Friday, April 23, 2010

Betty's Beauty Manifesto


Back in 1987, at my ten-year high school reunion, somebody brought out movies taken during our senior trip. I stood there, watching the video and caught a glimpse of my younger self in a go-cart, racing around the track. I remember being stunned at that moving image of me.

During high school a combination of low self-esteem, cruel classmates, the stigma of being poor, and a steady diet of staring at perfect models Seventeen Magazine had convinced me that I was pretty unattractive, bordering on ugly.

But when I saw myself on the video, I saw a cute girl having fun on the track.

It was then I realized that because I had not known myself, I had let others define me. I had seen myself only through at lens of criticism and while some people may have created tidbits of insecurities that I nibbled on, I was the one who took them, added mounds of my own negativity and created a Home Town Buffet of self-criticism. I didn’t like my hair, I thought my hips were too wide, and my upper arms were too skinny. The list went on and on and on….

I wish I could say that moment at my ten-year reunion was a turning point for me, that I figured it all out. And though my perception of my looks did take a turn for the better, I continued to be self-critical about my looks throughout the years and I was not alone.

We as women seem to dwell on our own deficiencies, bringing them up to others, even making a competition out of it. “You think you have big thighs? Mine are bigger!” I must have racked up hours and hours in the frequent whining club. Conversations with groups of women nearly always had a hefty dose of complaining about our imperfections, our weight, our bone structure.

What a waste of energy and time.

When I look back at pictures now, I see my old self looking back and more than anything else, I wish she could have appreciated her beauty at that time. I used to be so self-critical, and egged on by society and the media, I played right into the hands of those who sought to benefit from my insecurities. (I remember complaining even during pregnancy, as my body was toiling away creating life!)

Here’s the thing: I am now 51 years old. I am all done complaining about my body. I’ve decided it’s beautiful just the way it is and more importantly, it’s healthy. It carries me through the day and does what I ask it to do. I'll take care of it and I'll appreciate it. That starts with no more negative comments, either spoken or thought.

Won't you join me?

Around me I see people who deal with real physical ailments, whose bodies are breaking down in one way or another. One of my best friends recently got a devastating diagnosis of a disease that affects her ability to move, to function normally. My complaining about my wide hips or the size of my stomach is stupid and dishonors her and all people who must face true problems.


Most of all, life is short and I do not want to be 75 years old, and look back on a picture of myself as a young 51 year-old and have that same kind of jolt I had watching those high school videos.

I will not look at a picture of myself in my fifties and wish I had appreciated my beauty at the time.

I will look at that picture, smile, and know I did.


(Me and a statue of Ribsy from the Beverly Cleary books!)

64 comments:

The Girl Next Door Grows Up said...

That was beautifully put. Now go and tell that to HS girls!

BTW, you are beautiful!

Sara said...

(Ribsy!!)

But, yes, I'm with you on this stance. I call them "Bad Body Competitions," and I no longer partake in them. I figure the more we complain out loud, the more we validate our warped self-images. Changing my perception of myself is a day-to-day battle, but complaining only makes me feel worse.

The Empress said...

Oh, this post ROCKS!!

You have got to send this one out into the internet world!

I, too, had so many issues with myself back then. Now, I look back, and think, "what a gorgeous girl...she looks just like a china doll.."

I had no idea. I wish I would've know what belief in me would've done.

I, just like you, thought only negative things. I was too different, too tall, too skinny, too dark, too unusual.

All these things that have made me the good things I am today.

And,look at you: you have become of the awesomest people I've met. You can feel your love for humanity from over here , honey.

Beautiful girl on the porch, by the way :)

Crystal Cook said...

You are beautiful!! And this post hits home with me so hard. Why oh why do we do this to ourselves? I'm going to join you and do my best to get over it :)

CRAZYMOM said...

Wow! What a powerful piece! You are so right. I can remember being a tiny, tiny thing when I was single and being embarrassed that a little skin rolled on my tummy when I wore a bikini. I was actually embarrassed to wear it! Years later, after 4 kids and more than a few trips to Dairy Queen and I can't imagine what I was thinking. How ridiculous! I'd have had more fun if I weren't worrying about such things!
As I get older, I have less time to worry about trivial things and much less interest in who might judge me forthem. I think that is one of the best gifts of growing older. And so, you have given me much to look forward to, Betty!

Have a lovely weekend!

Lidian said...

Gorgeous then, gorgeous now!

What a great post. Have a wonderful weekend :)

Ms. Anthropy said...

I look back and tell myself how crazy I was, to have thought such things at the time. Just can't do the now thing. If I'm anything, I'm am realistic... and ugly. You look positively lovely at 51!

