly, my list of what I don’t like is much, much longer. Anyone else feeling me on this? I mean, in addition to the impossible standards of beauty I’ve been struggling to live up to for what seems like my whole life, it’s hard to watch myself get older, too.
SIDE NOTE: I think it should be noted that age does bring with it a certain attitude that releases you, at least a little, from things that once mattered so much in your twenties and early thirties. For instance I am willing, at the ripe age of 45, to run to the store even though I have not showered, wearing no makeup, hair either not combed or tucked into a hat, in torn jeans and a t-shirt with ketchup stains on it. I would have DIED before doing this at 23. Now: IDGAF. As we become more “invisible” as women, ironically, we are released from needing to put out so much wasted energy. You gain a certain acceptance of yourself. You also let go of what you need to look like to run to Vons.
AND YET…and yet…in the twisted game life plays on us called AGING, while at the same time we gain this modicum of acceptance, all of a sudden there are new things to dislike about our appearance. New OLD things: gray hair, crows feet, marionette lines and jowls and everything else gravity was working on (while you were worried about cellulite). I mean, really, Face? You needed to add a line there?
We are being challenged as a society to change our thinking and it’s beginning to be reflected in our advertising. The trend towards Body and Image Positivity is remarkable and way past due. It’s wonderful to see the game change – we can value age/wisdom, variation in body types and variation in beauty. I love this shit.
Think of the impact Social Media has had: there is a push for truth, a call for a more genuine and realistic representation in advertising. There’s been a calling out of the industry for presenting impossibly idealistic images as the standard. We want REAL! We want to see OURSELVES reflected in the pages of your catalog! Stop airbrushing out the cellulite! Don’t soft focus all the wrinkles and signs of aging. Show real size models! We aren’t all a size 2, and we can’t look like we are 17 forever.
I am great at admiring and appreciating varying qualities in others, but it’s so much harder to value them in myself. I think it’s just a matter of reprogramming. One of my former students is a body positivity role model, pro-surfer, and all around bad-ass. Bo (see her website here ) has often posted messages that hit me right in the heart – the student has literally become the teacher. Bo is amazingly brave and her message is one for all of us.
I don’t know how or when I internalized an impossible standard for myself (which is surely something I share with many women -and men, too) but I am a product of my generation. Being a teen in the 80s (totally superficial) and 90s (hello, Supermodels and airbrushing) I internalized many messages about what I was supposed to look like. I hung images of supermodels on my bedroom walls, then starved myself and made myself throw up to be thin. I was desperately ashamed of my body, which I felt didn’t fit the ideal. I mean, where was J.Lo when I needed her? Her ass started a movement.
Shame can so quickly become internalized, and yet takes so long to undo from your wiring. I still catch myself comparing me to an image I’ll see – one that I hold as ideal in some way. And if I’m feeling down, I’ll pick myself apart.
I believe there is a duality that exists in us: Intellectually, we know our value isn’t tied to our appearance – and yet, we sometimes treat ourselves as if it is. I mean, I love me. But, man, sometimes it’s so hard to love me, or at least the me reflection.
And I don’t think I’m alone. Even as we push towards honest, truthful images in our advertising, our own Social Media pages aren’t always so real or honest. We all want to present our best side, show ourselves in the best light. I’m photogenic? Yeah, sure, cause I delete all the bad pics, People! ::eye roll::
I read today that we often teach what we are striving to internalize ourselves. I definitely see that in these pages and in my attempt to reveal a truth here – love for myself does not always actually extend to love FOR myself. I look in the mirror and have to fight not to despise what I see. I want to be thinner or have less this and more that. I want to look like the perfectly lit, airbrushed version of myself that doesn’t exist. I want to erase every line, every dimple, every bulge.
So. On International Woman’s Day, I am challenging myself, and extend a challenge to you. When we catch ourselves disparaging our appearance, let’s counter that negativity with a compliment. I mean, I no longer have the energy to be mean to me. Do you? Time to be brave.
So, I love my eyes. The crinkles around them show the life I’ve lived – the laughing I’ve done. I think my eyes show that I’m happy. My mouth fits my face, which is round and soft. My shoulders are strong. My legs are strong. I can run pretty far. So, yeah, my body may not be perfect, but it’s super capable. I made two babies, and I made them well! Yes, making humans takes a toll on a body, and that’s okay. (100% worth it, as all moms know). I am healthy and fit, and yeah, I’m soft some places. But I think I’m supposed to be. I can also lift shit you wouldn’t believe. Strong AF. And mostly, even though it can’t be seen, I love my good heart.
The age that creeps into our faces can be so hard to see. But, that age is well-earned. It’s the reflection of a life lived. A life.
And if we aren’t getting older, we are just dead. So (let’s try to) celebrate those lines and sags and for the love of all woman kind, STOP picking other women apart. If we can learn to lift one another up, and see the FUCKING BEAUTY in all this ripening we’re doing, well then I think we can reprogram the wiring after all.
So tell me now, Dear Reader ~ Be nicer this time…
What do you love about you?