sorry, not sorry: my girls are beautiful

I love it when a friend blogs the thing I wanted to say, so I mostly don’t have to. In this case, my friend Sarah of Wifeytini (when I mentioned friends I made via the #spinabifida hashtag, she’s one of them) took on the ridiculousness of the latest in a long line of fearmongering about how we’re all ruining our children by praising/not praising them. Apparently, calling my daughters “pretty girls” is going to make them bad at math and science, and by golly, Verizon is out to save them from me and my destructive compliments.

UGH.  Continue reading “sorry, not sorry: my girls are beautiful”

our selfies, ourselves

This might be my first selfie ever, taken with my 1st digital camera when I was 21.
This might be my first selfie ever, taken with my 1st digital camera when I was 21.

I’m not exactly sure when the word “selfie” was coined. It’s been added to the OED and was even their word of the year for 2013, so it’s become widespread enough that the trend is undeniable. But it seems like only the last couple of years that the word has been around, and like the “trend” is mostly thanks to Instagram (my favorite social media app). However, long before Instagram or the word “selfie,” we were all taking “Myspace photos” with our phones in mirrors or by holding our arms out– selfies without a name, essentially. Timehop has helpfully showed me that my own personal “emo selfie habit,” as my sister calls it, goes back at least seven years, definitely predating the term. I would get bored at my office job and take self portraits with my Mac’s Photo Booth or my crappy Blackberry Pearl, usually to show off some fun lipstick or a new hairstyle.

I do know that we’re currently experiencing something of a selfie backlash.   Continue reading “our selfies, ourselves”

belly buttons, baby girls, and body confidence

My belly wasn't the same after this. I'm learning to love it anyway.
My belly wasn’t the same after this. I’m learning to love it anyway.

In response to some internet body-shaming, some other folks have declared this to be #BodyConfidenceWeek. And since Owning Your Awesome is kind of my wheelhouse, I figured I’d share a little body confidence here.

To talk about the confidence, though, I have to first say: carrying twins to 35 weeks and 6 lbs each, through some 55 lbs of weight gain and loss has changed my body. I still remember feeling the fiery sensation of my abs literally ripping apart, and they stayed that way. My belly button never went back in. My skin was stretched past its capacity to snap back all the way. These are not complaints, really, just realities. I made two people inside this body, and even though it almost killed me, I survived, and those little people are more than worth it.

In fact, they are what give me confidence, both because of the obvious love and delight they take in their bodies and mine, but because I want to protect them from messages that would have them do anything but love and marvel at the miracles of their bodies, and to do that, I have to show them how to love themselves by modeling self-love.

Right now, they’re obsessed with pointing out and naming body parts, but particularly bellies and belly buttons. I kiss their bellies when I change their diapers. “Belly belly belly,” I say as I tickle them and blow raspberries. They’re preoccupied with the part of me that was most changed by their entry into the world. When I’m sitting near them, they lift my shirt playfully. “Belly!” I say. Giggling, their little fingers point out my still-outie belly button. Softly, they tickle my stretched-out skin with their pudgy, sweet, dimpled hands. And in those moments, I don’t feel insecure. I don’t feel ashamed. I laugh. I smile. “You found my belly button!” I say. “Where’s your belly button?” They lift their shirts and stick out their little toddler tummies. They grin as they show me their belly buttons. All I see when I look at them are the perfect, wonderful ones I love. I know that’s what they see when they look at me too. In those moments, we love our bodies together. And that love is a gift that they give me, bigger than anything their gestation and birth did to my flesh.

real beauty is a revolution, not an ad, man

Last night I posted this to Facebook:

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 7.26.47 AMIt was in response to the latest Dove video, which you can see here:

And look, here I am writing about it anyway! (Just as I have before about earlier Dove ads.)

As far as the video goes, I absolutely agree with the seeming diagnosis that many women have a kind of body dysmorphia. They focus on the qualities they hate rather than the qualities they like, and this causes them to perceive themselves as vastly less attractive than they are perceived by others. However, I think this video suggests the wrong treatment for their diagnosis. They suggest that beauty, physical beauty, “couldn’t be more critical to happiness.” And they suggest focusing on the things you do like about yourself, and, presumably, buying Dove products to help you mitigate and feel better about the stuff you don’t like, like your armpits, for example.

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I literally can’t get my mind around “beautiful underarms” as a concept. Underarms are just underarms. If someone is scrutinizing yours, the problem is THEM.

Like I said, I absolutely agree that there is an epidemic of low self esteem in our culture. I would say, however, that the underlying cause is not that we don’t value our physical beauty enough, but that we put too much stock in it altogether– that we make it “absolutely critical” to our happiness.

If the strangers in that video thought the women they met were more beautiful than the women saw themselves, how much more beautiful are those women to the people who know and love them? Think about the people whom you love most in the world. They’re gorgeous to you, right? There are moments with them that simply take your breath away. And it’s because the truest beauty we see and love in others, the kind we need to see in ourselves, comes from love. When you look at people through the eyes of love, they become beautiful to you, a beauty that is pervasive and total and has nothing to do with the shape of their jaw and everything to do with the shape of their heart.

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I just loved this vow from mooshinindy, seen on Instagram. It’s part of what kicked off my thinking about seeing my babies and myself through the eyes of love.

One of the most mind-exploding aspects of becoming a mother has been the way it has utterly changed how I feel about beauty. Into my life have come these two absolutely gorgeous, utterly and totally beloved little creatures. They take my breath away. Daily, their beauty brings tears to my eyes and a pang to my chest. There is not a bit of them, not even their underarms, that needs to be made more beautiful.

And here’s the truly mind-bending part: I came into this world the same way. I took my parents’ breath away. To them, I am heart-stoppingly beautiful. And I am that way to others who love me as well. And even crazier, bigger, more mind bending? I am beginning to see that I am that beautiful to the One who created me as well. And if that isn’t enough to revolutionize our thinking, what is?

The Beatles say, “You’re talkin bout a revolution, well, you know, you oughta free your mind instead.” The Bible says, “Do not be conformed to the ways of this world, but be transformed, by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Freeing and renewing our minds can’t be done when we accept consumerist culture’s premise that beauty is external. It can’t be accomplished by cheerleading brands for ever-so-slightly widening the cultural beauty standard. It can only be done by trying to get our heads around just how deeply we are loved, and seeing ourselves and others through the eyes of Love.

Now, I know this is a much more difficult premise than simply obsessing over parts of ourselves that we like, or buying a cream. Learning to love yourself is tough stuff. But it doesn’t happen if we’re simply focusing on another aspect of our physical appearance. It can only come from the amazing, crazy, transformative power of an encounter with Love. For me, that’s the Love of God. For you, it may be simply meditating on the way you deeply love someone in your life, and trying to see yourself through those same eyes. But this is the revolution folks. You gotta free your mind.