Ms. Anthropy said...

I'm am??? Oops! Proof before publishing comment, dummy.

Rainey said...

What a lovely lady!

I am 26, and I have this jolting experience more often than is necessary when I peruse past photos of myself. But, really? Looking at pictures of myself at 16is basically a recipe to conjure bad body image karma. That's my fault.

Thanks for taking a stand against this nonsense! Must try my best to stop this as well...especially since my 5 year college reunion is coming up. Eeek!

magically ordinary said...

That is by far the best post I have read in a very long time. Wow. So true and so well written.

We are all so hard on ourselves and it would be great if we could change how we think and appreciate ourselves for the beautiful girls, teenagers, and women we are.

You have inspired me!

Talli Roland said...

What a great post. If only we could tell our high-school selves that we are perfect the way we are and to just stop worrying about it.

You look beautiful, btw. Must be all that treadmill-desk pedalling!

sarahjayne smythe said...

Thank you for such a great post. It's such a shame you coldn't feel this way about yourself in high school. You are beautiful.

And it's a real shame that even now girls in high school and even younger are made to feel ugly and deficient, ways they will be made to feel for the rest of their lives if they're not lucky enough to break the cycle.

I'm with you. I'm done feeling bad about myself. I wish more us could get to that point.

Berowne said...

You look fine to me. In addition...
I don't feel dull, I don't feel hollow. I found myself in your "Blogs I Follow." :-)

Linda said...

What a great story...As a school girl I felt the same way and as you. I realize now when I see myself again my feelings changed. We are great and no one can take that away from us again. We are older and wiser.
thanks so much for your comment. I would love to pour you some tea.

My Life in Purple said...

Every woman is fabulous, and you are SO fabulous!!

Saundra@ItalianMamaGoneCrazy said...

Helllooooo gorgeous!!!

Not only will I join you... but I'll post something like this too!!!

We all really need to love ourselves where we are at...

Writing Without Periods! said...

Well said. I will join you too. We are all on a choreographed journey.
Mary

ModernMom said...

This was so beautifully written. I too was one of those girls that was so hard on myself in high school! Now at 38 I finally relize I put health and happiness above all else.
Thanks for this fabulous reminder of what is really important.

Madi and Mom said...

WAY TO GO BETTY!!!!! You have spoken very true and inspiring words. One thing I never want to experience again is being between the ages of 13 and 18....oh my stars the trials and tribulations of being a teenager.
Martina McBride recently had a popular country song dedicated to little girls all the way up to women encouraging them to celebrate themselves. She said it was dedicated to her 3 daughter.
What a lovely picture of you then and now! I'm 10 years your senior and so very thankful for my blessings.
Madi and Mom

Julie said...

So true, I think about this often as I raise my daughter in this world of media lies. Sometimes, I feel like throwing our T.V. out the window and shielding her eyes as we are out and about. My prayer is that she will know her worth is not based on her outward beauty but on her heart and character....oh, and that I will remember that too!

Gigi said...

I ca only say hear, hear! to what everyone else has said. Fantastic post, Betty. And a beautiful photo from your past. I love it!

Joann Mannix said...

Betty, I can't believe it.

The other day before my vacation, I ran to the mall to get a few new things. And as I changed in the dressing room, I looked into the mirror and saw this woman whose body is softer and rounder and looser.

For a second, I felt so dissatisfied with what I saw. And then suddenly, there was this blinding moment of clarity and I saw myself 10 years ago, looking into the dressing room mirror, hating what I saw and the 10 years before that, wishing I had different hips and different hair. And in that moment of discovery, I realized the last time I was happy with myself I was probably around 10 years old with freckles and a bowl cut my father had given me and dirty feet and a purple koolaid stain permanently etched across my lip. And I knew in that spectacular second, I had spent far too many wasted moments of my life hating the beauty of being me. And I, too, vowed to never, ever again feel that way.

My life is so rich and full of goodness and the beauty of finally knowing who I am in this great life. I will not trade a single wrinkle or curve for what brought me to this fine place I inhabit in the universe.

Splendid job, my friend. We are beautiful creatures.

LittleSilkDress said...

Incredible isn't it? I look at pictures from the past and think, "I thought I looked FAT? What is wrong with me?" High school and college can both be so brutal. For me, leaving that and going into the working world has helped immensely, but I do still struggle. It does help that the professional and adult styles I choose are much more flattering to my body than things like hip hugging jeans!

BB, you are so beautiful! I can't stand how hard it is for many women to accept ourselves as we are. So many of us are guilty of it. I envy and love where your path of struggle has brought you.

Happy Friday!

Marlene said...

You were beautiful then...and you're beautiful now!

