It feels like I am constantly breaking up and getting back together with my body. It's a complicated relationship, trying to saddle up to the good while simultaneously minimizing the bad. I won't wax poetic about the tragedy of being a woman in today's culture for too long, but I will say that there are days when I feel as though every cell in my body is working to form a union in which the motto is MAKE CELLULITE OR DIE. It's a constant choice to get up every morning and say thank you for my body- a fully functioning, seemingly healthy form- and to mean it deep down to the depths of myself. As a grown woman hoping to hold on tight to more than what is deemed beautiful on a random Tuesday afternoon, I know that I must do the work and define beauty for myself. I fail, almost all of the time, but I'm committed to trying again the next day and the next day and the day after that.
I recently was talking with one of my dearest friends, a woman whom I respect and love immensely. She has three lovely human beings that she and her husband call their own, two of which are delicious-to-the-core little girls. As we sat admiring her little ladies, I asked her how they planned to raise their daughters to do the hard work and define their own beauty. I asked her how they planned to point them to bigger and better sources of affirmation, beyond the boys and the social media hype and the totally plausible attention that comes with being an attractive female in today's society. Together we discussed the challenge of this idea- of wanting to instill confidence in these impressionable little people without attaching too much value to outward appearances. "I want them to know that I see their physical beauty, in both the big and small ways," she said. "But I also want them to know that I see their character, their kindness, their integrity, their faith. That's the stuff that I want to compliment. Because if I don't point it out every day, who will?"
I've thought about this conversation many times over the past few weeks, usually right about the time I am tempted to break-up with myself AGAIN due to newly discovered hair/dimples/pimples/wrinkles/general displeasure. In these moments, I know it's utterly ridiculous to possess such self-loathing. I am a fully-blessed, intelligent, loving woman who knows with absolute certainty that I am more than the sum of my imperfections. And, yet, there I am, on the brink of throwing in the towel. I know I am not alone in this. And I also know that so many of us struggle daily, hourly, even moment-to-moment, to remember how true beauty is defined.
So, in the spirit of my wise friend and her ever-growing daughters, I'd like to make a proposition. I'd like to be a person who compliments character as often as I compliment new haircuts and cute shoes. I'd like to point out kindness with the same ease in which I tell a female co-worker that I like her skirt. I want to acknowledge stunning integrity as readily as I point out beautiful eyes. I'd like to be the kind of someone who bares witness to all kinds of beauty, small and big, inside and out. I'd love for you to consider doing the same. And I wonder if these kinds of words, shared with women and men and young and old, well, I wonder if they might help make the hard work of loving ourselves, wholly and authentically, a little less complicated.