When I think of my self-image, two distinct memories instantly come to mind.
I remember being four years old and fearless. I was effortlessly sporting a lime green Barbie crop top and a neon hot pink ruffled miniskirt, as my family and I picked up my grandmother at the airport. My outfit left her baffled and she taught me how to pray the rosary later that night.
I have a vivid memory of being seven years old and disheartened. I remember my mother. She was in the bathroom with the door open as she was getting ready to go out. She was tugging at her clothes and fluffing her hair while sporting a look of complete dissatisfaction, as she turned to me and asked if I thought she was beautiful.
This time, I was the one who was left baffled.
Because back then, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact she even had to ask. I couldn’t comprehend the gravity of her question, until suddenly, I could. I was right there with her, fussing at my hair and feeling embarrassingly inadequate at the reflection that was looking back at me.
And if you’ve ever been there, you get it. You get that, in that moment, you feel complete and utter shame for yourself. It’s that sinking, pit-in-the-bottom-of-your-stomach, aggravating frustration. It’s a contradictory cycle of hating what you see when you look in the mirror and hating yourself for feeling so consumed in the first place. You feel guilty and shallow while also feeling a bit heartbroken for yourself all at once.
Because you know you’re so much more than that two-dimensional reflection of yourself, so why is there a disconnect?
Well, the difference between that four-year-old version of myself who picked up her (mortified) grandmother in a crop top and ruffled mini skirt versus who I am now is when I was younger, I could look at myself in the mirror and see nothing more than my personality. The woman I am now? Not so much.
It’s undeniably tough to grasp and hold onto that truth.
We grow up, and sometimes find that the older we get, the easier it is to tear ourselves down. We become more involved in a society where media portrayal of our bodies makes it so easy to be convinced that we will never be enough.
There is still one very crystal clear, obvious answer to my mother’s question of whether or not I consider her beautiful. And many years later, my answer still rings more true than ever.
It was the way my mother would help me fall asleep at night, as I would lay under the covers with my legs lying next to hers to keep warm. It was the way she would smile at me as she would tuck my hair behind my ears.
Of course I thought, “Yes mom, you’re beautiful.”
But the only thing more disheartening than seeing my mother doubt herself was hearing her apologize for it afterwards.
I may have only been seven, but even at a young age I knew why this was so heartbreaking.
So with that, it’s time to give ourselves a break, turn off the TV, and get off Instagram. Before you text your friend who you’re meeting up with to “warn them” that you’re having an “ugly day,” consider how it will make them feel about their own appearance. And when has belittling ourselves ever gotten us what we wanted? Do we really feel any better once we throw out a disclaimer no one needed in the first place?
Let’s not forget our worth exists beyond the way a piece of glass can make us feel.
That two-dimensional reflection of ourselves doesn’t illustrate a lot. It doesn’t showcase our intellect, our compassion, and our true, genuine humanity. It encompasses an outfit we’ve stringed together to help us get through our days.
We just have to remember that a mirror will never fully capture everything we entail: our genes inherited from generations upon generations of beautifully profound and astounding individuals—our family—who have made us who we are now.
And, that is where our beauty lies.
So please, let’s stop apologizing for how we look. There was never anything to be sorry for in the first place, and let’s not think for a second that that should ever change.