(May I have your knees, though? Please?)

Seriously - well written!

Kitty Moore said...

You are a total beauty - and you're right, we are so self-critical. When I look in the mirror, all I see are my flaws.

liz said...

Aww, BB! That was the best! And you are right. Maybe a motivational speaking gig is in your future? I just picture you, in a gymnasium, mic in hand, mesmerizing your Justin-Beiber-Loving audience.

Alissa said...

You are beautiful then and now! My memories of my teenage years were of having the ugliest hair in the world. Part of the problems was that the teased out bangs look was very in, and my hair did not like to do this, but when I go back and look at pictures those teased out bangs girls look ridiculous, and except for the year I got that heinous haircut, my hair actually looks good.

Mainland Streel said...

Betty, you were a smokin' babe, and you're still a smokin' babe. I am really glad you posted this! It's very easy for any of us gals to compare ourselves to those magazine broads (click the link on my blog for photoshop disasters to see how fake they are though!)

I've looked back even three years ago and moaned about how I was thinner, prettier, whatever, but lately I've decided to just enjoy this body while I've got it.

Thanks for a great post once again, Betty! You're one of my favourites! :)

Old Kitty said...

Awwww Bossy Betty!!!

What an inspiration you are! I see the pic of your younger self and think how pretty and fresh and lovely she is!

Then I see your pic now and I think - my goodness!! How utterly beautiful!! Look at that smile and sparkle! And hey - what perfect teeth!!

:-)

It really annoys me how women in particular are under so much pressure to attain a perfection imposed by magazine covers, celebrities, fame, models etc etc.

I hope that one day all women will realise that they are perfect as they are and that what matters most is their health and happiness rather than if they are a size model zero.

Take care
x

Aging Mommy said...

I think, teased, ridiculed or not all teenage girls feel insecure about life and that manifests itself in insecurities about our looks. Now I look back and just wish I had that wrinkle free, glowing skin of youth and the natural prettiness that needs no make-up. You are so right, we need to enjoy what we have when we have it. Kind of like the lesson of life in general - just stop and enjoy it all now and don't wish for what you don't have.

By the way the photos of you then and now are both beautiful

Ann said...

This is probably one of the best posts I have ever read. I was the same way back then, never satisfied with me. I've gotten better but still not there, your post is very inspiring and I think starting to day I'm going to just be happy with the me I've grown into.

RawknRobynsGoneBlogWild said...

That home town buffet is all too familiar. As everyone else has said, you are as beautiful now - inside and out - as you were then.
Thanks for this important message.
Cheers,
Robyn

Leanne said...

What a fantastic post, Betty. Wow. I've been extra rough on myself recently - and this post is exactly what I needed. Thank you so much for this. And . . . your now picture is beautiful.

I stand and applaud you for this one, Betty! Post well done!!!!!

Anything Fits a Naked Man said...

Oh, yes, yes, YES, I want to join you in this! I just couldn't agree with you more on this one, Betty!

I, too, look at pictures of my high school years and think, "Well, what was wrong with THAT girl? She was cute and fun!!" Why didn't I think so back then? Sigh! I agree, enough wasting precious time!

And by the way, you are just adorable, in BOTH these pictures!!! Cheers (and thanks!)!

Joe Cap said...

It's not just women that allow others to define them, we all do it.
I agree with what everyone said...you were a beautiful kid, and you are gorgeous now! Can I define you like that?

Beth said...

Betty,
This is a beautiful post and you are a beautiful woman!

Thank you for the words of encouragement that you have offered to me when you have stopped by my blog. I don't have time to respond to every comment but I am always grateful for the people who take a moment to read my words and hear my heart!

I will try to dredge up a few memories and write an Oak Grove post or two after I finish up the A - Z Challenge. :)

anna @ frosted petunias said...

Beautiful and inspiring post from a beautiful and inspiring person! When I think about all the energy I use to put into worrying if I was pretty enough I get angry at how much I missed being so distracted and insecure. I finally like who I am now and even feel very liberated. I think I deserve to wear that Anna Pavlova gown to the grocery store too, lol! Thanks and have a great weekend.

Kimberly Franklin said...

Girls! Why are we wired all wrong?

That's a beautiful picture! And I hope you have a great weekend!!

VKT said...

Hi there. I found your blog through Friday Follow. If you are interested in becoming a follower of my blog, I will happily follow yours.

Venassa said...

It crazy how true that is of most of us. So many people are just way too hard on themselves. Very inspiring post.

Mommy on the Spot said...

Thanks so much for the great post! I can't tell you how much this resonantes with me. Thank you, Betty! Have a great weekend!

Amber Page Writes said...

