Friday, August 23, 2013

"Feeling Beautiful" revisited for my daughters

Me, age 11
When I was five years old, the left side of my face was bitten by a dog. All that's left of the scar today is a little dent beside my eye and a tiny dot on my cheek, but it was a very defining thing for me when I was younger. My brother would tell people I'd been bitten by a crocodile. I remember being stopped in the store one day by a mom and her teenage daughter, and them exclaiming that the daughter had a scar just like mine, but that it was almost gone now, and so I didn't have to worry, because someday I wouldn't even notice it. It gave me a little hope, but it also made me realize just how noticeable it really was.

At age nine, I carried a 4H Fair brochure to my mom, in which I had circled all the categories I thought it would be fun to enter.

"And the baking, and the crocheting . . . and the beauty pageant. I think I'd like to do that one, even though I know I'd never win because of this scar."

I was totally matter-of-fact. I knew that I'd never be beautiful, and I was okay with that--this was still at the age when I thought I should be a boy, anyway, and scars were worth more than beauty; scars earned you respect, and showed you were tough.

I've never forgotten the look of helplessness on my mom's face, and the way she tried to tell me no one would care about the scar. I shook my head, pitying her for being so delusional as to think someone disfigured could win a beauty pageant. I thought she was just trying to make me feel better, and I walked away.

As a mom now, I understand. I understand how she must have felt, wanting to take my scar away for me, while also wanting to teach me to love myself with it. Wanting to scream at a world that had already taught a home-schooled nine year old that she couldn't be beautiful unless she was flawless. Wanting to take her little tough girl into her arms and hold her and tell her she could win anything she wanted, whether it was a beauty pageant or a spitting contest.

These bodies we have are so wonderful. And yet we all, at some point, don't like what we see in the mirror. I've read a lot of posts about bodies and body image lately. Posts about things to say to your daughters, things not to say to your daughters, and things you should never let them hear you say about your own body--especially your crazy post-pregnant body, with its droopy extra skin, stretch marks, and extra pounds.

Frankly, as a mother of two little girls, reading all these things is terrifying.

I know, at some point, I will feel what my mother felt. I will look at my beautiful girls, and I will see them in all their radiance, full of life and potential and pure beauty--and they will be frowning over the curl of their hair, or the crookedness of their noses, or the squishiness of their stomachs. Or feeling self-conscious about a scar.

I don't know what I'll say. I don't know if they'll listen. But maybe I'll have them read this post. And then I'll have them read this one. I'll give them a big hug and tell them they can do it; that I know they're beautiful, and that someday they'll know that too.

And I'll pray that's enough.


  1. I keep meaning to comment on this but every time I've thought about it, I've had my hands literally full. ;)

    I love this post! (And I laughed out loud about the "bitten by a crocodile" thing.) This is something I've spent a lot of time thinking about, as well. It broke my heart the first time I heard one of my little sisters (who are sort of like my surrogate daughters!) say something disparaging about her own body. I actually wrote a whole blog post on it but can't find it right now. They were so young - younger than 10 - and I just wanted to hug them both and convince them, somehow, that they were SO beautiful and that they should love every little thing about those precious lovely bodies. Ever since that experience, I've been thinking about how my own attitudes and opinions would influence my future daughter(s).

    I've actually had a post on a similar topic bopping around in my head lately, too. One of these days I'll actually sit down and write it. ;) But the gist of it is that I have found myself really LOVING my body lately, despite the fact that it now has a baby belly and stretch marks beyond all reason. ;) I also find, incidentally, that the less I pay attention to media, the more I feel comfortable with my own body.

    Oh! I just found the blog post about my sisters -

    1. I love that post about your sisters, and I look forward to reading that new post once it coalesces, too. :-) You're such an inspiration to me about loving your body even when it has struggles. I have a hard time with that one.


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