I take this quote very differently from how I did the first time I read it. I can’t say that I’m at a place where I’m comfortable walking around declaring myself a ravishing beauty, and I’m not sure that I would ever want to be. But this much I know; I am now a mother of daughters. They watch me and from watching me they are learning how to move through this world as women. If I tell them they are beautiful while being harsh with myself, they will instinctively see beauty in their own children, but never in themselves. If I say that I don’t like my smile or my waist or my hair or my thighs, that there are parts of me I am ashamed of, what will they think when someone innocently tells them how much they look like me? I am proud of my body. Against many obstacles, It has grown and nourished five unique and amazing people. I don’t think I can ask better of it than that.
Long time readers of my blog may remember that in years past, I was virtually unseen. I am 5′ 0″, maybe 20? 30 lbs? over weight at the moment. I have thinning hair and more stretch marks than smooth spots. I have crooked teeth and chronic dark circles under my eyes. When I’m unwell all of my veins show through the skin on my arms and torso like some kind of freaky 3D diagram of the circulatory system. I can be ghostly pale and often appear just plain haggard. Growing up the message that I was given by society is that women like me do not deserve to be seen. That we have to be altered before we are worthy. Worthy of what exactly I don’t know. Everything it seems.
I want to say that there is nothing wrong with me, but that would be an outright lie. But the things that are “wrong’ with me are the makings of my own private struggles and manifestations of my humanity. There is nothing about me that makes my image unfit for public consumption.
I knew that with this project I would be opening myself up to judgement. And I have. But I feel very blessed to be able to say that in over 10 years of blogging in this space I’ve only received one nasty comment.
I’ve spent pretty much my entire adult life trying to find a comfortable and healthy relationship with the shape of my body. And it has been a challenge because over the last 17 years of motherhood, that shape has altered time and again. I have my set backs, but mostly I accept and embrace what is. In recent years I’ve been caught off guard in finding that I have a hard time seeing myself look sick. I find it upsetting. It makes me feel fragile and I find myself avoiding mirrors and cameras. In part this project is a way of forcing myself to face myself. I’ve found that I have to desensitize myself to my own image. And a couple of years ago I started consciously doing just that. To try to be comfortable with sharing a picture even if my hair is a mess or I don’t like the look on my face or the way an outfit fits. To get used to being me in the world, with all of my flaws and imperfections. For me to accept who I am without fear or concern about what others will think of me. Because that is what I want to teach my daughters, in all of their flawed, imperfect, deep, and eternal beauty. That is the gift I want to give to them. And I am not fit for this work of going against the world and myself and all I’ve been taught, but I plan to keep on trying all the same.