Did you hear there was a kerfluffle about Kim Novak at the Oscars? I didn’t watch the Oscars, but apparently Novak committed a grave crime. She aged — and many people didn’t think she’d done it gracefully. The usual Twitter-hate-storm ensued, people saying all sorts of nasty things and using the Internet as a buffer.
Now bear with me while I take you on a bit of a rabbit trail. I only knew about Kim Novak because my friend Kelly posted a photo of herself on Facebook. No make-up, bright lighting, her real beautiful self. She posted the photo because author Laura Lippman did the same on Twitter. Along with a ton of other people. The point was to show that we all age, we won’t look like we’re 18 for the rest of our lives, and that every woman is beautiful — without having to paint on a face or have plastic surgery or put a bag over her head. To reveal your true self without having to prepare yourself first.
Reveal myself without preparing myself? Not something I like to do. I like the makeup, the curling iron, the Photoshop. I’m an editor. I like to edit my face.
But I thought the idea of my true self was important, so I went to take a naked-face photo of my own to share.
I couldn’t do it.
A dozen selfies later, all around the house, every different angle and lighting I could find, and I couldn’t take one that I was comfortable sharing on the Internet.
It turned into a horrible little exercise in self-hate. At nearly 33, I still struggle with acne. I have discolorations in my skin from so many years being outside in the hot California sun. My eyes are too small, my lips are chapped, my eyebrows are tweezed too thin, my hair is too not-an-actual-color. My teeth stained from braces and, what’s that? Oh hi, wrinkles around my eyes. And I’ve put on a few pounds since my surgery and it all seems be hanging out in my neck.
So I escaped to Starbucks, because there’s nothing a vat of iced coffee can’t solve. But I was confronted once again when the local high school got out and flooded the Starbucks with tight little 16-year-old bodies, each with bright eyes and gorgeous long hair for days. (What do high school girls do to get hair like that? Bathe in unicorn tears?)
So to that list above, add “red eyes and puffy face from crying in Starbucks.” (And one you can’t see in a selfie, “high-fashion surgical boot.”)
Friends, it was not a great afternoon.
I cried. I thought. I prayed. And I came to realize two things:
When it comes to how I look, I focus on the things I don’t like about myself. What I perceive to be my flaws. That entire laundry list above, plus a bunch I didn’t mention below the neck. I have a very hard time seeing the good in my outward appearance, even when I am covered in makeup and my hair has been professionally coifed and my husband tells me over and over that I’m beautiful. I’m constantly worried about how I look, comparing myself to other women, wishing I could change things about myself (“if only I had slimmer calves, my life would be perfect!”).
But when it comes to the things I am, I focus on the things I love. I love that I am creative, that I have a strong work ethic, a sharp sense of humor, that I am kind and compassionate. I love my inquisitive faith and my passion to see the world. I take pride in my blog, my projects, my home, my friendships, my marriage. When I think about the things I am, I absolutely love my life I’ve cultivated.
How in the world can I be living in such a place of disconnect?
I know I’m not the only one. Maybe you’re the same. Or maybe you live in a place where you like how you look more than the things you do. I know there are even more women out there who like neither. And the magical few who love both.
There are so many things I want to tell each one of you right now. You are so beautiful. Your wrinkles exist because you spend your life laughing. Your skin isn’t perfect because you’ve enjoyed being outside in God’s handiwork. Your body isn’t as slim and tight as you were at 16 because you’ve brought beautiful life into this world. You are worth it. No matter what you look like or what you do, you matter. You are loved by One who loves unconditionally, who calls you beautiful, who lets you rest under His wings from all this striving to be something you’re not.
You are beautiful.
So why can’t I seem to hear that for myself?
I can’t hear it, that is, until I think about my future daughters. The young impressionable daughters of my friends. The young women crowding into the Starbucks this cloudy afternoon.
Then I can hear it so loud it hurts. It’s right in front of my face, hot tears running down my cheeks.
If I ever hear my future daughters, my friends’ daughters, these Starbucks daughters talking about themselves the way I talk to myself, my heart will shatter. Knowing that my parents are reading is just as hard.
I can’t continue to look at myself in that way because those girls are looking at me. They look at me to see how I treat myself. To see what it means to look in the mirror as a woman and to love what I see, both inside and out. I can’t afford to look at myself negatively because this world needs women who love themselves, who see their own beauty. Women who love themselves focus on others. They don’t have time to focus on their flaws. Women who love themselves change the world.
My future daughters, oh, my daughters. You are beautiful. I want you to be world changers.
So today I am beautiful and here’s the proof. And maybe, for once, I mean it.
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