1.11.2012

I believe I'm Beautiful


A dear friend of mine works at a center where women are in the process of recovery from different eating disorders.  This friend told me that one afternoon she was talking with a patient and my friend told the patient she was beautiful.  The patient in return asked my friend if she (my friend) thought that she (my friend) was beautiful.  My friend said she was a little taken back by the question, as we are not asked that in such a direct way very often, or even ever.  She paused, then answered in the affirmative.  Correct answer.  Later that week as we were out at dinner, my friend passed the same question on to me.  I squirmed in my chair, swished a few half-answers around in my mouth and finally sputtered a yes.  I've thought about that question over and over in the months since, and I wish I would have, or even could have answered the inquiry with more confidence and enthusiasm.  At the time though, I wasn't prepared to respond that way because I'd never been asked if I thought I was beautiful. It seems vain to say yes, we assume we should be 'modest' (insert self-depricating), but is it really vain to say yes?  I don't think so, or at least after a lot of  thinking about it.  I think it is actually incredibly refreshing to find someone who stands on their own two feet instead of leaning about waiting for someone to tell them what they are.  It's a hard thing to do though, to say, 'yeah, I'm pretty imperfect, but also pretty awesome.'  Brave?  Maybe.  Practical?  I think so. Joyful? Definitely. Liberating? a hell's yes.  I have to say though, even having said all that, I find myself reticent to post this post.  I'm taking that as a sign that it is important for me to write then.  It's funny that in a world that is fairly obsessed with looks, body type, hair, fashion, etc... we rarely, if ever, actually have to answer to the questions that are perhaps the most vital for our well-being and happiness.

I feel like I am asked if I think I am beautiful indirectly everyday.  Like when I went shopping for a pair of pants yesterday, and again, nearly left in tears because although I don't feel like a giant, according to j. crew and the Gap, I am.  I look at blogs and the tape recorder in my heads starts the reel: 'I wish I could dress like that, have hair like that, be skinny like that, have that room, that wall, that skill...etc...'.  It seems faux paux to actually say that you think you are pretty alright.

I love to look at old pictures.  It is a favorite Sunday activity to pull out of box of photos or look through an album on the computer.  A couple of months ago I was going through pictures of myself from past years and I started to think, 'hey, that girl looks beautiful.'  I realize that I am no hot babe, and that no one is envying my sweet styles. I know that I am not the perfect weight.  If I had a fashion blog it would be titled, 'how to wear black leggings everyday'  Trust me, I know my insecurities and flaws like obnoxious roommates, but... as I looked at those pictures, I suddenly felt very sad to think that the girl in those photos had spent time and energy (and by spent, I mean wasted) feeling un-beautiful or un-pretty.  This may make it sound like I myself had an eating disorder, or extremely low self-esteem, but in actuality, I didn't, nor have I ever.  I am just as average as can be.  But that is the problem, I think we are all investing time and energy into feeling less than we really are, no matter who we are.

 Birthday crayon self-portrait.




I've been letting myself feel beautiful these last months and I feel like a weight has been lifted. Actually, even literally, the less I stress about extra baby weight, the more it slinks away.   I think we should all try letting ourself feel beautiful.  It's actually pretty fun.   I realized that I don't want to look back on my photos with me and Remy and Carl and know that inside I was feeling overwhelmed with trying to be perfect.  I want to look back on our photos and know that I am totally present.   I have a lot more to say about all of this, so I will probably come back to the topic several times.

If you read and want to make a comment, please do this:  Ask yourself, 'Do I believe I am beautiful?'  Then in your comment, write why you are, or at least one reason.  Maybe your answer is no, and that's pretty tough.  I think we've all been there too.  Maybe it's time then to ask yourself why you feel that way, and what can be done to change it.  I imagine the answer is not simply to go to the gym more, or to get a new haircut, but probably requires a little more searching around on the inside and coming up your own reasons that are not beholden to anyone or anything.

Gee whiz, don't think that I am trying to become a motivation speaker or something.  I realize I can wax a little corny, even melodramatic?  But seriously, I feel like these topics are so important and we rarely have to stare them in the face.

20 comments:

Deja said...

