Finding Beautiful: Why Radical Self-Love Starts Within

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by Rose Tattoo of The Free Woman Chronicles

My father never told me I was beautiful. He may have said I looked nice or given his approval on how I looked. But to my recollection I never heard that I looked pretty or beautiful. This isn’t one of those “woe is me, my Daddy didn’t love me” essays though.

In the past year I have done a lot of thinking about the power of words and affirmations. Just as children can grow up believing certain things about themselves from the labels and descriptions others put upon them, they can also grow up making associations with other words and descriptions. For example the word “beautiful” became a description that was defined by what the boys and men, including my father and brother, applied to everyone outside of me. That word was reserved for women on television, usually white or fair-skinned, always with long hair, and always skinny. It was sometimes used to describe girls at school. But even as I got older and I was “cute,” I was never “beautiful.”

I think about that idea now as an adult in her 30’s, and marvel at how small things such as this grow to become big ideas that leave impressions upon your self esteem and how you relate with others. I’ve willingly played the side-kick friend of the cute girls, because I figured that the guys we were both looking at would never be interested in me. I’ve second-guessed myself around guys that did show interest because, again, I assumed I wasn’t pretty enough. I basically under-estimated myself for a long time to the extent that my dating life really did not start until the end of my college years. All of this because of this idea I had about beauty and where I fit within the spectrum.

As I got older and met and dated men that repeatedly used that term “beautiful” to describe in their quest to meet and get to know me, I always laughed it off as them spitting game and trying to get on my good side. Even as my awareness about the skewed Eurocentric standards of beauty that I grew up with has grown, I still managed to see myself on the outside of beautiful. They would say beautiful, and I’d say thank you, not wanting to come across as someone that was fishing for compliments or looking insecure. But I never really believed in it. Cute, yes. Attractive, sure. Pretty, ok. But beautiful…eh.

And then, over time, something strange happened. It wasn’t an overnight thing. It wasn’t an “aha” moment that came after a sermon or talk that I heard. It wasn’t an immediate, singular thing that I can point to. But one day, not too long ago actually, I looked in the mirror and I smiled because flaws and all, I looked and felt good – to me. Even more...I was beautiful.

To be clear, nothing major happened with my appearance. I haven’t lost a great amount of weight (yet). I haven’t gotten a drastic new hair style. I didn’t change anything cosmetically or anything like that. I’m just me. But it’s like I woke up one day and saw myself with new eyes. I saw beautiful.

I’ve read from a number of different writers that as you get older, you hit a point in your life where you feel more at home and secure in your body than you ever have before. The inherent sexiness and beauty that you always felt you had to try and put on for occasions, is just there without the primping or prodding. Usually, I’ve heard this happens around 40. Well I’m not at that age, but I can only imagine how great that must feel if this is how I feel now. There’s a certain freedom about feeling comfortable in your own skin and owning that feeling. In the past it would feel good to hear men describe me as such. But somewhere along the way without any voices in my ear to distract me or cloud my judgment or sight, I began to see myself clearly. And the beauty in that is that in seeing and appreciating myself, flaws and all, I also became able to see the beauty in other women. I firmly believe that a lot of the cattiness and nitpicking some women do with other women comes from an insecure place where they feel that they have to be in constant competition with other women. But when you feel good about yourself, it’s nothing to compliment another woman on her beauty or accomplishments. When you’re secure in yourself, you can see other people without the veil of insecurity or envy in your way.

What I’ve learned is that there is no such thing as perfection. Even the most glamorous and gorgeous person that we can imagine has flaws and imperfections. But the beauty is in those imperfections. Those are what make us different and unique. Those are what make us beautiful. The sooner we all realize that, the better we’ll all be for it.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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