There is a great campaign by Dove circulating on Facebook, with the tagline One Beautiful Thought. Without spoiling the video (which is in French, BTW) it highlights the often destructive voices women have in their heads about themselves, asking the essential question: do we treat ourselves the way we would treat others? If your best girlfriend were standing in front of you in a bikini, would you eye her critically and say, “You really need to lay off the potato chips and start running.” Of course not, right? Right?
“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Dove campaign got me to thinking of how the voice in my head has changed over the years. In my twenties I was not be able to pass a mirror without pausing to take in my reflection – never happy with what I saw. I would stand sideways and stare daggers at my midsection – as if that alone would shrink it back to my high school figure. I hated my hair, my nose, my thighs, my arms, my earlobes….earlobes! How is that even possible? I couldn’t look at myself without criticizing something.
I couldn’t blame my family for my perceived shortcomings– they lavished praise on me from the time I could remember. But they were never quite as loud as the voice in my head, which was constantly comparing me to the girls on the cover of Seventeen or the lithe models in Cosmopolitan. I suspect most American women have some version of this same story filed away in their memory. I think some of it is just part of growing up and getting comfortable with yourself, but part of it definitely comes from media and our culture – tall, blonde, and thin still wins in life. Thanks Society.
“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” – Lucille Ball
Over time though, the voice has become decidedly less judgy. I still study my reflection, but now I’m like “Damn, I look good for almost forty and four kids.” [Actually, I recently decided I just look good. Period.] The truth is I weigh the same, my hair is more or less the same, my earlobes are definitely the same. I’ve done nothing radical in the past 10 -15 years but age. It would stand to reason that I am now even less attractive than I was at 22. T-Swift may have loved 22, but I for one, am glad it is long behind me. And I’m glad that there is an ongoing shift in society and media – which is finally embracing that beauty comes in many shapes, sizes, and color.
“You’re always with yourself, so you might as well enjoy the company.” – Diane Von Furstenberg
I think the shift in the way I thought about myself happened with the arrival of my daughter- a perfect little dark haired girl with big blue eyes and a rosebud mouth. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, parents see kids as an extension of themselves. Their successes become our successes, their failures, our failures. How could I think so badly of myself when this obviously perfect child was carrying around half my DNA? She was the wake-up call that maybe I wasn’t so bad after all. In watching her grow up into an amazing young woman, I did a lot of growing up too. I learned that lavish praise shouldn’t be reserved just for children. Imagine if we were all a little nicer to ourselves?