April 18, 2013

Real Beauty: hard to watch

You've probably seen this already. It was all over my Facebook feed. Friends and cousins and every other woman posting it and commenting on how touching it was and how much they wanted the women in their lives to know that they are beautiful.

It was hard for me to watch. Like many of my friends I cried when I watched it, too, but I also felt incredibly awkward and uncomfortable.

I thought about how I would describe myself, what words I would have given to the artist. Of course I didn't have to think very hard or long. They are all right there, at the forefront of my mind and on the tip of my tongue because I think them every time I do my make-up, pass a mirror, or open the door to leave my home and go into public.

big, pale forehead
wide, rounded nose
medium sized eyes that are "hooded"
crooked teeth
full, pudgy face - fat like the rest of me
small dimples on the cheeks
hair that's probably inappropriately long for my age and in bad need of a trim
some acne

I am in this terrible rut where I do not like how I look and how long I've looked this way. It's embarrassing, really. I feel embarrassed. As I meet new people I want to take them back in time to the Bonnie who happily wore a size M. Who had strong legs, a thin face, and perfectly sized c-cup breasts. "See! I didn't always look like this... most of my life, yes, but there was a time when I lost 50lbs and I kept it off for 6 years. Six years! It wasn't a fluke!"

My kids will sometimes get a hold of my camera and take random pictures. Later I'll see shots of me giving T a bottle, typing on the computer, walking through the living room, fixing a meal. These pictures are always unflattering but I think the reality is that when picture after picture after picture is bad then it's not really the picture that looks bad - it's me. I'm sure there is a huge difference in what I see in the pictures and what my kids see but, well, I guess it just is what it is.

I know the message of the video is powerful and so I showed the it to my husband, who was also impressed by it. "You should show it to your students," I told him. "I should," he said. It doesn't really fit into any chemistry or physics lesson plans but imagine how powerful it could be to classrooms of high school boys and girls.

But me, I don't want to watch it again. What they are stating is obviously true, but it's a truth I can't hear right now. For some reason it is just much too painful.


  1. I really think sometimes that the hardest thing about motherhood is that you lose all control over your body and have to undergo drastic changes to it. I grew up usually liking how I looked, but accepting by postpartum and pregnant body have been a real challenge for me...

  2. But but but...I've met you and I think you're beautiful! And I'm not just saying that to try to make you feel better. I hate that you can't see how lovely you are, cutie pie!

  3. I was creeped out when I read about this on Facebook, but for a totally different reason. This was made by a beauty products company that makes money based on it being important that you feel beautiful. But what could be less important than that? Beauty is a fleeting, silly thing. And the LAST thing we should be emphasizing to our daughters.

    I have a friend who covered up all the mirrors in the kids' part of the house once her daughters got to be high school age. I think it's a terrific idea and reserve the right to do that in my house if it seems to me that my daughters are thinking about beauty at all.

    The lesson, if any, that I take from that video (other than that they are trying to sell me soap) is that other people love me. My husband and kids and apparently perfect strangers all don't have any problem with how I look. And honestly my kids probably NEVER waste a thought on it it all. So why should I?

  4. Kendra, God bless you. You are a strong woman. You are fortunate that you are able to place more important things in your life above your appearance. Unfortunately, for most woman this is not the case. We talked about this video in one of my eating disorder classes this week. We were talking about how so many woman feel like they have to "live with" feeling like they are disgusting and fat forever. It is very sad. So many women base their successes in life based on their appearance. "I would be a better mother if I were thinner... I need to lose weight before I apply for that job, or else I probably won't get it..." Because of the the society we live in, which tells us that beauty equals happiness and success, it is hard not to automatically feel bad about ourselves. I know that dove is trying to sell a product, but because of their approach and their real beauty campaigns, and the fact that they show women of all sizes..I buy their products. I liked this video. Some women need to see how others perceive them before they can start beginning to feel more beautiful themselves. These types of exercises are done in eating disorder treatment and it can be very powerful for women. This video is very eye opening. It is sad that so many women see themselves in such negative ways.

  5. thanks bonnie, i hadn't seen it. i worked in the cosmetics/esthetics industry for 10 years, so i used to spend a lot of time on how i looked. now, as a wife and mom of almost 4, i don't have the time to spend mulling over products and worrying about every flaw. i find it kind of refreshing to only wear a few products, and show my real skin. if i were a participant of the exercise above, i'm not sure my portraits would match either. i can't think of a time when i've ever described myself like that.

  6. I am in complete agreement with Michele. My postpartum body is one I am having such a hard time accepting, even though intellectually, I know it is worth it. If Dove had asked me before children, and then again after children, to do this experiment, my portraits would be completely different.

    I feel that same shame/embarrassment much of the time. However, I also must keep reminding myself that beauty is a sign of the True and the Good. It isn't bad to be concerned with beauty (I think what Kendra is really referring to is vanity) as long as it is seen in light of the True and the Good. When I look at myself and think, "oh, I'm so fat here" or "these stretch marks will never go away" or "I'm just never going to look like that again," I have to remember that something incredibly good and true (my children) came from my body, and so, it cannot be ugly in God's eyes. Easier said, than done. I know.

  7. This is what I know…A beautiful woman whose lipstick red smile shows me welcome and love when I stop in for a visit. A woman who I initially discovered at the beginning of Advent 2012 and was kicking off a little ~not~ thing called the Advent Series. I was in awe of a devout wife and mother, whose faith I could see shining through the words on the screen, an inspiration to someone at the beginning of a magnificent growth spurt of her own faith journey.
    Bonnie, your beauty shines through always, the physical is what the world sees (and the world really doesn’t have a grasp on truth) but you, the true you, is what you put here for all of us and it is what your children, your husband, and the people who love you see. The fact that your physical body is in the process of nurturing and growing a human being only makes you that much more beautiful. You are real beauty.

