Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Mother's Advice on Finding Your Own Beauty

It's an epidemic, of astronomical proportions. We women are constantly feeling down on ourselves. So much of it comes off of our feelings of beauty or worthiness because we are seen as pretty to other people. It's frustrating, and heartbreaking to see wonderful women feeling less than worthy humans because their butt is bigger than they want it to be, or they have too many freckles, or whatever it is that you are thinking you hate about yourself as you read this.

When I was a teenager, I was 5 feet 7 inches tall, and about 103 pounds. I grew fast, but didn't fill out. I wouldn't fill out to a "healthy BMI" until my late 20s. My mother was the same way. Most of my siblings were or are, too. Thin and tall is in our genes. Despite the fact that it was in my genes, I couldn't feel more awkward about it. I hated the way I looked. My hip bones poked out, my rib cage poked out, my elbows and knees were knobby, my thighs had a huge gap between them, and my cheek and collar bones were very visible. I had horrible self-esteem because I felt like an alien or like I looked severely malnourished.

I wasn't the only one that noticed, either. Regularly, as I was leaving the restroom at high school, I was asked by a pair of girls if I had brushed my teeth after vomiting my lunch. I just ignored them. I never did that. Not once. Boys thought I was scary looking, I'd overheard people talking about how skinny I was as I walked down the hall. People regularly commented on my weight. As if I was always comfortable talking about my body whenever I was around people. Sometimes it would be something as simple as, "Hi, I'm Lana", and they'd respond with, "Whoa, do you eat?" It was always so irritating, and hurtful.

I remember regularly having moments where I felt worthless because I wasn't popular, or because I didn't have a boyfriend. I gave up parts of myself, parts that I loved, to pretend I was someone else. It seemed to me that as long as I was alone, or without constant approval, it would confirm all of my fears. The fear that I wasn't worth loving. I tried to love myself, I wanted to feel happy in my skin. I would pretend I thought I was pretty, because I thought that's what would make people approve of me. If I was pretty, and people thought so, then I would be valuable to them. I would be worth loving. But I was too weird and ugly to be loved, at least from my perspective. 

Twisted right?

When I would be having a terrible moment of feeling worthless, I would talk to my mom. Sometimes she would just let me cry, but other times she would tell me something like this: (I'm paraphrasing the numerous conversations into one.)

"Even though reality right now seems to tell you that you're not who you wish you were, it's not the truth. You're a capable, smart, creative girl, and I've always been proud of you. I know that whatever you set your mind to, you seem to make happen, and someday, other people will see you just like I do, if they don't already."

It was her way of conveying the all-important message to me that beauty isn't about whether or not people tell you you're beautiful, or whether you have a million friends or dates. It's not about whether you follow the latest trends or have a million Instagram followers. It's about loving who you are. It's about the things that stay with you, your charity, your creativity, your ability to love other people, your ability to help others feel their worth. Those are the most important parts of beauty. Looks will fade, but who you are will always shine through. 

This song by Sara Bareilles has spoken to the teenage version of me since the day I first heard it back in 2012. It was a crappy live recording from a concert-goer that had been posted on Youtube. Despite the poor sound quality of the video I watched, the message was there, and it was strong. It was Sara Bareilles's message to the younger version of herself that had terrible self-esteem, and felt lost behind all the so-called beautiful girls. Give it a little listen. This version was much better than the one I first watched. 

So, when you're feeling less-than, just remember what my mother said. (And what Sara Bareilles says in her song.) It's who you are that matters. It's the great parts of you. You are beautiful, and you are worth everything.

++ What lessons have you learned about finding your own self-worth and beauty? 

Join the conversation!

  1. This is beautiful! Such an important message that I think all young girls and women alike should hear and know. Awesome post! :)

    1. Thank you Cara! I do feel like all girls and women need to know that the media lies. Beauty isn't reliant on the messages they send us at all.

  2. Love that song and what a lovely reminder! x


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