I’ve always prided myself on how well I can dodge the tricky questions posed by my young daughters. At 8 and 10 years old, I get all kinds. I’ve navigated questions about sex, babies, death, cancer, that weird thing they saw on the internet and why their chest hurts on just one side (“Am I only growing one boobie?”). I’m like Keanu Reeves in the Matrix when it comes to pre-adolescence questions.
Then, my daughter asked me a very simple question and it has rocked my world. It had nothing to do with babies or penises or hair down there.
She asked me, “Mom, why do you wear make-up?”.
My mind flew with answers that I could not say out loud.
“It makes me feel better.”
“I look terrible without it.”
“I need it.”
“My skin is awful.”
“It makes me look younger.”
Every single one of these answers was a truth to me. I’ve never considered myself overly insecure and I don’t feel I lack in confidence in most things, but I was taken aback by what my truthful answers were. I eventually answered with a simple, “Oh, because I think it is fun.”, but her reply was almost painful.
“I like you better without make-up. I think you look pretty! When you wear make-up you just look so… different.”
Internally, I was shouting, “No way! I look awful! Ick! Blah!”. But, if I look pretty to my 10 year old, isn’t that the greatest beauty there is?
Self Shaming in a Filtered World
Over the next couple of days, I started to think about this generation of mixed messages. We hear all the time to end the shaming, accept yourself, we are all beautiful and perfect just the way we are! But, we are also surrounded by selfies and filters and impossibly thin and beautiful models.
I am thrilled that there is a message emerging about embracing our true beauty and finding power in ourselves outside of a perfect size 4 or a flawless face. Bravo! We are moms teaching our kids that they are beautiful just by being themselves! I love this… I teach it to my girls. But, I don’t live this.
I stand in front of mirrors pinching every inch of fat, or making funny faces so I can really see those awful wrinkles in my neck and wishing I was two inches taller, because certainly that would make my thighs look thinner. These are things I would never, ever want my daughters to see. So, why then, do I do this to myself? Why do I expect perfection? My husband doesn’t expect it. My family doesn’t expect it. My friends don’t expect it. So, why do I?
Is there such a thing as self-shaming? Because, clearly I have a bad case of it.
Here’s to a new journey of self love. Shit, it is hard. But, something I have decided for myself is that I will no longer use filters for the photos posted on social media. It may not seem like such a big deal, but I can’t think of a single time in the last few years that I have not added a filter to photos of myself in order to fix some perceived flaw. I’m not much into selfies, but sometimes my girls want to take a photo with me and I won’t post it if I don’t look my best or I will add a filter so that my freckles disappear. What the HELL? What kind of freak show isn’t proud to show a picture of herself with her children? Me. Me. Me.
Will I stop wearing make-up? No, I won’t. I don’t think there is anything wrong with wearing make-up, wearing your favorite style or spending a small fortune on your hair. Whatever beauty regimen makes you feel better, do it. I absolutely believe if something makes you feel better about yourself, just do it, assuming it is ethical…and legal. If it is a red lipstick kind of day… own it! But, at 43, I’ve got to re-train the way I speak to myself. The inner dialogue that reminds me I am no longer 27 has got to shut the hell up. I have to tell myself that if I wouldn’t say it to my children, I shouldn’t say it to myself.
The people in this world that I love the most are those that are authentic and flawed and outspoken and brave and funny… all the things that make them beautiful to me. And, not one of them cares about my complexion.
Going forward, I will not edit these photos. I will post them with pride. I may be having a bad hair day, wearing yesterday’s make-up or in need of a week’s worth of sleep, but I cannot send the message to my daughters that if it is not perfect, it is not worthy. I will not focus on the wrinkles, I will focus on the smiles.
My oldest daughter, who is 10, is now on Instagram and I don’t want her to see her mother trying to force this image of herself that just isn’t accurate. She accepts me just the way I am, even without the make-up, so who am I not to do the same?
I will have my flawless make-up days and some days my hair will do exactly what I want it to do. But, all those other days are just as important. I am no less a woman. No less a mother.
My girls are beautiful, not because of their faces, but because of their spirit. Mommy needs to accept this about herself as well. Thank you, babies, for teaching me this and for forcing me to grow. There is nothing more beautiful than that.
All of these images I found on my phone were either not posted or were posted with a filter.
My new filter is editing out thoughts like: shiny forehead, blotchy skin, freckles, neck wrinkles, belly bulge and many other things that creep into my head. They will be replaced with a single thought – we sure were having fun!