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This is me. At 35 years old. Filtered.

When I was a kid, I was a complete nerd. Frizzy hair. Glasses. Braces. So skinny people thought I had an eating disorder though I ate like a teenage boy on steroids.

But other than my Dad and my Mom and my grandfather (who told me every time I saw him), I don’t remember people ever telling me, as a child, that I was “pretty”.

I remember them saying it about my sister. Because she was. She is. Blue eyes, dimples. A smile that lights up a room.

I just don’t remember people telling me anything other than I looked “puny” or commenting on whether or not I ever ate.

I don’t really remember my first husband telling me I was pretty, either. But after I went through some intense medical issues shortly after we married, I remember him asking me when I was going to go on a diet. Or reminding me that I was supposed to be on one.

I went from having a thin, flat body type to one full of curves and rolls and dimensions I was not used to in a matter of a couple of months. And then I got pregnant. So, of course, my body has now never been the same.

I never had to watch what I ate. I never had to exercise. I never had to be disciplined about my body. For 20 years. And I’m just now learning how to take better care of it.

It’s a roller coaster. But I’m doing better. Again. For now. I know better than to say I’ve got this area of my life under control because I’m weak. And I love food. And it’s the south and we plan entire days around meals.

Still, I see progress.

And not just progress in my daily discipline of making better dietary choices or getting my ass to the walking track or on the treadmill.

I’m finally seeing myself as beautiful. Just as I am. Not because of what anyone else sees or says. But because I like what I see.

Maybe it’s just my problem, this insecurity about my looks. But in a world of selfies and fashion and fitness advice, I think the large majority of the population DOES care and has their own hang-ups about their self-image.

I don’t think I’d feel much differently about my looks than I do today if I’d been showered with compliments on my appearance all my life. In fact, most of the most beautiful people I know struggle with insecurity. I could blame that on a lot of things, but at the end of the day, I think the simple truth is: we’re just human. And we all have a need to be told our worth. And somehow, in this crazy, messed up society, a lot of us have equated that worth with appearance.

I’ve developed a lot of unhealthy habits over the last 25 years, but none so unhealthy as that one.

I think several things have helped shift my thinking. But mostly, maturity and the love of a partner in life who accepts me so unconditionally and has seen me with “filtered eyes” long before our smartphones came along.

This is also me. Unfiltered. Makeup sweated off. Mascara blurred from tears cried. I love makeup. I love it because I like the way wearing it makes me feel. It’s a kind of protective mask between me and the world. But I also love the freedom of not wearing it if I don’t want to. And finally being okay with how that feels too.

I love a good selfie. Filtered or not. I love to see women embrace their individual beauty with confidence and be proud of the face in that picture.

I’m sure there will be those who judge my photos. And yours. But that’s okay too. Those people will never know, nor take the time to understand, what it often takes in terms of personal growth to reach a point where some of us have any semblance of physical confidence.

So post that selfie, girlfriend. Filtered or unfiltered, the people that really know you always thought you were beautiful. It just takes some time, sometimes, to see it yourself. And it’s okay to feel pretty. As long as you remember, you’re so much more than that.

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