The other day I heard the statistic that only 2% of American women think they are beautiful… ONLY 2%?! That was mind boggling to me. So much so, that I had to look it up myself and confirm it…. Sure enough, there it was, the first article on Google. The article described the many variables that may contribute to this extremely low percentage – the unrealistic images portrayed in the media was right at the top of the list. Other things discussed were the rigid standards that we have for beauty in our society. This led me to start evaluating myself and my attitude towards my own beauty. At first I thought to myself “I think look pretty… sometimes. so I guess I’m in that 2%… Yay, me!” ;) But the more I really thought about it – when factoring in only my physical features – I realized that I am, in fact, in the greater 98%… because most days I feel far from beautiful status… at least at some point throughout the day. Yes, I have times where I feel very pretty… and then I have times where I feel like I look like I was hit by a MACK truck on the way to the mirror (such as right now as I sit here in my bathrobe, bed head, no makeup kind of mess). No, I definitely have not evolved to the elite 2% of women who believe they are beautiful… But maybe, just maybe, I can get there someday…
In the article, when other variables – such as attitude, spirit and other attributes that have nothing to do with physical features are factored into a woman’s beauty- the percentage skyrockets to 77% of women believe beauty can be achieved. This is where my self evaluation got interesting, because when I do consider other factors about me, along with the physical, I do feel more like a beautiful person. So I guess maybe that says something good about myself (and society) that we are not all so superficial that we solely focus on the exterior of a person? Or can these other attributes really transform our physical being into something beautiful that radiates on the outside? After this self-evaluation I came to a conclusion…
I have openly discussed overcoming insecurities and fears, and letting go of self-doubt in recent years. This has been a long, hard journey to get here… and it’s still evolving. I think more highly of myself now than I ever have before, but yet, it is still hard for me to describe myself as beautiful, but I do feel like I am closer than I have ever been before… Here’s why – I used to hate myself. I felt so ugly all of the time. I would pick apart every flaw on my body, my face, my hair, etc… you could list any physical feature of mine, and I could show you how imperfect it really was. I couldn’t accept a compliment. It felt wrong, because I hated myself so much. So I would counter any compliment with a negative remark about myself. I believe now that this self-hatred of my physical appearance stemmed from a self-hatred of the person I was inside. I had such low self esteem that I didn’t feel worthy of self love and care, let alone a compliment from someone else. Fast forward to today… I can, in fact, graciously receive a compliment. Yes, I have moments where I revert back to belittling those compliments by jokingly making a smart ass reply, or something like that, but overall, I have grown leaps and bounds from where I used to be. So how did I get here?
First of all, I started taking care of myself physically. Exercising and eating healthy make me not only look better on the outside, but I feel better physically and mentally. I have more energy, I’m happier, I get more accomplished… I just feel good. It is so easy for us to take care of others, but for some reason we don’t give ourselves the same priority. By taking care of yourself and making your health/self a priority, you start to see more value in yourself.
Second of all, I quit comparing my physical appearance with anybody else. I think part of this just comes with age. The reality is, there will always be somebody younger, prettier, skinnier, with better hair, skin, etc. Comparison is the thief of joy. I realized that I am me. I will never look like a Victoria’s Secret model, and you know what else I realized? Victoria’s Secret models don’t look like Victoria’s Secret models without a hair and makeup team, photoshop, flattering lighting, etc. If I had that at my disposal 24/7, then yes, I could look like a miniature Victoria’s Secret model… But instead, I am a 5’3″ fit girl that is strong… I will never have long legs and a tiny, perky bum… No, I have short, muscular legs, and big, round glutes that make me powerful and athletic… which is pretty freaking awesome! It doesn’t matter that I have cellulite, stretch marks, or various scars on my body… I am human, and each of those imperfections is representative of a milestone in my life. So, I have stopped picking apart every flaw on my body. Yes, I still have times where I look in the mirror and sigh because the reflection is not the perfect image I imagine it could be, but I have genuinely learned to love my body for what it can do AND for the way it looks. I focus on my positives, while still challenging myself to improve.
Third, I started looking at the whole picture… I am not just a body. I am a smart, funny, and talented individual. For many years because of my self-hatred, I didn’t even realize these things about me. But with a little self love and confidence, I realized there is so much more to me than what I look like on the outside. Beauty really is more than skin deep. A person can have all of the perfect physical attributes, but if they are a horrible, mean person – they look ugly. Period. Because I gained more confidence in myself, I was able to show the other dimensions of myself to the world too. Since I was not so closed off from everybody, what I realized was people were kinder to me than I gave them credit for… which made me be kinder to people. They liked the other dimensions of me as much as I did. Since I didn’t have self-hatred anymore, I didn’t have to be on the defense all of the time to fight off perceived attacks on me. Yes, there are people who are just mean spirited, and they may say mean things to me or about me, but I know I am a nice person. I realize now that if someone doesn’t like me… that is their problem. Not mine. They are dealing with their own insecurities, so I will forgive them… because I was them.
Finally, I have found happiness inside of me that I never knew existed. I used to look to others to make me happy, but I realize now that I am the one in charge of my happiness. Others can enhance it, but for me to be truly happy, I had to find a sense of gratitude. Now, instead of having a “poor me” attitude when things don’t go as I planned, I am grateful for every experience… even as I experience the hurt and sadness. I am a woman who has been through hell and back, and yes, it has added years to my face, but I have a joy inside of me that does radiate outward now. I look at pictures of myself from 10-15 years ago, and I look defeated and depressed. I do feel more beautiful now than I was then – even in a no makeup, crazy-haired kinda mess – because I am happier now… despite being older and a little more “used”. ;) There is a happiness in my face that has almost transformed my physical appearance. Others have noticed this as well. Despite all of the obstacles I’ve faced over the years… It has not ruined me. I have conquered them all… with God by my side every step of the way – even when I tried my hardest to push Him away – He was there picking me up. I am strong because of Him. This strength makes me beautiful.
So, even though I have not yet reached the elite 2% status of women that can confidently say ” I am beautiful”. Maybe, just maybe, I can get there… hopefully sooner than later. Because I DO believe outward beauty can be achieved by how a person presents their self to the world, and a genuinely happy and authentic person will exude inner beauty outward. Looking how far I’ve come makes me proud. There is no end date on this journey of self-acceptance and love. Everyday I have the opportunity to love and accept myself even more… and become part of that 2%. Like a garden of roses, it is up to me to cultivate that beauty from within. No one else on this earth can do that for me. So, I will choose to do things that are good for my body, my health, and my soul. I will feed each of them, and watch them flourish and create the beautiful woman I am destined to be.