I don't know what to say except amen to all of this and thank you for saying it. And I guess in some deep part of me, the answer to whether I'm beautiful is yes, I think I'm beautiful. But on a daily basis, when I'm walking around or sitting in my spinny chair at work, I fret and think I'm not and obsess over what to do about it next. And I know you're absolutely right that going to the gym and getting a haircut don't help--not even a little bit. That it's something deeper and more complicated than that. I've lately started to treat those feelings (the I'm-so-ugly feelings) as metaphors, and asking myself what's actually wrong, what I'm actually feeling sad or less-than about. So, here is my question: how do you get that fretting to lift? How are you doing it? Because that I'd like to know. Prayer comes closer to helping than anything else I've tried ...

C-|-W said...

(Warning: Shameless plug for my wife's company.)

My wife works for a company that helps women realize they're beautiful. Though they focus on women, the principle applies to men as well.

I've always felt fat and dingy. Especially in photos. Like a cross between Newt Gingrich's bloated face and a home-schooled refugee.

I think we all need therapy. We all need zen meditation. We all need to come to that point where we realize we are beautiful.

I agree with you. I think the stress and anxiety that we carry around with us about our body image (and other issues, like mommy-issues), actually translates to weight we literally carry around in our bodies. Once we no longer worry about it, we stop holding on to that weight with emotional tendrils, and it fades away.

This is going to sound so hokey, that I hesitate posting it. But I feel great about myself. I now look in the mirror, and like what I see, even though I haven't lost a pound of weight.

As far as exercise goes, I think it's more tedious if you do it in order to feel beautiful. If you know you're beautiful, exercise can be enjoyable because you're doing it because you love yourself. If you think you're ugly, you subconsciously believe that no amount of exercise will make you lose enough weight to be beautiful. And it becomes tedious. Like a race that will never end.

Thanks for sharing your struggle. You are beautiful. If we were both single, I would totally hit on you. It would be incredibly awkward.

For those of you who are interested, the company is Dressing Your Truth (dot) com.

Cait said...

A lot of days I look in the mirror and feel pretty crappy, usually because I haven't showered in a week and don't have makeup on and my hair is just bleh. But then there are days I do shower and shave and put on makeup and take the effort and I feel totally hip and hot. I hate that I have to put in the time and can't feel pretty without a little mascara, but such is life. It is easy for me to feel pretty, just takes an extra half hour a day which I sometimes don't have.

Kristen Miner said...

Yes, I feel beautiful every day. Maybe not every moment of every day, but surely every day. And it is all due to those reflecting in the mirror with me (my husband in the morning as we wake up or my boys as they ALWAYS accompany to every bathroom break). I feel beautiful because I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father and I know He loves me. I feel beautiful because I am a red-head whose is left-handed who has the second rarest blood type. There is no one like me and that makes me beautifully special. But mainly and simply, I feel beautiful because I am loved.

Krysta said...

I have been thinking a lot about this lately. With the whole new year and new beginnings I really wanted to feel better about myself, to really love myself. I have been very overweight since I had my daughter 4 years ago and ever since then it has been nothing but trying to loose weight and then being depressed and then gaining it all back and more. Basically I lost the feeling I had of being beautiful. Just the other night I was thinking about when I was happy and when I felt beautiful, when I really only cared about how Heavenly Father viewed me and how my earthly Father viewed me. We have 5 girls in my family and no boys and my dad always used to tease us, "why do you where mascara, or so much makeup, stop worrying about plucking your eyebrows and shaving your legs. Boys don't care about that. You are beautiful." On and on he would go making sure we knew that our outer appearance had nothing to do with real beauty. I truly believed him. I was never super skinny and I always wore silly old man clothes from DI. Mostly I was excentric and comfortable in my own skin. I knew that there were many who would be classified as more physically beautiful then me, but I just figured that was there kind of beauty and I had my own.

I wonder often what happened to that girl. The one who loved herself and was happy all the time. I am hoping to find her this year. I am hoping to be more honest with myself. To really appreciate the beauty that I have.

As I watch my daughter grow up I worry a lot about her. I hope that she will know that real beauty comes from within. That she will grow to be a beautiful person full of kindness and happiness. I know I have a large roll to play in it and I want to truly believe it of myself so that she may know also, without a doubt that her mother thinks herself beautiful and that she can do the same.

