This is me. Now. Yesterday, on my way out the door to do my science fair judging duties.
I was a tom-boy growing up. Instead of playing with dolls, I'd often be found playing football with my dad or the neighborhood boys. I'd shoot baskets for hours by myself after school.
As I got older, I started to think about boys in a different way. I saw them as more than just "the guys", friends, or playmates. It seemed like I liked them and thought of them (oh, those secret crushes) much more than those young men ever thought of me. I didn't get asked out on many dates or get much attention from those young men I so admired. I always felt like an outsider in my high school years, and later when I started college. Somehow, this contributed to the feeling that I could never be attractive, or pretty, or beautiful.
This feeling remained with me, even until my adulthood.
Carrying that sad burden was especially painful when I gained weight. There was always the if- onlys: "When I lose weight, then I'll be happy. Maybe then I'll be pretty."
Then it happened. The unbelievable.
I got skinny.
I finally felt some peace about my body. I found some contentment I'd always longed for. But even with this new skinny body, there was the "Dark Side". Fear that this was too good to be true. Fear that I didn't deserve this. I found that there were still flaws and imperfections I got hung up on. Things that I just had to accept. Things that I just couldn't change.
Being a woman in this modern day society is very hard. There's so much pressure and propaganda (from the media, especially) to fit a mold and an image that is impossible to realistically achieve. Just the other day while I was browsing a book Eliza had checked out from the library, a book focusing on the art and paintings of a prominent local artist, I came across a passage that got my blood boiling. He talked about a conversation with a friend who asked him why he always portrayed men as balding and pudgy and his always slender women perfectly "beautiful". He responded with something to the effect of "would you like me to paint pudgy women? Is this what we really want to see?" He went on to say that woman, "with her long hair and beautiful curves, is the epitome of beauty and loveliness in all the world."
Needless to say, it put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. I had felt so happy about my new, shorter haircut that I was so inspired to get last weekend after sitting behind, what I felt, was such a pretty woman my age at Sam's basketball game, her short hair and tender neck so lovely, feminine, graceful, and delicate. After reading this, it made me question myself and my choice. And ask, "Gee, do all men hold this view and image of women to be the standard of beauty? Is our outer beauty (defined as thinness and long hair) the only real attraction to men and the only definable contribution to the world?"
See, I'm still sucked into these beliefs! I feel stupid for letting this bother me and influence my self image and therefore, my self-esteem. In all honesty, it's an ongoing battle with me. I still find it hard to trust and believe the words of others, even my husband, when they say things like, "You look nice today." "You are so beautiful." I know that I don't judge others and see others this way, so why do I do this to myself?
Maybe this will help you understand. Maybe you can somehow relate with me.
With losing the weight, I had to say bye-bye to breasts. Now sagging skin where fat once was. Deflated balloon belly and tiger-claw, stretch mark, battle wounds from the five precious babies I carried within my womb. (Specifically, a 10 and a half pound baby boy will do that.)
My hair isn't long and voluptuous. It's short and it's grey. I don't feel a desire to die it. I forget to shave my legs. And pluck my eyebrows. I don't have manicured, long tapered painted fingernails. (Toenails only occasionally. Just for kicks.) High heels just aren't me. I don't think they ever will be. There are days when I don't feel the need to wear make-up, even when I'm out and about. If you come over to my house, I'll likely answer the doorbell wearing a dirty apron with my hair pulled back in a red biker- dude bandanna. You might see me go out to get the morning paper, the mail, or taking the kids to school looking pretty goofy wearing my running clothes or my flannel nightgown complete with thick stockinged feet (probably not matching) tucked into clunky clogs, topped with knitted hat, scarf, and wool coat (it's all about the warmth.)
I'm a real woman.
Even in the midst of all my flaws and doubts and inadequacies, (worth any and all sacrifice) I'm starting to feel okay with it all. Now more than ever. I'm finding that I don't need the outside approval like I used to. I'm starting to feel okay with me. All of me. Content with the way I am right now. This is freedom.
So what does true beauty really mean to me? Deep down in my heart? What does it means to be an attractive person? These are the things I know I can strive for within myself, things that I feel are truly attainable now and in the years to come, the things that I find most appealing in another.
One who is:
Genuine. Authentic. Friendly. Kind. Sincere. Honest. Thoughtful. Interesting. Confident. Smiling. Peaceful. Humble. Clean. Intelligent. Strong. Courageous. Devoted. Diligent. Determined. Righteous.
This is what it means to be beautiful, my friends. This is the kind of beauty that doesn't fade with age or any circumstance.With it comes peace, especially in knowing that you are a beloved son or daughter of God.
I hope that what I've expressed has made sense. That my sharing these feelings, thoughts, and experiences with you has helped and encouraged you in some way. My sincere hope and wish is that you can know that you are good enough the way you are right now. Keep trying. Keep smiling. Be kind to yourself. Find joy as you walk (or run!) on whatever path you take in search of...