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Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

— Winston Churchill

Beautiful Like Me: Who Influences Me…and You?

Beautiful Like Me

As part of WickedStepMom’s Beautiful Like Me project, she’s asked people to answer the question, What person or people are the most influential about how you feel about yourself?  Who influences you the most to feel beautiful?

My husband is teaching himself the art of photography and he has built a studio in our home. A photographer can’t exactly practice taking pictures of people without subjects to sit behind the lights. He often asks me to sit for him while he tests varied lighting arrangements and backdrops. After a 15-minute studio session, he’ll go through the photos commenting on how shadows fall here or there and what adjustments he needs to make. When he shares a photo with me he really likes, where the lights have bounced off my skin in all the right places and he’s excited to have gotten it just right, I cringe. One session in the studio alters my mood for at least 24 hours and viewing his pictures sinks my heart and self esteem. It’s an interesting scenario, this little viewing party, my husband will fall in love with a photo, complimenting the angles and luminary magic he’ll have created while all I can see is a fat chick whose hair is sprouting gray and her face is beginning to wrinkle. He has sophisticated high-end equipment that picks up EVERY single skin flaw or crease and magnifies the horror of my recent runaway weight gain. In the last six months, I’ve walked out of every studio shoot feeling completely disgusted with myself.

I suppose the short answer to WickedStepMom’s question is me. I most influence how I feel about myself. I’m quite sure my viewpoint is skewed by media images and current cultural definitions of beauty, but I’m the only one who’s giving myself a thumbs up or down when I look in the mirror or see myself in pictures. While my husband is prone to complimenting the size of my ebony eyes, the luxurious thickness of my hair or the softness of my skin, I’m participating in a self-defeating monologue. I know I feel more beautiful when I’m thinner, when I’m more fit and toned and it really doesn’t matter to me where the messages have seeped in over time that allow me to see myself as the newly fat chick, they’re in my mind to stay. But more than that, it’s not just the bombardment of images where thinner people are shown as the pinnacle of beauty; it’s how I feel physically when I’m thinner. I can move more easily, my energy isn’t sapped as quickly and I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out which clothes in my closet will hide the lumps.

Wrapped up in an odd equation is how I define beauty, which thankfully is not all about my physical self. If it were, I’d simply crawl into a hole. There are certain qualities I aspire to have that have nothing to do with my how fluffy my body is or is not – intelligence, love, compassion, empathy. These are the qualities I want to continue developing and where I find the most significant equation of self worth. I want to be a beautiful person who’s measured not by the girth of my thighs but by the weight of what I contribute and create.

As always, I’m a work in progress.

So give it up dear readers, What person or people are the most influential about how you feel about yourself? Who influences you the most to feel beautiful?

To learn more about The Beautiful Like Me project and to see who’s participating this week, visit the project main page.

**Updated: Here are the people I’ve found participating. If I’ve missed you, please let me know…

Lisa P – Use Your Wisdom

Saffa Chick – Wandering Saffa Chick

Amy – Five Flower Mom

Judy – Coffee Jitters

WickedStepMom – Life and Times of a Wicked Step Mom

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11 comments to Beautiful Like Me: Who Influences Me…and You?

  • Tricia, thanks for being so honest. I think you are too hard on yourself. I should know because it is a flaw I share. Next time you look at a picture of yourself, try finding one thing that you really like. Instead of all the things you hate. It took me a while but that has really helped me.

    WickedStepMoms last blog post..Beautiful Like Me: Am I beautiful?

  • Jan

    “[A]ll I can see is a fat chick whose hair is sprouting gray and her face is beginning to wrinkle.” Tricia, dear, at least you’re not seeing your wrinkled face sprouting gray hair. Not that I’d know anything about that. Ahem.

