How many of us women believe, really believe, that we’re beautiful?
I’m not talking about inner beauty. I’m talking about the other type. The skin, the body, the hair. The external, I-feel-sexy-and-confident type of beauty.
Apparently, only about 2%.
I know that this is, in many ways, old news. But it’s something that I am slowly learning in a very real, very personal way… something that leaves me feeling astounded and heart-broken and with a newfound, humble sense of solidarity with the women of this world. I’ve always thought of myself as less than beautiful. I grew up ashamed of my weight, my chin, my legs. If I could just be pretty, I would think, everything would be okay. And then I’d look at those girls around me and think that they, obviously, were charmed and gorgeous and worry-free. Without a doubt, they were beautiful. Really. And then, through a series of new friendships and subsequent confessions over the last couple of years, I realized that they didn’t like their bodies either. I was stunned. It never occurred to me that while I was thinking that so-in-so in my economics class was gorgeous because she was thin, she was jealous of me because of my curves. Or that having freckles could be such a shameful thing for somebody, or having small breasts, or curly hair, or thick knuckles. I thought that every one of those women were gorgeous, no questions asked. I was so engrossed with “thin” being the ideal for beauty (and my lack thereof) that I never realized that others are painfully aware of other pieces of the American standard of perfection. Maybe you would say that same thing about being acne-free, or being tall, or having a “good” butt.
As I become more aware of this truth, I watch the women around me living in shame and my heart breaks for them. You are stunning! I want to tell them, and I believe it. Those of you out there with thin hair, broad shoulders, or big feet… I have never even noticed. And honestly, I don’t even pay attention to others’ weight, even though it is the thing that I am most aware of in my own body. I want women to feel their beauty in their hearts and in their very bones, and to let it lift them up into a confident life. I pray that they will never again look in a mirror and feel disappointment. That they will never choose to sit in the back, or feel anxious about going to the doctor, or say “no” to a date because of the way they look.
And then, I realize, maybe they’re thinking the same thing about me. Maybe, just maybe, I’m not quite as flawed as I think I am. Maybe they would be astounded by how many tears have been shed over my body, just as I would be amazed by how deeply their wounds cut. Maybe we really are our harshest critics, in the deepest sense of the word. Maybe.
Here’s to celebrating beauty. Here’s to being beautiful.
p.s. the stunning photos belong to Danny St Photography.