Thanks so much for this post. I can't wait to her more of what you have on this subject. You are truly beautiful Ashley. I do feel very privelged to be your friend.

Aaron + Kayti said...

you have spoken the words of my heart. i get so caught up in comparison most days that i forget how beautiful i really am. i forget that being a mother is the best & most important job that a woman can have. i forget that celestial principles do not care how much i weigh or what brand of clothing that i wear.

thank you for bringing me back down to reality - you ashley, are the absolute epitome of beautiful.

Megan said...

Thank you so much for posting about this! I, too, have thought about this a lot {probably too much} in the last years trying to decide if I think I'm beautiful or not. I think like you said when I really sit down and think about it, I feel more inclined to say I do think I'm beautiful. But there are many {too many} times where I feel anything but that. And it is so tiring and exhausting having those thoughts. One of my goals for this year is to learn to be more kind and accepting of myself. And this beautiful post was the exact reminder I needed to go forward with that goal and have the motivation I need to try harder to truly believe I'm beautiful no matter how much I think I'm less than I am because of the unhealthy comparisons I make to others. Thank you so much for following your own promptings to speak out about this! You are helping so many others in ways you may not even realize!

P.S. my sister-in-law gave me one of your paintings of the Mesa Temple for Christmas and I literally started crying when I opened it. We have video proof if you don't believe me. I love it so so so so much!!! Thank you SO much for such a beautiful picture!

qadesign.jenna said...

so touched by this sweet ashley.

and to answer your question: yes-i am beautiful.
not maybe to the world. i'm not a size 2, with long blonde hair, blue eyes and a perma tan.

but to my heavenly father, family and myself yes. i'm a woman trying each day to raise her family in righteousness-and so are you. i really don't think there is anything more beautiful than that.

lindsay ross said...

I think you are beautiful inside and out, honest! You are one of the greatest people I know, and it's not just because you named a balloon baby babalouie. Babalouie? Also, it must feel really great to know you have the most beautiful boy and that he looks exactly like you :)
As for me, I think I'm beautiful, but it's really awkward to say it... Luckily I have a wonderful husband who tells me daily.

Ps I got some black leggings for Christmas and I refuse to take them off.

Heather said...

Once again, you blow my mind! Your paragraph about looking back at old pictures...totally me! All I can see looking back at old pictures is a pretty, skinny girl who's thoughts were consumed by how fat and ugly she was. What a waste. Recently my thoughts have been consumed by how little I can eat each day to melt away my "baby weight", but in actuality I do know I'm beautiful considering how many times I let myself "cheat" and eat just 4 cookies durring Coles nap. Not because I'm binging, but because I know deep down I like myself a lot more than starving myself. I can't say WHY I know I'm beautiful, but rest assured that I do know I am. And especially after reading your beautiful thoughts and words. Thanks Cuz! Xxoo

Bridget said...

Thank you for your beautiful words that perfectly seem to again and again express feelings with in me, that I never seem to be able to get out.

As I read this, I thought, YES! I am beautiful. But the question of do I feel beautiful is a different matter. So much of what consumes me when I think of that question is my physical body, but I know that is just a part of who I am. I too would love to not feel like a giant when I shop for clothes, and just feel normal, but I am pretty sure no matter how long we live in this media crazy world, that is going to be a struggle for me. I just remember all of the other things that go into who i am, including the love that others in my life have for me. I am beautiful, and I need to remind myself of that more often. Especially when stupid things like baby weight blur my vision of who I am.

So thanks again for writing so beautifully about what I never seem to have the guts to do.

Sava said...

Yes.

I cultivate the "I am beautiful" feeling in myself, because the risks of doing otherwise are too great (see the examples of those precious women in the recovery center). I have to fight for the feeling. And as Deja mentioned, prayer does help. (Often I wish I didn't care and that perceptions of our external beauty didn't inform our self-worth.)

I seek out beautiful things (words, art, nature, kindness, for example) and hope they become part of who I am. Gratitude for the marvels of the human body also helps.

K8 said...

