I was hesitant to write on the topic of beauty because I’m still in the middle of the work and many unpleasant experiences are attached to this word. But this is an important topic: first, to face all those negative notions I have buried deep inside me and second, I have a daughter with whom I would like to have a more conscious conduct with regard to this issue.
Growing up as a girl I was constantly faced with the notion of being beautiful—or rather not being beautiful. I was a little overweight, did not get much support from my family to accept my body or encouragement to do some sports. I needed to figure it out by myself. As far back as I can remember I hated my body—I saw other girls who looked better than me (in my definition this equaled that they were skinnier) and envied them. I looked at the body of my classmates in the dressing room before gym and compared them to mine. And I was satisfied when I found some imperfection in the skinny girls.
The one that is three—as a teenager
I read an article in a teenage magazine that was about acceptance and it made the suggestion to start small: find one thing you like about your body. This broke the ice. I found three (neck, hair, fingers) for the first time! I finally could praise something about myself, and accept rare, but always present, compliments without my usual hands-on refusal. At least I saw some beauty in myself and this also calmed my comparison mania (which still surfaces even today where my gain is a small boost to my self-confidence from this “competition”).
Training in my twenties
The next milestone was a women’s training in my twenties where we had to stand in front of a group of 15 and say positive attributes about ourselves. I deliberately challenged myself and said something I never said before and did not even believe was true: I am beautiful. What helped me say those words? I thought it over and decided that this is a protected environment, so the best place to try something new—that is what trainings are for. So I said it and… nothing happened. No shaking of the walls or dropping of the ceiling. No one objected, no one called me vain, I was accepted and reassured as I was standing there. Maybe there is some beauty in me… A tiny glimpse of light entered my stubborn head insisting on my “I am not beautiful” affirmation.
New habits built
After making this statement the next step was quick to follow: Maybe beauty is not an objective true or false sentence, but a state of mind that can be reassured with my words, my self-confidence, my attitude? So I started to say positive sentences about my look and gratefully accepted compliments. I acknowledged to my mirror image those mornings when I saw something of beauty on myself—a couple occasions a month as my critic was (and is) still alive and active.
The effect of the number on the scale
Beauty was very much linked to my weight all my life. I tried various diets to become the skinny person of whom I held an image in my head. I was persistent and believed that someday I will succeed and be her. In order to arrive at a healthy beauty concept, I needed to address my weight and its effect on me.
All my diets were futile until I gave up on scaling myself and stopped being dependent on the number of my weight, a sharp moment I remember exactly: I gained a lot of weight over a short time, I can easily recall the moment I was staring at a magazine ad of a model and felt miserable. I was aware of the efforts of my teenage years and how ineffective they have been. I gave up. I wasn’t interested in stepping on the scale anymore because I knew it will screw my day.
Then came my dismay: this number has a hold on me and decides what mood I’m in. What a realization!
In 2000, I vowed never to step on a scale anymore. During the last 15 years I have been sometimes heavier and sometimes lighter (two pregnancies included), and I was sometimes upset and sometimes happy about my size. But my weight seized to be linked the beauty I saw in myself.
Here I am now: I now know that I can be beautiful for some, very important people like myself, my partner, my kids. And there are days when I’m not beautiful, because I’m tired, don’t have time for myself or have been eating junk food. And both states are OK.
If you’re open and willing to learn about yourself, I put together some questions to explore the beauty concept in your life:
» What does beauty mean for me?
» Is it an important aspect of my life? When and in what situations? When is it unimportant?
» Where do I see beauty around me?
» Where do I see beauty in myself?
My greatest challenge is supporting my daughter to create her own, healthy beauty concept. I have no idea whether I’m on the right track or not—she is a beauty, oh yes, she is—but what serves her better, letting her know or not being told? Disregarding the whole issue or openly addressing it? I’ll let you know in 20 years.
Read more on this topic in SELF LOVE: Understanding true beauty»
image: Female bare feet via Shutterstock