I read this at some point during the past two years, and I wholeheartedly believed it. I took it at face value and thought that the key to a woman’s beauty is a man who thinks she’s beautiful.
There have been times on this journey where I have felt so low and terrible about myself that I stopped believing that I was anything special, inside or out, until a man came into my life and told me so on a regular basis. Only then did I start to believe that I was anything special. And I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that order of things until today, when I had a sudden epiphany.
I was brushing my teeth and watching my tummy jiggle in the mirror, admiring my body and all of its lumps and bumps and squishy bits. It’s taken me a while to get back here, to a place where I love my body exactly as it is and appreciate it for how it has held up to all I’ve asked it to do for me. And while I was brushing and jiggling and giggling, I realized that the above statement, while true in some ways for me, is total bullshit.
There is no baby who is born hating her chubby thighs or worrying about her wonky nose. There is no toddler who is concerned about her flat bottom or weak chin. They’re not aware that other children or even adults have so-called imperfections either. Today I realized that no girl believes in anything other than her absolute beauty and fabulousness until someone–be it a man, a woman, her parents, or society–tells her she should. At some point someone has to start telling a girl that she’s not as amazing as she thinks she is. And how fucked up is that?!
My earliest memory of thinking that there was something ugly about me was when my Aunt Deb pointed out at a family gathering that the blackheads in my nose were out of control, saying I needed to do something about them. I was in the 7th or 8th grade, so barely even a teenager. She took me to the bathroom at my Grandmother’s house and showed me how to squeeze them out. It hurt, but she said that was the only way to get rid of them. It never occurred to me until then that my changing skin was something that I needed to battle against. I was fortunate enough to have friends, all throughout my school years, who never teased me about my battle with acne, but because I knew that it was something bad, it was always something I was ashamed of. Because someone told me, however indirectly, that I was supposed to be.
I adjusted well to my developing body in high school and college, most likely because I fit into the image of how it was “supposed” to look, and because I had a steady boyfriend who was a big fan of how my body looked. Again, it never occurred to me that there was anything wrong with me or my inherited curves. I knew I was beautiful and I didn’t need anyone to convince me about it. And then I met The Mr. at 20, who came from a place where it’s not at all strange to point out the perceived flaws of another person’s body.
Slowly I became self conscious about How I looked. My thighs and my poochy tummy and the scars left by acne on my temples were sources of anxiety. Suddenly I was aware that I had a double chin when looking down and reading something and that no pair of underwear, no matter what style, would cover the entirety of my rear end. I worried that maybe the way I looked naked wasn’t the same as other women looked naked. I developed insecurities that I would have never even considered had someone not pointed out my flaws.
All these years later I’ve finally figured it out. While it did take a man to make me feel beautiful and start me on the path to seeing myself as beautiful again, it never would have if a few people hadn’t made me think I was not.
A few weeks ago on one of our regular Thursday night get-togethers, my friend B and I stood in her kitchen and compared our guts. We squeezed our love handles and I talked about my crazy stretch marks and we had a good laugh. We’re at opposite ends of the body size spectrum , but it felt good to laugh and talk openly about our jiggly tummies. And it feels good to really deeply love my whole self, imperfect body included, and not envy how anyone else looks.
We don’t need to tell our daughters that they’re beautiful. They’re born knowing that. We need to stop telling them, and other women, through whatever means, that something about them isn’t beautiful. Because no one is perfect, and that’s what true beauty is really all about.