A friend recently sent me a post called “When Your Mother Says She’s Fat” by author Kasey Edwards.
The post was hard for me to read – painful, too.
This is because I had a similar experience with my own mom growing up.
One night she and my dad were going to a party, and she looked sooooo pretty to me! So I told her, “Mom, you are beautiful!”
Her response was less than reassuring. While I don’t remember the exact words she used, I did get the distinct sense that she disagreed with me – that perhaps I had even somehow embarrassed myself with my lack of correct perception.
In my assertion that I saw my mom as beautiful, I had made myself vulnerable, and received criticism rather than appreciation in return.
It was also jarring to realize that, as her daughter, this meant I was not beautiful either – or at least, I was destined not to be as I grew up into a woman.
As a girl I loved to copy drawings of beautiful faces and clothes line-for-line out of the magazines, relishing my ability to recreate loveliness on paper.
But after that night, my girlish art hobby soon turned from a source of sensory delight into a fretful fantasy that maybe one day, if I just changed enough about myself, I might be the gorgeous woman being drawn instead of the copy artist.
I never did manage to achieve that goal.
Instead, I got sick, and then sicker. And then I grew up and realized that “beauty,” like talent and intelligence and all the rest, is both an inside job and a wholly subjective assessment. I also realized it was a choice I would have to make for myself – whether or not to see “me” as “beautiful.”
Miss Piggy (of “Muppets” fame) taught me this when she declared, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.”
Lupita Nyong’o reinforced this same wisdom in her recent Oscar acceptance speech, when she shared the personal “aha moment” that helped her finally overcome her lifelong desire to have lighter skin:
“…finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be.”
Beauty is something we just have to be. We choose to perceive beauty, and then the beauty appears right in front of our wondering eyes.
I do not have a daughter, but I do have a five year-old niece who loves Barbie. She also loves pink and purple and sparkles and glitter and all things “girly.” I worry about her sometimes, even though her mom, my sister-in-law, seems to have healthy body image, which I am insanely glad about!
Here is hoping the legacy I leave for my niece looks far different than the painful legacy of body hate I am leaving behind.
Today’s Takeaway: Have you ever experienced how simply changing your mind can change your perception? For instance, if you go from criticizing a person to praising them, do you suddenly find you enjoy their company more? In the same way, if you stand in front of a mirror and focus on something you like about your reflection (versus something you dislike), does your sense of overall confidence and satisfaction improve? This week, consider experimenting some more with this technique of shifting your perception through changing your thoughts – and if you do decide to try it, I’d love to hear your experiences!
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Last reviewed: 21 Mar 2014