    Being the epitome of the graying, wrinkled, fat chick, I know exactly how you feel. It takes an act of Congress to get me in front of a camera. Which is really a shame, because although I may not be happy with how I look (and I am not in the least bit photogenic), it doesn’t mean that my family and loved ones don’t want pictures of me. It’s a shame that one day my kids and grandkids may look back and say, “Gee, I wish we had more pictures of Mom/Grandma. She was such a wonderful person and we miss her so much.”

    Jans last blog post..New Shelves and a New Obsession, Er, Hobby

  • Tricia

    WickedStepMom: Thanks. With hundreds of pictures, you’re right I should be able to find at least one thing. Really though, the real answer for me is to get my tush in gear and start exercising again.

    Jan: You’re right, I know. And I’m very thankful that the freaky hair all of a sudden sprouting from my chin is jet black, although if it were gray maybe it wouldn’t be so obvious and I could stop the plucking mania that’s part of my day. Those chin hairs are obnoxiously persistent.

  • I love Jan’s comment. I never looked at it like that. I thought there were hardly any pics of me because I am usually the one taking them. But I am hard bent to find photos of myself that I like. Lately, it’s my teeth. I feel like they need to be whitened. that’s got to be media influenced.

    Pseudos last blog post..Eff My Life…

  • This sparked two thoughts:

    First, my mother had a HUGE impact on how I felt about myself growing up. That may seem obvious to every woman, but I LOOK physically now the way she made me FEEL when I was a teenager. Then, I was slightly overweight, more curvy and mature than fat. Now, I am obese. And, while I know that I don’t move as easily in my body as I did then, I feel the same. I will never, ever forget my mother patting my cheeks and saying, “You’re such a pretty girl. If only you’d lose 10 (20, 30, 50) pounds!”

    Second, and this may be surprising given the above, I do not feel unattractive. I am the only woman I know who does not shy away from the camera or see only the less attractive parts when I look at myself in a photo or in the mirror. Sure, I’m critical – I am almost always unhappy with my hair these days, the dark circles under my eyes seem to get darker by the day, and the double chin UGH! – but I generally like what I see: pretty eyes, nice skin, a quick smile. I am often told I am pretty so I’m sure that influences my self-image, but I am also often ignored because of my size. (Odd, that – the fatter I am, the less noticeable I seem to be.)

    OK, a third thought: I feel most beautiful when I am loved and in love. This has much more to do with being happy and feeling cherished than any compliments I receive.

    Violets last blog post..One Year

  • Pseudo, I hate my teeth too! Jan’s post is hysterical. I think many of us can relate to the “Act of Congress” part. I just hate having my picture taken. Tricia, living with a photographer makes it pretty hard to hide from oneself. I think it’s great, although I’m happy to be able to hide.

    Lisa Ps last blog post..Who Done It? The Beautiful Like Me Project

  • I know exactly why there are no recent picture of me. I too am quite happy to hide.
    I feel exactly the same as the rest of you. But you know…even if we were the perfect weight…the perfect age etc. I bet we would still look in the mirror and still see every flaw.

    You know Jan…I really hadn’t thought of it that way. You are right.

    Monicas last blog post..Spring is fading….

  • I am definitely the one who most strongly influences how I feel about myself. That may not have been the case when I was 12, but it has been for my entire adult life.

    Twenty Four At Hearts last blog post..When A Real Housewife Spends Time With a Real Housewife

  • I also avoid the pictures but it is so unfair to our family! Great post!

    Amy @ Five Flower Moms last blog post..Beautiful Like Me: Me & More Questions

  • donna

    I am working on my self image and belive it or nor the two people that make me see myself in a different way (actually there are 4 people) are my two very good friends John and Trae, my accupunture Lou and my shrink Danit. So thank you to all of them. I also am very over weight and use it to hide myself. Iknow it doesn’t work but that is the way I feel. I am a work in progresse. John and Trae make me feel beautiful. I love thoese guys. The chin hairs however Tricia are something that you will have to live with. “You are welcome.” I pluck every day. The gray hair I have earned every one of them and proud of it.Just learn to love yourself and not the mirror.
    XOXOX

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