I’ve been crafting a post in my head regarding two distinctive thoughts that crossed my mind about my appearance in the past couple of weeks, and then I clicked on this story from Ravishly, and I couldn’t believe the timeliness of it.
After a teenage life that made me self-conscious about my weight, my skin color, my thick lips and broad nose, I’d like to think I’m more comfortable in my skin than I’ve ever been. However, there are always moments. Like last week when I glanced at my reflection in a window I was passing and thought, “god, I am really unattractive.” Or earlier this week, when a member of Toastmasters asked to take my picture for the Facebook page and when he showed it to me and I looked at my moon-pie face and thought “jeezus, I need to lose weight.”
My mom is guilty of making these proclamations against herself, too. She grew up with her own grandmother telling her she was ugly, her uncle telling her she had skinny stick legs—the woman never wears anything but pants because she believes her legs are too skinny (as if that’s a thing (coming from a woman who has always struggled with weight))…that’s the kind of damage criticism can do to a young person—and she always hated having her photo taken. My mom was (is) crazy gorgeous. I mean stunning. And I think she’s starting to see that now when she looks back on photos of herself, but she lived her young adulthood believing otherwise. Even still today, when she sees a photo of herself, she immediately recoils and names off all the reasons she doesn’t like how she looks.
It was on my drive home from Toastmasters, when I thought about how quickly I recoiled from a photo of myself that reveals something I don’t like to see and immediately noted to myself a need to fix it. And if that’s how I look, why not embrace it, imperfections and all? What good comes from viewing oneself negatively? I also wondered if men have the same sort of thought processes about their place/appearance in the world.
The next morning, when Spence was drinking his coffee and reading the paper, I entered the living room and said, “I have a question to ask you.” He put the paper down. I continued: “Do you ever pass your reflection in a window while walking down the street and think, god I’m ugly?” The look of confusion was answer enough. I continued, “Or do you ever see a photo of yourself and think, gosh, I should lose some weight.” I won’t get into the specifics of his answer, only that it had me in hysterics, but suffice it to say, the answer is generally no. (And I clarified immediately that he shouldn’t be thinking these things, obviously, but neither should the women who do think these things. That’s the rub.)
But I do have a hard time imagining a man passing a reflection of himself and making much judgment on it one way or the other.
So back to the essay at the start. Is it possible for women to wipe out the inner critic? Or is the goal to simply quiet her so that she doesn’t override all the beautiful, fun, fleeting, remarkable things happening around us all the time in this life? Because while I have ideas in my mind of how I’d like to age and what I want to look likeand what I want to be able to physically do, I can’t (no one should) allow the disparities between what I want and what I have determine my outlook/mood from day to day. Particularly when what I have is good health, good friends, a loving husband, a great job and what I wish for deals almost solely in issues of vanity. Who knew vanity could be so pervasive? I wouldn’t describe myself as particularly vain, yet here we are. (Another post coming soon about this with an interesting story about madre!)