Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Battle with Beautiful

What does it really mean to feel beautiful? 
In my attempt at mastering self-acceptance, I have found that I keep dwelling on this word 'beautiful'. Why am I so desperate to feel it? Our society is built around this idea that if you don't feel and look beautiful, we are destined to fail as women, mothers, wives... If we don't embrace our 'beauty', we can't possibly be capable of passing on self esteem to our children. I do, sometimes, agree with this. Months ago, at the start of this crazy new life, I complained about certain body parts and later found my daughter checking herself out in the mirror and asking me if I thought she was fat or needed some work. I also know that in times of weakness, I may call myself 'ugly or fat' and my oldest will jump on the 'feel good' bandwagon and gush over me being the prettiest mommy in all the land. I wonder if she thinks this is normal? I wonder if one day, in her moment of weakness when she's calling herself 'ugly and fat', if there will be someone there to lift her up and say differently and if no one is there to do that for her, will she be able to look herself in the mirror and convince herself otherwise. I think of all the millions of women out there that don't have children or boyfriends or husbands, and I wonder who is picking them up when they fall apart in front of the mirror. It's inevitable that we all are going to feel less than perfect and look less than perfect at some point in our lives. Do we all have someone to go to that is going to uplift us? Are you solely dependent on other's opinions of yourself? I know that I was. I know that you probably are. The statistics are out there. I don't like them at all! Did you know that the majority of women are told they are beautiful ONCE A MONTH?!?! Did you know that most women are told they are beautiful because they called themselves otherwise in front of others, subconsciously fishing for compliments that tell them otherwise because they just need to hear it. I would be lying if I said that I can't relate. Anyone else relating right now? Did you know most people are told they are beautiful during a personal crisis (i.e failed health, relationships, job)? Yes, if I found out that my husband was less than faithful, I would need an army to tell me that I was beautiful every day for a year but does that really make me feel it? No. Compliments born out of sympathy really don't hold much bearing in the long run. To find something beautiful, you have to look at it with completely open non-judgement eyes and embrace the imperfections. To find beauty, you must first know yourself. We are all uniquely programmed to show preferences. For instance, I prefer being left handed and adding hot sauce to everything I eat. You may think that is not normal but it's my everyday normal. It's what makes me uniquely me. It also means that I right now you can't see the world the same as I do so naturally, my idea of beautiful is different from yours. Who can put a definition to beautiful? I think our Heavenly Father says it best when He asks us to "Love One Another". If we are all deserving of love, then we are all deserving of beauty. We were perfectly created and then given free agency. I would like to know when in our history of humanity did the idea of being or feeling beautiful mean that we had to have flawless skin, shiny hair, and wear a size 2. I doubt Noah packed cosmetics and Photoshop on the ark. I am certain he didn't go out into the wilderness and bring back just the people he thought were beautiful. I doubt that he was thinking about passing along only the beautiful genes when he was commanded to re-populate the planet. If you asked someone today to load up the ark, I am willing to bet that the man in charge would make everyone go through genetic/dna testing so he could gather up the most perfect and most beautiful people in the world. I have no doubts here. Our world is built around this idea of being beautiful means you will be successful, rich, popular, desired, and will pass it along to your babies so if you are a man wanting to multiply there is a good chance you are thinking of this when choosing a mate. It's all very gross. Let me summarize with a few points here before moving along.

First, women get told they are beautiful ONCE A MONTH.
Second, they get told they are beautiful during personal crisis/out of sympathy.
Third, a man's idea of beauty has turned from 'love one another' to 'love the magazine model who starves herself so the Photoshop editor doesn't have to work so hard because she will pass on good genes'.

We are so screwed. Hold on to your daughters. Keep them single. Most importantly, teach them that beautiful doesn't come from outside sources. Beautiful is something that we see using what is inside. Our minds can develop an idea of beauty that involves everything and everyone it sees. Our hearts can find the beautiful in all things if it is open and willing to accept the differences. If we really want to teach our girls success, popularity, riches...then we should want to teach them that opening our hearts and minds to each others differences is what makes us beautiful people. I believe that world peace can start in our homes and with our ideas of what beautiful really is.

(If you have sons, this is equally important. Remember, the men you find disgustingly filled with unrealistic ideas of what makes a woman beautiful? They have fathers and mothers too. Boys can be taught that beauty lies in all things. So fathers, next time you are oogling women on the tv screen and verbally saying 'she's hot', your boys are listening and watching and forming an idea of beauty that is unrealistic which in turn is going to turn them into the boys that you want your daughters to stay away from. Just think about it. You could be creating the guy that breaks my daughter's heart and then you got me to deal with.)

 I look out my window this morning and see the field that was grass and trees and brush just a few short weeks ago and today it is open and free and rid of everything that was growing there. It's there to be made into whatever my heart desires. It's there for me to make beautiful. It was nothing great to look at and some would say that it currently looks like a giant ugly dirt pile but to me it holds amazing possibilities. When I look out there, I see flowers of all colors that are continually blooming. I see a garden full of fresh vegetables and a bed of berries. I see a fall full of canning in the kitchen with my family creating memories. I see my daughters rolling down a hill of green grass and picking dandelions to show how much they love me. I see my husband exhausting himself at the end of the day pushing the mower. I see myself with dirt in my nails and mud on my feet covered in sweat feverishly planting the bulb garden that I have always wanted. I see endless possibilities and they are all beautiful to me. I want my daughters to look out their metaphoric 'windows' and see all the possibilities around them. I want them to look out into the world and find beauty in everything they see. I want to see them filled with hope. Mostly, I want them to know that they are filled with perfect individual beauty and they never have to look any further than themselves to know what beautiful feels like. 

Unfortunately for me, I am discovering these things a little later in my life and struggle with the mirror. I am one of those that never takes a compliment to heart. Somewhere in my skewed mental health, I can't seem to unblock my 'ugly' defensives. I somehow have managed to convince myself that the word 'beautiful' is something I am not worthy to possess. I know differently but telling my reflexes to feel differently is going to be my life long battle. I don't wish it on anyone. Being 60 lbs lighter is a start. Don't once believe that our weight doesn't determine how we feel about ourselves. It has everything to do with how we feel. I'm not just talking about our self-esteem either. Feeling healthy is something that doesn't come easy in a world filled with junk foods and pollutions and obesity. I would have never imagined that I could feel so clean and alive and filled with hope for my future by just changing my ideas of food and exercise. These are just a few of the small steps I am taking in my battle with beautiful. I will conquer this but for now, I feel confident that my daughters are getting beauty lessons that no amount of time in a beauty salon can teach. I am setting up a foundation of open hearts and minds and an idea of beautiful that doesn't involve a mirror...or Photoshop.

Take time today to tell someone why you think they are beautiful. Don't assume beautiful people know they are beautiful. There is a good chance they looked in the mirror this morning and told themselves differently.