Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful

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I have a confession to make. I’ve never been completely happy with my appearance. What woman has? (Maybe Tootsie?)

“I’ve never been completely happy” is actually a mild way of putting it. I’m pretty hard on my reflection. It would make my husband crazy. I’d look in the mirror and go, “Ugh, look at this ponch on my belly. With the stretch marks it’s like a deflated balloon.” He’d try to reassure me, and I’d just cross-examine him like some vicious defense attorney.

Me: I hate my hair.

Him: What do you mean? You look beautiful.

Me: Are you really looking at my hair?

Him: Of course.

Me: You can’t see all this friz? Admit it, my hair looks frizzy.

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I know I’m not alone in this. I’m friends with dozens of beautiful women. Women whose faces are some of the loveliest things I’ve ever seen. I honestly don’t have one unattractive girlfriend. But I can only think of a small handful whom I’ve never heard disparage their own bodies.

And why? Why can’t they see their own beauty which looks plainly obvious to me? Why can’t I see my own? There are those impossible beauty standards we see in magazines and advertising. But I don’t think it ends there. There seems to be some gene inherent in all womankind that makes us think, “the normal way to feel is to hate my body.” It’s passed from seventh-grader to sixth-grader and mother to daughter. (Not my mom, though. Maybe because she’s so pretty. 😉 Thanks mom!)

Mom and Emma
My mom with my daughter, Emma

So, a couple of years ago, I decided I was going to change the way I think about my body for two reasons. Emma and Sophia. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pass on my self-loathing to my daughters.

I started off just trying my best to refrain from making negative comments about myself in front of them. And let me tell you, it hasn’t been easy. If they’re awake, they’re listening to me. (Well, not listening per se, but they’re hearing me, anyway.) They could be chasing each other around the house or completely absorbed in their favorite book, but if I even mutter something under my breath, they’ll go, “What did you say, Mommy?”

Me: (Silence)

Girls: Mommy! I said, ‘What did you say?!’

Me: Nothing girls, I was talking to myself.

Girls: But what did you say?! Tell me, Mommy! TELL ME!

There have been so many times that I’ve caught myself squeezing my belly flab in the mirror, and just before I bust out an, “Ugh, I’m so fat!” I notice one of them playing nearby, and I shut up.

I’ve been working hard to lose weight since my third baby was born (my son, Raymond), which has meant a lot of exercising and dieting. I present it to the girls as trying to be healthier. Exercise is good for you. Fruits and vegetables are good for you. A crap-load of sugar and fat? Not good for you. (I didn’t say no sugar and fat at all. Just keep it under a crap-load.)

Sophia likes to do my work out videos with me. One day she was in my room while I was changing into my exercise clothes. So far I’d gotten on my stretchy pants and my sports bra. She looked up at me with big ole baby doll blue eyes, wide as the ocean, as if she’d just seen the most fantastic Christmas present delivered directly to her hands by Santa Clause himself. “Mommy. You should just wear that without your shirt so you’ll look like Jillian Michaels in week 3.”

It took every ounce of willpower I had not to respond, “Honey, I look absolutely nothing like Jillian Michaels.” The words came to my mouth and stopped just short of my lips. I looked down at my stretch-marked stomach, and I said, “Hmm. You think I look like Jillian Michaels in this?”

She nodded, eyes still wide. Well, it’s not like I was going to the gym. I was working out in my own living room. Nobody could see me but my Sophia. So I figured, what the hell? I’ll do it for her.

That day I discovered something. A “fake it til you make it” approach to self-confidence. I started making a conscious effort not only to refrain from hating myself in front of them, but to say positive stuff about myself in their presence as often as possible. “Doesn’t Mommy look pretty in this dress?” “Look how strong my muscles are.” “Don’t you loooove my new haircut?”

After several months of trying to convince my daughters that I loved the way I looked, I actually started to convince myself. I won’t lie. Losing weight has helped a lot. I’ve lost 35 pounds since I started that fitness and dieting kick I was talking about. But honestly, I’ve been this thin before. I’ve been thinner than this. And I’ve always thought I was fat. Not anymore.

I used to look at other women and think things like, “I love her outfit, but I’d look terrible in it.” Now I think, “I bet that dress would look great on me.”

There is still that little evil voice in my brain that jumps out every now and then to remind me of my cellulite and love handles. I’m not in punch drunk love with myself. I’m just better at smothering the little demon before he does too much damage.

