This is an incredibly personal post and I’m feeling pretty vulnerable for putting it out there, but I’ve had it written in my head for a few years now, I figured it was time.
My mother in law wanted a family photo. One with all of her kids, their spouses and the grandkids. In one photo. At one time. My mother in law has four kids. Her oldest son is married and has four kids, her second son is unmarried, her third son is Matt, and her youngest, a daughter, is married with a son. The kids ages range from Audrey, at 22 months to A.T. who is almost 12.
In one photo.
But because we love our mother in law, we acquiesced and we all planned to meet at Matt’s oldest brother’s house where they would have a photographer waiting.
I may seem on the outside to be an outgoing person, but self-confidence hasn’t come easy. Any given day of the week, if someone were to say to me, wear gym casual attire, I’d be set. But when I have to wear something that’s even the slightest bit dressy, I go from feeling confident to the ugliest girl in the world in a matter of a few seconds.
I teach five classes a week, and yet I still don’t feel like I look the part. I don’t write this for sympathy or for people to come out and say, “Oh! But you’re wrong!” Mostly because I know what I see in the mirror. I see tired. I see plain. I see eh.
This happens every time I’m near Matt’s family. They’re always so well put together and even though I’ve been in the family a decade, I still feel like an outsider. Completely because I’ve put myself there. I’m a stranger to the traditional family scene and I’m still working on how I can fit in while being myself. I’m incredibly outspoken and I have always marched to the beat of my own drum, and they’re probably the kindest, most normal people I’ve ever met, and it’s still hard to find where I fit.
I’ve never felt as if I’m interesting enough or do things that are worth talking about. When I get to a gathering, I make up in my mind that I must be quiet because no one cares what I have to say. Or if I do decide to talk, talk about the kids.
Truth is, Matt’s family is very beautiful. And every time we get together, I immediately feel frumpy and so plain. It’s hard enough being a woman in this day and age when everyone is constantly judging you, but when you judge yourself? Game over. And I lose every time. I am my worst critic and it shows in the ten minutes before we have to leave the house to go, and I’m changing my clothes for the tenth time and I’m looking at my face in the mirror and sighing.
And then I turn around and see Claire or Mae watching me. What am I teaching them about beauty? How can I show the girls how to love themselves for everything they are when I don’t even find myself to be beautiful? I’ve struggled with this for a long time, mostly starting around the time of Tony’s death, which is subsequently when everything changed for me, and the only way I felt release was by cutting.
I don’t want that for my kids. I don’t want them to feel so awful and self-isolated that they have to resort to that awful world. I don’t want them to punch themselves in the face because they’re not good enough. Because they don’t look like the girls in the magazines. Because they have to wear makeup to look halfway decent, unlike the other girls who can get away with a clean face and confidence. I don’t want them to feel that feeling in the pit of their stomach when they know they have less than 10 minutes to get ready for a gathering where everyone else looks better and feels better than they do.
I don’t want that for them. I want them to know that they do good things. That they have good taste in music and books. That they are incredibly strong physically and strong willed. That they do good for animals and humans alike. That they can draw really well and are pretty good at Sudoku. That they have a really good life. That there’s more to beauty than what they see in the mirror.
Mostly, I wish I could say that to me.
What is beauty? Because I really, really want to be beautiful.