I'm going to say that I'm joining you in your quest to appreciate beauty, but...saying is easier than doing. But I'll try!

Ally said...

Aww Betty, you were beautiful then and a lovely looker today too. You speak the truth. Honestly, I feel the same way. In my case, I look back at my high school photos and can't believe how much I loathed myself, I'd kill to look that cute today. Very nice post.

FourthGradeNothing.com

Susan Fields said...

Beautiful post (and beautiful photos, too!) It just seems unreal to me how society idolizes these beautiful, skeleton thin, airbrushed images of women. No wonder teenage girls struggle with self esteem!

DrSoosie said...

Betty you are beautiful. I feel as you do..better now at age 48 than I ever did when I was younger. With my diabetes diagnosis last year it has totally put my life into a kind of perspective that is invaluable. I live each day with a grateful heart and feel blessed for all that I do have...instead of focusing on what I lack!!! Let's hear it for us middle-aged mamas who know what is really important!!! You go girl!!!

Shan said...

I had a similar experience at my grandparent's place after they were both gone and we were packing up. Nance drove out to Utah with me to get all the photo albums and books her vehicle could handle. I had talked up how bad some of my early photos were (frizzy hair, bad teeth, weird clothes), and I think we were both expecting to have some loud guffaws over them. But when we cracked open those books, there wasn't anything funny. I was a cute kid and my family was beautiful.

For years now my friends, mother-in-law and I have the 10 Year Rule, which states that (almost) any photo we hate now we are practically guaranteed to love 10 years later.

Senorita said...

You are beautiful in both pictures. I am sorry that the kids at school convinced you otherwise. They can be so mean.

I am very greatful for my health and that I have a functioning body.

Brian said...

Nicely put.

Holly Renee said...

I love both those pictures of you, especially the first one. You are beautiful. This post is inspiring. It is so true. My body helps me get where I need to go and learn the lessons I need to learn. I am thankful for that.

VKT said...

You really are a beautiful person, inside and out. Sadly Betty, as a teacher, I still see the "mean girls" but I don't hesitate to put them in their place.

Vodka Logic said...

A great post. I am 51 as well but not done complaining about my body.

thanks for the inspirational post

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Well said. SO well said. I think that yes, especially as teenagers, we let other's perceptions of us dictate how we view ourselves, but often too, we skew their perceptions of us to think they are different than what they are, far worse than what they are.

I don't know that I'm entirely comfortable in my own skin yet, but I'm working on it. It makes me happy to stumble across people that have made the decision to just be happy, to love themselves no matter what. That's not always an easy thing to do, I think. I know I've found it difficult.

But, for the record, you were totally cute as a teenager! How sad that it took you so long to see it. I fear I'll always look back at my teenage self and cringe.

So glad I came across your blog. Now a follower.

sherri said...

well put and can't be said enough how everyone should love themselves "as is" more. Love both of those pictures of you.

Ca88andra said...

What a great post! and one I can totally relate to. It's a shame that only age seems to bring realisation. If only I had just those thoughts when I was a teenager...

Sniffles and Smiles said...

I'm with you!!! Celebrate being YOU!! What an uplifting and fabulous post! Thanks for extending friendship to me, and leading me here! You may regret this...but you're stuck with me now ;-) :-) ~Janine XO

Tgoette said...

Terrific post, Betty! And I share the opinions of the others when I say you were beautiful then and are still very beautiful today. Sad that so many women are made to feel ugly by not living up to ridiculously impossible standards. Well done!

Betty Manousos:cutand-dry.blogspot.com said...

Οh, Betty, I loved this post!Interesting and inspiring!
That is so true of most of us.
You're so right; we are so self-critical. I am way too much!
Hope you're having a great weekend!:o)
Betty xx

citymouse said...

What an important subject! I know I felt the same way when I was in HS, but unfortunately, it has taken me longer to learn this lesson. Even though I am older and heavier these days, I am much happier and absolutely thankful for my life and health.

You were beautiful in HS and still are!

Tracy said...

So very true! You were and are lovely, by the way!

Pat Tillett said...

That was a deep and inspirational post. Should be required reading for young people. Thanks!

you were a hottie then
you are a hottie now

Jessica said...

I couldn't agree more. We are our worst enemies, us women. What would the world be if we supported one another, loved our bodies, and stood up for ourselves?

I find it incredibly sad that women our age are looked over. With age comes wisdom. We are the best thing society ever had.
The real question is, how do we bring that to light?

Mellisa Rock said...

Crap - first time brought to tears by a blogger. I wish that I had know in high school what I know now. Have a great week!

Cyn said...

Well said!

Jillsy said...

Marvelous post!