I don’t remember ever hearing the words “you’re beautiful” when I was growing up. I remember criticism about my weight, or my chubby cheeks, or my mother telling me to never cut my hair because it was my “saving grace.” But I don’t remember anyone ever saying “Sarah you’re beautiful.” As a result I struggled, as most young girls do, with a very negative self-image growing up.
I searched for that validation from any source, including doing pageants as a teenager in hopes that it would make me feel beautiful. But instead when I didn’t win, I felt less validated and cut myself down even more. I learned early on that if I made fun of myself, or was self-deprecating that I’d be the one to control how people saw me. I thought that if I brought it up first, and often, then they would realize that I already knew I was “fat and ugly” and therefore I’d save them the trouble of pointing it out. But I didn’t realize that all this did was make the people around me uncomfortable, and pressured them to compliment me.
When I met my ex-husband at sixteen, I constantly looked to him to tell me I was beautiful, which was something that he was not naturally good at. It made him uncomfortable to verbalize it, so when he did I argued and cut myself down even more, in a passive aggressive attempt to get him to tell me more. But all that accomplished was him telling me less and less.
When I got divorced, I made a conscious decision. I’d learned that my beliefs and thoughts created my reality and I decided I no longer wanted to feel this way about myself. I was thirty-four years old and I wanted to find true happiness, and that meant loving and accepting myself as I was. I started by looking in the mirror every morning and telling myself, out loud, that I was beautiful. It was the biggest lie I’d ever told myself, and it felt uncomfortable and awkward, but I was relentless. I looked myself in the eye and said it over and over, day after day. I made a commitment to say it to myself every time I looked in a mirror.
Then slowly an amazing thing began to happen. I started to believe it.
That lead to me taking better care of myself, caring how I presented myself to the world, which lead to me believing it a little more. As time passed I became a new woman. One who truly believed that I was beautiful.
I am not a thin girl. I’ve always been curvy and have ranged from a fit size 10 (in my skinny twenties), to a fit and curvy size 14. I’ll never be a skinny girl, and I’m fine with that. I have come to love and appreciate the woman I’ve become, on good days and bad, whether I feel “fat” or great that day, I’ve learned to see myself as beautiful no matter what.
I have two seven-year-old twin daughters, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t tell them multiple times, how beautiful they are. Yes I tell them they are smart, and talented, and all of that knowing beauty is perceived to only be outward. But I believe that if you don’t truly feel beautiful, and if it doesn’t come from within, than your hiding your true potential and doing yourself and the world a disservice. When you feel beautiful, you also feel like you can take on the world. You believe that anything is possible. You feel respected and seen. Call it shallow but all of that builds your self-confidence, which empowers you to be your best self and to live the fullest life possible. And that is what I want for my daughters. I want them to believe that they are beautiful, and not be ashamed of that. I don’t want them to search for validation in men, or anything else to “feel” beautiful. I want them to love and respect themselves, which starts with knowing that no matter what they look like, they ARE BEAUTIFUL.
Last year I was the target of a body-bullying video created by Yahoo for their top daily news stories. They chose to freeze-frame images of me as a guest on the Steve Harvey Show that made me look morbidly obese, and deformed, even though they knew full-well what I actually looked like. That video got a half-million views in 24 hours, and thousands of comments that would have made the old me self-destruct. Those comments included death-threats, all based on just my looks. I called Yahoo out on this and they eventually pulled the piece off the Internet, which I am grateful for. However that does not excuse the acceptance in social media, and media in general to bully because of a persons looks or weight. That experience made me so grateful for all the work I’d done the previous years to change my internal view of myself, which enabled me to see if for the shallow, low-blow attack that it was.
This brings me to a new trend I’m seeing recently in the media, which I want to put my complete support behind. It’s the movement to change societies definition of “beauty.” Dove has released a campaign called #ChooseBeautiful, which is incredibly powerful.
I cried watching this video, and can’t wait to show it to my daughters. This video broke my heart because I know that until a few years ago I would have walked through the “average” door. And it made me emotional knowing that now I’d chose the “beautiful” door, but not without shame and embarrassment.
And that is a problem.
There is a fucked-up idea out there that if you “think your beautiful,” or god-forbid, say that you are, that you are a stuck-up bitch. There’s this underlying societal notion that you shouldn’t say that, and you shouldn’t act that way, because if you do then you’re a conceded narcissist. That you can’t believe you’re beautiful and be humble at the same time. I bet there were women who wanted to walk through the “beautiful” door, but chose not to for that very reason. They were afraid that others would look at them like; who do you think you are? Your not all that!
And that bullshit needs to change.
It’s okay to feel beautiful. It’s okay to tell yourself that you are. It’s okay to say it out-loud, and to carry yourself as a beautiful woman would. It’s okay to be beautiful, and know it, REGARDLESS of what others think of your physical appearance. Who cares what they think? You have the power to be self-defined. Don’t be ashamed. It doesn’t make you a bitch, or arrogant to believe that you are beautiful. It doesn’t make you “full of yourself” or “better than anyone else.” It just makes you a woman who loves and appreciates what God has given her, and wears it with pride.
I want to thank Lane Bryant for their recent campaign #ImNoAngel which is a swipe at Victoria Secrets “perfect” angel. Thank you for making curvy girls sexy. Thank you for showing the world that you don’t need to weigh 90 pounds and have fake tits to be “beautiful.”
And thank you to Kelly Clarkson for not giving a fuck what all the haters have to say about her appearance. She’s been taking a beating lately by media and Internet trolls calling her “fat.” Good for you for not taking their shit and for embracing the beautiful talented woman you are. And for showing the world that it can really suck after you have a baby, most of us don’t automatically “bounce back” nine months after giving birth. I know I never have. So thank you!!!
And thanks to the newswoman in Canada who has taken cyber bullying for her pregnancy body, and who finally spoke out about it. Good for you!
This trend makes me so happy because I pray that it changes these insane views on beauty, so that my daughters will feel more acceptance than my generation has. I think it’s important to speak-up and let your voice be heard, because YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.