And look, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with wanting to lose weight, get clearer skin, de-friz your hair or anything else women try to make themselves prettier. I’m just saying, do we have to hate ourselves in the mean time? Because I’ll tell you a secret. If you think you’re fat, ugly, frizzy, zitty, whatever, there is no one who is harder on you than you are on yourself. (No normal person, at least. If you’re close to some jerk who says you’re ugly, please do me a favor and kick said jerk in the butt, take pictures, and send them to me.)

But seriously, start telling someone that you’re beautiful. If you don’t have daughters, tell your husband. Tell your boyfriend. Tell your mom. Tell your sister. Pick something good about your body that you can say with a straight face, run straight to your best friend, and say it. My butt rocks in these jeans. Doesn’t this color bring out my eyes? Check out this dress I bought for my cousin’s wedding. I look gorgeous in it!

Just fake it til you make it. I promise, it feels much better to love the way you look.

Do you have any tricks to build your self-confidence? Let me know in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you!

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27 comments

  1. Nicole, I loved reading this. You are so right, we woman are all hard on ourselves. I’ve had 3 children also, the pooch is still there for me and my butt and boobs are much bigger. My husband says I’ve never looked better I get a lot of comments from my friends. But you know what? I do the same thing when I look I. The mirror. I’m angry that I’m not a sz 2 anymore, ( im a huge sz 6)I’m angry that I have to dye my hair light blonde because the top is completely gray. I’m angry at the fine lines I see and my fuller face. I could go on, but when I tell people they think I’m crazy. Do we blow this stuff up in our heads? Like you my daughter saw me differently. We were in The checkout,I think she was 3, she pointed to a magazine and said” mommy she looks like you!” It was Kendra Wilkinson ! Lol magazine covers are such crap. I decided to make a point of being make up free a lot, because my daughter saw me doing it every time I went anywhere. She said to me ,” mommy I need to be pretty too.” It crushed me because she is a gorgeous child! You Rock that sexy new shape girl! You should be so proud of your new healthier body. Remember, those aren’t stretch marks. Your a gosh darn tiger who’s earned her stripes! Your beautiful and we as moms need to start showing our girls what real Beauty is.

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    1. Thank you Melissa! I absolutely loved your comment. You’re right, we need to show our girls what real beauty is. Remember how pretty your mom was when you were little? That’s all our daughters see when they look at us. To a little girl, mom is the prettiest woman on the planet. That’s how it should be. And I bet you’re just as gorgeous as Kendra Wilkinson! 🙂

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  2. I loved this story and the truth in it 🙂 Another “trick” I like to use with my kids is talk about how much fun someone is or how creative, funny, or smart they are – focus on the great aspects of a persons personality (in this case, yourself). If you love who you are inside, it will shine through whatever you look like on the outside. That’s why our friends are so beautiful – not because they have the perfect body (because that doesn’t exist), but because the love shines though 🙂 And I bet you are even more beautiful than Jillian to your daughter – because she loves you so much!!! LOVED IT! Thank you 🙂

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  3. Thanks, you’re totally right that faking it until we make it is the way forward. I don’t think we can just blame a womanly ‘gene’ for doing this to our body confidence though, look around you – there are loads of things telling you that being pretty is the most important thing a woman can be. Where did that come from? The idea that women weren’t much use for anything else. We’re getting over that idea now, but the pretty thing is hanging in there. I’m loving your work on ditching it.

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  4. What a wonderfully positive post, and I completely agree. It’s tough though, isn’t it? We’ve been conditioned (whether intentionally, or sub-consciously) that we have to live up to an unrealistic ideal. It’s crazy, but it’s so pervasive! Now that I have a daughter I’m even more aware of it, and I make sure that I never comment on my weight/appearance in front of her, and I try not to stress about it the rest of the time either (works most of the time!). Thank you for sharing this great post with #ThePrompt, wonderful to have you xx

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  5. No tips I’m afraid. But I’m also working really hard on this. I learnt self hate and body shaming from my mother. And my boys were always hearing me talk about how fat I feel and how can I build them up when im knocking myself down.

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    1. I know! It’s so hard! I think all of us women learned body shaming from our mothers, and they learned it from their mothers, and so on and so on! I am trying my best to set a better example for my kids, but it is really hard to get past the ingrained inclination to hate our own bodies.

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