Take your make up off
Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror, at yourself
Don’t you like you?
Cause I like you
Colbie Caillat, Try
I was in fourth grade when my teacher gave us a prompt, wanting us to write a poem about ourselves she asked the class: Write one thing you like about your appearance. I remember chewing on my pencil–thinking long and hard: What did I like about myself? Not my eyes–they weren’t a sparkling blue like the other girls. Not my hair–it was plain and brown–not gold like the sun. Not my smile–my teeth were too big, lips too thin. My cheeks–too chubby looking. My nose? I’d been teased and would be teased well into junior high school that it was too big. Finally with time running out–I looked at my hands. My hands. I scribbled it quickly on the paper, knowing I needed to write something.
Nearly 27 years later, I’m the mother of two lovely girls. And I work so hard on reminding them daily about the importance of having your beauty radiate from the inside out. That it’s the heart that matters most.
But is it that the only message of beauty I want to instill in them?
I realized I don’t want them to struggle with the question: What do you like about yourself? I want them to not only feel beautiful on the inside, but the outside too. And it took me many years to appreciate who I am–that my hair is one of my favorite features now–it’s thick and full–I can wear it long or short, naturally wavy, straightened or curled. That those cheeks I used to hate are cheek bones that reveal my Cherokee heritage. And those eyes that are plain and brown–well they are mine. They have a lovely shape–and it’s one of the features that tie me and my siblings together–it’s one of the only ways you can tell we are related. And that’s not to say that I don’t still feel insecure–because I do. But instead of pointing out my flaws and insecurities in front of my girls, I want to make sure to tell them just how special we are to be made– the only one like us in the world.
I don’t want my girls to wonder if they are beautiful. I want them to love themselves–to appreciate exactly who they are, in all the uniqueness that God created them to be–one of a kind. I don’t want them searching for validation from others–which becomes such a danger when they are entering middle and high school–it will be here in a blink of the eye. I want them to walk confidently in their skin, not wishing they looked like someone else.
Right now, I think maybe they love everything about themselves. And I hope it stays that way. But I know from experience what happens–they will begin to hear criticisms–from kids at school or even a well-meaning family member–pointing out something that they hadn’t thought to be insecure about before. And I hope–that after years of me building them up that they will be strong and confident in their own skin.
It starts with me. I wrote once that I vowed not to complain about the legs I used to hate in front of them. And as I was curling my hair the other day, my little girls were watching me so intently. I knew it was the perfect moment for them to hear that I love myself too. So as a curl fell into place, I smiled at them and stated: I really like my hair. There was a chorus of: I like your hair too-s and as they studied their features in my mirror they proclaimed they also liked their hair. I have a feeling this is the right thing to do. To build their little egos so that when stones are thrown they will be strong enough to stand tall and know they are beautiful. Even if their beauty isn’t what someone else can appreciate.
And maybe they’ll grow up to be like me–the time I feel most beautiful has nothing to do with how much makeup I’m wearing or what my clothes look like. I feel most beautiful when I’m running because of how it makes me feel, not what it makes me look like. When running, I feel more in tune with the sounds and sites around me and even myself. I’m hyper-focused on feelings of pushing through the tough parts and the feeling of flying when I hit my stride. The sound of my breathing, the rhythm of my heart. Running is when I feel beautiful. It’s when I see just how perfectly I fit into this world.
But whether it’s when they are doing something they love or because they are dressed up–my hope is they have the heart to appreciate who they are.
I think the selfie movement which can be annoying to some, is actually just someone, maybe a mom, telling herself and the world: I feel pretty today. And there is nothing wrong with that. But it’s important to find the balance of: knowing true beauty shines from the inside out while appreciating that we were made one of a kind.
And that is beautiful.
Never Give Up,