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Friday, September 27, 2013

A (vain?) woman with a young daughter: or "What is Beauty anyway?"

Oh what a continuing contradiction I am!

Recently on Facebook, this article by Sarah Koppelkam How To Talk To Your Daughter About Her Body was being passed around by mothers everywhere. I read it and applauded the author. The basic idea I took from the article was to try not to put any emphasis on your or your daughter's body appearance, good or bad, that would make her focus on body as beauty. The last sentence in the article was simply and beautiful: 

"Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul."

Of course we often hear similar ideas. 

"Don't judge a book by it's cover."
"Beauty comes from within."
"Personality is what matters."

I'm drawn to blogs and articles that encourage a new way of thinking about body image, self esteem, women's beauty. Like this one by Lisa Jo Baker:


I love this portion of that blog: "Mothers, unite. Let’s stop lamenting who we are, and mourning the loss of what we used to be. We used to be lonely. Now we have a family. We used to be ignorant of love. Now it tugs on us all hours of the day and night. We used to be untouched. Now we crave some form of privacy. We used to dream of pregnancy. Now our bodies are emblems of that sacred experience.
We are LIFE GIVERS. Say goodbye to the old, and hello to the new. Throw away those skinny jeans, and purchase a new wardrobe, because life is too short not to eat key-lime pie."

YES! I am going to be the mom who doesn't focus on looks. Who teaches my sweet Olivia that she is beautiful no matter if her hair is curly or straight or not there at all. Whether she is "chubby" or flat chested or athletically built or slender. That her joy, her compassion, the love shining from her eyes are the beauty we see. YES!...

...and yet...
Today I was invited last minute, with 50 other people, to my old high school, to celebrate my old volleyball coach, who is retiring. How cool! A chance to see friends I haven't seen in 15 years! A chance to hug my coaches neck and congratulate her on the influence and impact she had on hundreds of teenage girls through a sport we loved. A chance to introduce my precious daughter to women from so many different walks of life, but who share a common bond of love and respect for their coach. And what is my first thought? "Man, I wish I would have straightened my hair, fixed my bangs and worn something cuter today." What the?! 

How am I going to teach Olivia about inner beauty when I am so stuck in the mainstream idea that our looks are what matter? Why do we (I) let media determine our worth? How does a hair style or new shirt change who I am and how I see myself and how I think others see me? For all the excitement and camaraderie I feel after I read articles like those above, it only takes a few minutes for me to slip back into ridiculous thoughts like "I'm too frumpy to see old friends today." I too easily compare and imagine how put together the other girls will be, how they will probably have nicer clothes, prettier hair, look less tired. Maybe I have time to go home and change. What if they take pictures and post them on FB? ICK. 

I'm grateful, though, for the timing of all of this. Glad that it's a chance to look inward and try (yet again) to BE the change. Learning and relearning how to balance the way media consumes culture, reality, taking care of myself, caring too much about it all.  Sure, I want to feel good about myself. I even want to feel pretty. But I want that to come from the fact that I'm taking care of my family, I'm working hard in the office, I'm pursuing and loving my friends, I'm spending quality time with my family. Because my eyes light up with delight when I'm with my baby girl. My heart warms when I'm spending time with Jeff. NOT because I'm meeting some standard of looks/style/BS set by Hollywood. 

Come on, ladies! Let's go Mama's! We are beautiful because we are perfectly US. Because we are mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, employees, comedienne's, executives, wives, chefs, housekeepers, babysitters, chauffeurs,  party planners, teachers, students, lovers, battlers, protectors, warriors-with wrinkles, muscles, a few extra pounds, wrinkly shirts, designer jeans, old shoes, new jewelry,  fresh hair styles, frizzy ponytails, tired, energized, overwhelmed, scared, unsure, excited, refreshed, confident, generous, loving, giving, and all of the above at the same time!  I can't wait to see your faces! I can't wait to meet your family! I can't wait to introduce you to Olivia! I can't wait to celebrate not only this fun occasion, but a small piece of LIFE with you tonight! See you soon, Beautiful. 

PS, There is also a cool project taking place in an effort to reshape how people view a woman's body after she gives birth. Check it out:

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