I Am BeautifulMonica Bielanko
My mom has complained about her nose for as long as I can remember. She hated her nose. Still does, actually. Even though she got a nose job (after which I held the hand of a strange woman with a bandaged head thinking it was my mother for something like ten minutes! TRUE STORY) to fix what she didn’t like.
Mom thinks her nose is too big, the bridge is too prominent and a host of other complaints that do not jive with what you see when you actually look at her (look! she’s even trying to hide her “enormous schnozz” in this photo!)
My mom is totally hot, nose included. But, you know, all the complaining about her nose made me inspect my own nose all the more. Is it too big? Is my bridge too prominent? It’s something I don’t think I would’ve done had I not been witness to her countless complaints about her nose.
I’m not trying to fault her, mind you, I’m pretty happy with my nose, mostly because she’s always told me how beautiful I am but it would’ve been even better while growing up to hear how beautiful she thinks she is, even if she doesn’t think so.
I’m certain she could find something about herself she liked to wax poetic about. Believe me, there is much to be liked. She’s got long legs, big blue eyes, basically, she’s been a stone cold hottie her entire life. Yet all I heard about was her “big nose” and her “beaver teeth” and her “pin head.”
Stop it, Mom. You know I’m right. She doesn’t have “beaver teeth” either, by the way. They are perfectly nice, straight teeth. The pinhead thing is also totally beyond me as well. I mean, who looks at someone and says, “Yeah, she’s pretty hot but her head is just SO SMALL.”
Her critical nature was passed on to me and I have always been extremely unforgiving toward myself in the very same way I saw my mom treat herself.
Until now. Until Violet.
I am very aware of how I speak about myself in front of my daughter. Specifically, I do not discuss my weight by bemoaning the size of my derriere or grabbing handfuls of muffin top in frustration, I just don’t. Even though it’s generally the first thing that occurs to me when I look in the mirror. Because the last thing I want my daughter worrying about is her weight. Yes, I know it’s inevitable. The minute she gets to gabbing with girlfriends they’re going to infect her with their issues. Issues that maybe their mothers unintentionally passed down as they were observed by their daughters bitching about their weight or their hair or their noses. But if I can squeeze in nine or ten years of instilling my daughter with self-esteem, specifically by leading by example, then perhaps the arrows shot at her from friends and magazines and TV and movies won’t penetrate as far.
Maybe the best place to start is by telling my daughter how beautiful I think I am. Kids know their parents are always going to say they’re beautiful and so maybe it eventually won’t mean as much. Maybe she’ll start thinking “Mom is supposed to say that.” So maybe I can teach her how to be self-confident and not so critical of herself by showing her how it’s done. I can tell her she’s beautiful until I’m blue in the face but what does that really mean if I critique my own perceived flaws and she some day has the same ones. If I complain about stretch marks how will she feel about her stretch marks? If I moan about wrinkles how will she feel about her wrinkles?
This article on offbeatfamilies.com really hit me squarely in the solar plexus. Amanda, the writer of I’ve Started Telling My Daughter I’m Beautiful nails it with the paragraph below:
I don’t want my girls to be children who are perfect and then, when they start to feel like women, they remember how I thought of myself as ugly and so they will be ugly too. They will get older and their breasts will lose their shape and they will hate their bodies, because that’s what women do. That’s what mommy did. I want them to become women who remember me modeling impossible beauty. Modeling beauty in the face of a mean world, a scary world, a world where we don’t know what to make of ourselves.
“Look at me, girls!” I say to them. “Look at how beautiful I am. I feel really beautiful, today.”
My daughter comes from me. Her flesh and bone is from my flesh and bone. Her DNA is from my DNA. My wrinkles will someday be her wrinkles. My sagging boobs will someday be her sagging boobs. And so, to deny my beauty is to deny her beauty for the rest of her life. She already knows how beautiful I am. And her current definition of my beauty is the true definition of beauty. I only need to confirm it for her in my words and actions.
I am beautiful, child. This stomach full of stretch marks and weird wrinkles is beautiful because it reminds me of you. These crow’s feet tracking around my eyes are beautiful because they are the result of laughing so hard at your antics.
And maybe treating myself gently so as to influence my daughter will, in turn, influence me. As Amanda from offbeatfamilies.com writes, “I’ll be what they see. They see me through eyes of love.”
I will be beautiful for my daughter. I am beautiful.
You can also find Monica on her personal blog, The Girl Who.
Read more from Monica on Strollerderby: