Monday, November 21, 2011

The Eye of the Beholder

Driving through Bethel a couple days ago, on the way back from getting groceries, Ira was chatting away as usual. He was oddly quiet for a minute before asking, out of the blue, "Mom, are you beautiful?" Without thinking, I snorted and said "Nope, definitely not." Then I felt bad because, well, why DON'T I think I'm pretty? Because my nose is big and my breasts are small? Because my hair doesn't match my eyebrows? Because I had two babies and show it? Because I don't look like those glamorous women that I'm told are gorgeous by magazines and movies? I guess so. But do I like that weird idea? No, of course not, it's sick...but here I am, accidentally passing it on to the next generation.

Damage control time. "Actually Ira, everybody's beautiful. Momma's just grouchy lately. You are very, very beautiful and you came from me and Daddy, so we must be beautiful too." (Best I could do on short notice. In Bethel.)

Made me think about it though, the reason the whole wide world goes along with this dumb theory of what is and isn't beautiful, is because... we JUST GO ALONG WITH IT. Duh. Let's not. It's quite simple. But apparently, with the way I feel about myself, I'm sadly one of the worst offenders.

See, I have a hideous self-esteem problem. Always have. Don't really know why, and lately, with the pressure NOT TO FAIL coming from so many angles, this problem has manifested into something very tricky. (And no, this isn't a passive aggressive way to get people to tell me how great I am. Of course I'm great, and blah, blah, blah, we're ALL great, that's not the point. The point is: I need NOT to need other people thinking that, I need to think I'm great all by myself.) For some reason, I have forever felt inferior in looks, talents and intelligence to everyone else...not sure if it's because I'm ultra sensitive to the fact that I didn't go to traditional college, that I don't have a successful career, that I grew up too poor to have the glossy hair, perfect teeth and trendy clothes others had, that I got picked on a lot when I first started public school in those crucial teenage years, maybe the fact that Justin was always the genius and I was always the idiot, or maybe because pride in one's self is sometimes treated as acting "too big fer yer britches" around here...whatever it was, I don't want my kids growing up crippled in the same way, always needing someone ELSE to tell them they're worth it. I'm working on my self confidence, trying to move away from that ridiculous need for pre-approval from others before I believe in myself. Because if I hang around waiting for it forever, well, maybe it ain't ever coming.

Example: when somebody disapproves of something I do, something I wear, something I say,(which is often, given we are talking about ME here) my first reaction is that they are right and I am wrong. I don't trust my own instincts about a situation. If a person is upset with me, I am instantly crushed and wonder what I did would never have occurred to me in the past to say "Screw you". Or to not exactly say "screw you", but be confident enough in myself to know that it's not ALWAYS my fault. Stick to my guns, so to speak. Instead of letting the world know I'm an easy target because I'll back down apologetically in any case.

Jen and I used to pick on Myra for catching her as a very little girl, looking in the steamy mirror after a bath, batting her cute eyelashes at herself, and quoting a cosmetics commercial from the time..."Don't hate me because I'm beautiful." Well, she was. And I was always rather jealous of both her beauty and her confidence to know it. I mean, it sure didn't hurt her to hear people say how adorable she was every minute, and perhaps it DID hurt me to hear boys say in high school that I wasn't pretty like my sister. But knowing is half the battle. She KNEW she was pretty, therefore, she WAS pretty. Lesson to be learned, right there.

Going through this split, and the anger-talk that goes with it, has been one of the biggest blows ever to my shaky self-esteem. To hear people on the "other side" are criticizing my choices, and me in general, is a rotten feeling, especially to someone who's always felt rather swayed by other's opinions. Constantly made me second guess myself. I hope that I'm finally becoming smart enough to know that no matter how bullied I may feel, I'm not doing anything wrong. I'm NOT crazy/stupid/morally unsound. I've got bigger things to worry about than opinions fueled by anger, not fact. Public opinion can go hang for once. I'm in a tough situation, doing the best I can. Look at my beautiful boys, I must be doing something right. And for the record, I'm a damn AWESOME mother, even if I'm not pretty. So there.


  1. I never guessed you were insecure. To me you have always been so beautiful. There is a little bit of an old fashioned beauty in you- like my Mom as a teenager. It is sad that most people can only see beauty in others but not in themselves. Or we all want some look that is not our own- if we are blonde we wish we had jet black hair, if we have curly hair we wish it was stick straight, etc.
    Didn't you know that dark eyebrows with blonde hair is the coolest thing ever?! Would you want blonde eyebrows that blend into your face and you can't see them?
    I should not be littering your blog with my non-poetic writing but my god! You are gorgeous?! You didn't know that???!!!!!!!

  2. We love you, Auntie Em. And you are beautiful. Along with being a wonderful writer, photographer, and mother. Jude