You know the feeling. You feel like a million bucks. Everything worked out this time. Your dress, your hair, your makeup. Even your purse planet aligned with the shoe planet. You walk along to your own personal soundtrack in your head…. and then… someone says “I LOVE your dress!”
Suddenly, this panic takes you. Wait. Did she mean she loves the dress itself? Is she complimenting my taste in clothing? Is something about the way I look resonating with her inner fashion critic? or is she just being nice because what she meant really was “I love your dress but I think your hair is a disaster?” Or “That would so look better on me.” Or if it’s someone you know and see alot, and she says “you look great today” you automatically think, “Do I look that bad every other day?” Or maybe she’s just trying to get me to sign up for something.
Maybe you can’t relate to anything I’ve written so far. Well, maybe you should move on then. No, actually, you should probably keep reading so that you can better understand when your wife freaks out. Haha.
I take some solace in the fact that Uma Thurman has admitted to suffering from extreme bouts of body dysmorphic disorder where she cannot even leave her house because she feels so awkward and deformed looking. I thought about what that was even like and how she could possibly feel that way. She is beautiful and tall (a personal wish of mine) and then that leads to, oh, well, she is kinda lanky. And she sometimes, every now and then, has beady eyes and kinda looks, well, unique. But then I realize what a jerk I am and beat myself up in that moment because I realize that this is exactly our problem. We start picking each other apart as if there is something wrong with specific parts of your anatomy and we focus on those things you wish you could change just ever so slightly about yourself. And then you give in to the lie that there is some kind of measurement of these things. Like who said that she is “different” looking? Different from what?
I’ve written before about beauty. Having a daughter now makes me even more hyper-aware of our obsession with looks. You can’t blame our particular society, because it’s every society and every culture that has some form of a beauty pageant, whether an actual contest or not. For as long as humans have been looking around at each other, we have created a hierarchy of visual pleasantness, that may shift and morph with time, but never goes away. Yesterday’s fashion becomes today’s joke and today’s ideal becomes tomorrow’s regret.
So where does a girl go? Where do we find some peace about what we look like?
I think we start where we are all alike. I think we recognize that even the arguably best looking person in the room feels awkward and deeply believes that everyone is looking at the zit on her cheek, which is noticeable from two inches away. But no one gets that close to her because she is so pretty. And being pretty acts like a force field of insecurity working outwardly and inwardly.
I think we remember that we will never be 100% happy with our physical appearance. I think we stop striving to be. I think we stop obsessing and giving in to the energy of looking better, over feeling better and being better. I think we stop looking in the mirror for so long. Maybe remove the mirror right next to the door.
I think we learn to love ourselves not in some wishy washy, I’m ok, You’re ok way, but the real way, the way that says I’m not going to be dominated by the visual me. The way that focuses on the substance and not the container holding it. The way that sees the true beauty even on the most chaotic of days.
I think it means we stop being critics of others. We stop seeing someone for the first time in awhile and think how much weight she put on or lost. We fail to notice every little thing that was awry on her outfit or hair or whatever she was carrying. We never ever talk about a person’s looks to anyone. Bad AND good comments perpetuate the problem. Focusing on outward appearances makes us all more aware of it at all times.
I think it means we stop being our own worst critics and accept compliments like flowers. They are pretty. They are sweet. They will last a little while, but we won’t cry when they’re gone.
I think it means we listen to the people we trust and who love us most, especially when they say “you are beautiful.”