This is my oldest daughter. I have two. I’ll look at them and I catch their innocent, unaware beauty. The silver flickers in their ocean-blue eyes. The way the sun reflects off their hair’s natural highlights. The dimples flashing on their chubby cheeks. They have intense beauty to me and hopefully to themselves.
This is an issue when awareness of one’s worth and beauty are not present. By ‘beauty’, I mean that deep, ‘I don’t give a shit’, ‘I am lovely & amazing’, ‘I am lovable’, ‘I am enough’ – kind of awareness.
Women don’t seem to know how beautiful they are. So many of us see ourselves in these manufactured fragments. The scale’s numbers. The mirror’s reflections. The cruel jokes photographs can play on us. The food we consume, the food we deny. The size of our jeans. It seems our natural happiness, joy, awareness – of our beauty – have been hungrily devoured by the world’s and media’s message, that we are not and never will be enough – just as we are.
I must object with my favorite line of ‘The Diary of Bridget Jones’, when Mark Darcy tells Bridget, ‘I like you, very much. Just as you are’. I keep this quote in my heart on rainy days, to remind myself that I indeed, am likable, lovable even, just as I am.
This has been a struggle of mine since I was a child. I was never good enough for my dad, no matter how hard I tried. Decades later, I realised that it wasn’t me, this innocent child – it was him and his terrible inability to love himself, therefore everyone else. Add to this hurtful dysfunction, a devastating accident with my Mother had just about shattered my sense of stability, my world, my self.
I look back on my childhood and can firmly accept two things: #1 To reach back and love my parents for their inabilities, insecurities and own damages that left them broken and incapable of giving us the love, reassurance and acceptance we deserved. #2 Awareness to not repeat the damaging patterns with my own children. I’ll admit #2 is a constant battle, but for every mistake I make, I give double the amount of hugs with a resolve to try harder every day.
This brings me back to what I see with women especially, everywhere. I’ll be at the grocery and see a frazzled Mom with anger all over her face, her kid screaming in the cart and it saddens me. When’s the last time someone told her she’s doing a great job as a Mom, that she looks stunning when the sun shines on her face, how amazing her dinner was, how she is the glue that keeps her family together?
Or the young girl who’s awkwardly wearing a minuscule amount of clothing to feel attractive; does she get a hug from her Dad, telling her a beautiful ‘just as she is’? That her beauty is defined by her smile, her laughter, her humor, her kindness. That she is enough.
And the saddest of all, the older women I see who’s face and lines are so hardened by the years of caring for others, perhaps by men who weren’t always kind. Now only to be bitter and old and ignored by her children she once gave her life for. Does she get a phone call telling her how much her mothering is appreciated. Or is she sent flowers for no reason at all, other than to say ‘I’m thinking of you’. Or to be randomly swept into a dance in the kitchen, by the man who promised forever and always to cherish her.
I feel as if I can’t do much to impact the sadnesses around me. I take care of myself and my own. My husband often reminds me the world’s problems are not mine. But if they hit my heart, reminding me of my own internal struggles, my own Mother’s pains, my daughter’s potential self-acceptance issues – then it does become my responsibility to help.
A smile. A kind word. A compliment. A touch. A gift of any kind. I found that by reaching out, getting out of my own pain – has an enormous impact. That mother’s angry face softens when I identify with trying to shop with a toddler’s temper tantrums but how sweet her son’s curls are. The older woman’s sad eyes who twinkle up when I offer to help her with her groceries and to enjoy the beautiful day. The insecure girl’s awkward blank stare, turning into light when I smile and make a silly and very un-cool joke.
We tend to forget that we’re all on the same team. That we all need each other. It IS our problem when we see someone is in distress or pain. Helping others helps ourselves. Validating another’s worth and beauty, validates our own worth and beauty.
The next time you see someone with their head down, or tears being held back in their eyes or stress frowning their smile – say something kind. Anything. Even if it’s silly.
When I’m down, I say, ‘I need a phone call’, I need to connect with someone. Sure enough, as if by radar, I get a kind text, or a lovely quote on my Facebook page.
When Bridget Jones tells her beloved friends what Mark Darcy confessed, they replied: ‘Just as you are? Not thinner? Not cleverer? Not with slightly bigger breasts or slightly smaller nose?’ To which she replies, ‘No’. Her friend Shazzer remarks in a disbelieving sort of happiness for Bridget, ‘Well…fuck me’.
Loving and accepting ourselves is a necessary and on-going project. Loving others, strangers even, is a responsibility as a woman, as a fellow human being.