I feel comfortable answering this question with, "Yes, I am beautiful," but the WHY part is more difficult. One of my first thoughts is, "Well, my friends tell me I'm beautiful, and I believe my friends, or men have told me that I'm beautiful, and I want them to think that I'm beautiful" which shows that my immediate sense of beauty is still probably extrinsic. I know that I should answer with "I am beautiful... because of something I do or something I am," but if I wrote that, would I actually believe it? Then again, I like to think (and maybe this is erroneous) that beauty has never been the primary way I've defined myself (especially because growing up, I just wasn't the cutest kid, and found more validation elsewhere). This may sound corny, but when I do look for a statement of self-definition, it is the beginning of the YW theme: I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father, who loves me, and I love him.

C-|-W said...

I got my degree in Food Science, and I wanted to just put in a plug for eating fat.

There has been an anti-fat myth for the last several decades. Fat is good for you. Your brain and nervous system is made of fat. Eat it.

If you don't eat fat, you generally eat more carbs. This disturbs your insulin levels. We all know that leads to diabetes. But insulin also regulates body fat. Mess with that, and you'll have a hard time losing weight.

Butter, whole milk, bacon, avacados = perfectly healthy in moderation. Enjoy eating. Bon appetite.

kathy w. said...

I'm glad you thought this, wrote it, and shared it. I think we women (and men) need to talk about this more.

Do I believe I am beautiful? Yes.

But it took some work, time, and soul-searching. And I didn't actually get there until just last June. Wasted decades.

I really believe that every woman is beautiful on the surface, but that our outer appearance is an expression of our inner confidence in ways we don't often think about. I also think that our inner confidence is affected more than we realize by an industry that prioritizes fashion over women.

Deja asked how to get the fretting to lift. I don't know. I think it's different for every woman at different times of life.

But this was a wonderful step for me: considering that maybe all the things I wanted to change about myself (inside and out) were actually some of my greatest strengths.

I discovered that they are.

kathy w. said...

Also, I spent some time thinking about vanity a while back, and this is the conclusion I came to...

The problem with vanity—and I think the reason we shy away from even the IDEA of looking vain—is that vain people are so self-involved, they don't notice others.

Vain people are obnoxious, rude, and generally clueless. We don't want to be that way.

So in an effort to avoid vanity, I think women try to feel good about their appearance without caring TOO much.

Maintaining that balance actually takes a lot more time and focus on ourselves than we realize. It's a sort of (self-doubting) vanity that doesn't look like regular vanity.

I wish that when I gave a woman a compliment or told her she's beautiful, that she would believe it. It's not vain. It's just true.

Patti said...

Ashley, you're just the best. I love these uplifting posts of yours. Thanks so much. And a lot of insightful comments too. And I love my black leggings too. Come see us!

Rachel Hunt said...

I am glad that you are feeling beautiful these days. You Are beautiful these days, and past days, and future days.

You wrote something long ago on another blog post, and while you may not remember it, I have not forgotten it. I think it came from somewhere, but it said "love your unloved parts." It pierced me so deeply, because at the time I didn't. Sometimes still I don't, but sometimes still in those "don't" moments, I am trying. My unloved parts have typically been my nose and frizzy hair. Just this year I have been able to embrace my hair, and not mind so much that it is big and often crazy. I let it be big and crazy. I stopped spending hundreds of dollars on hair products trying to tame it. I just let it be. And then my nose. A boy, a friend told me that my nose was my best feature, and that helped. And then I remember that it is my dad's nose. And while I knew that my whole life I was always grateful for my mother's blue eyes, but jealous I didn't get her nose too. Now that my father's parents have passed away, and that I am faced fresh with the realization that he will also pass one day, I am glad to have his nose, so when my children ask me what he looked like I can show them part of his face. And I am glad.

Nicole said...

I believe that seeing yourself as beautiful is a choice. You can choose to focus on all of your good qualities and the beauty that you possess (we all have some) or you can choose to nitpick and focus on your flaws (we all have some. Either way, you will believe what you choose to focus on and feed.
I've always thought I was pretty but still not good enough. I'm realizing that beauty is so much more than skin deep. I am beautiful. Not perfect, but beautiful. I am believing it more everyday.
My sister recovered from a serious eating disorder and has started an inspiring blog to spread the message of true beauty. I think you'd like what she has to share:
downwitheatingdisorders.blogspot.com

ashmae said...

I keep coming back to read all of these comments, and keep referring others to read them. thank you guys for sharing here.