  8. Bonnie,I want to give you a virtual hug. To be completely honest, I haven't even watched the video because I feel like no matter how "true" it is, it's still a form of manipulation. I know I should watch it to verify or deny, but I haven't been able to stomach it yet.

    Just yesterday I broke down in tears when my jeans didn't fit. I really hate how I look these days. One thing that is helping is the book Weightless by Kate Wicker. It's really lovely.

  9. I know that so many people are going to write in with words of encouragement and that my words (from a stranger!) won't mean much, but I feel compelled to write anyway. I had the same feelings as you. I literally cannot lose weight right now because my breastfeeding hinges on eat enough calories. So I'm in the same boat you are :P But I'd like to say that you are beautiful. The person that you are shines through and every picture you post shows a strong, loving, and godly woman. Describing you, I think of your rosy cheeks, your warm smile, cute nose, and sparkling eyes. I wish I could tell you not to be so hard on yourself, but I know. I know that's impossible sometimes. Just know that people don't see what you see about yourslef! And hopefully I can take that same message away from this video!

  10. Bonnie,
    I respect how you feel and totally understand the honesty you share here...however as one who knows you through your words and the scattered photos you post, I have to say that I see a woman who is faithful, loves her children and her husband unfailingly and who is warm and welcoming and witty.
    And one who spreads the Word using God's gifts of all the above.
    I HEAR you on the photos kids take; I so hear you. I know.

    Love xoxoxo

  11. Have you seen this post? I think she makes a lot of good points and I actually wouldn't recommend showing the clip to students because I think it still gives the impression that our appearance is everything:

    Whenever I'm feeling envious of another woman's beauty, I try to remember that God must have known what he was doing when he made each of us and that in fact the fantastic husband I have was attracted to natural-looking me.
    All the best!

  12. I have struggled with this too. I was raised with horrible self image although I was actually very thin back then. I was able to accept my body better after having a baby but as I've gotten more involved in mom groups, it has gotten harder than ever. It is embarassing to hear other moms at church talking about appearances, clothes, hair and knowing you fit the description of fat frumpy mom perfectly.

  13. Bonnie,

    I second every statement above about the beautiful person you are, inside and out. I also know that there are times when none of those affirmations make a woman feel better; when your 'jeans don't fit' or (fill in the blank).

    In my pre-children life, I went through a period when I was a fitness junkie. I looked and felt great. Other women at the gym (who were pretty and thin and you wouldn't guess had self image issues) asked me for diet and exercise advise, telling me of their 'struggles' to get into shape. What I learned from this was that EVERY woman is burdened with some degree of self loathing no matter how 'pretty' she is.

    What THEY didn't know was that I was burdened with keeping it up so I could feel good enough. If I came home to find my husband making pizza, I would burst into tears because I had already had my limit of 10 fat grams for the day. It was an addiction, which is always an escape from something.

    Fortunately, during that time I went through a treatment program for adult children of alcoholics. I heard for the first time that I had value and worth just by virtue of being brought into creation. This program was also the starting point of my personal catechesis (a another story). When I became pregnant for the first time and was told I would have to stop working out due to a compromised cervix, I rejoiced. I was so tired of the grind; so tired of serving the god of my own image.

    My point is that each woman struggles with a demon that will destroy her inner peace, and our innate desire to be pretty is his opportunity. When our inner peace is disturbed, God cannot act in us the way he intends or the way we need.

    So what is a woman to do? Yes, we have God given value and are beautiful, yada, yada, yada. For better or worse, we still equate being pretty with being thin. But we also know that if we are not overweight, we physically feel better as well, and when we feel better we can serve God more effectively, which in turn makes us feel even better!

    Find a way to address any emotional/spiritual issues you have. In 12 step programs people make a 5th step where they tell another trusted person EVERYTHING they have done in their life and that was done TO them. Getting all that out and having the other person affirm you despite all the ugliness, is powerful healing. This could be done as a comprehensive confession with a spiritual director, but could be with a friend.

    Then...eating right and getting some exercise is a habit, just like prayer. And hear me now; I struggle with all three (I should mention that my current physique no longer prompts women to ask me for diet/exercise advise, and that I leap for joy when I find my husband making pizza...and it shows). You KNOW what to do, it's just a matter of starting and making it a habit. I feel so much better if I start my day with morning prayer. I also feel better if I get in some movement, stay away from junk food, and don't overeat. These habits will also benefit your family, the same way they benefit when they see you practice your faith.

    I hope this didn't sound preachy, because I struggle with these issues EVERY DAY. You truly are pretty, and you deserve to FEEL that way.

  14. I had bad feelings about my looks for years. . but recently my 17 yo daughter shared something with me that has changed my outlook. .she said that when she was younger and was sick, she used to think about my smile and she felt better. My smile! I don't even know how much I smiled back then (I wouldn't have thought I smiled very often, with my kids all little and homeschooling and all. . )but I am conscious of my smile now and when my little guy wants to take my picture with his DS, I let him. .as often as he likes. . we moms don't realize how much we are loved. .

  15. Along with everything else left said, I want to add that photography is an art and that being photogenic =/= beauty. So when your kids are snapping photos of you from odd angles at improper camera settings, they're not capturing you any more than a carnival funhouse mirror.