Beauty and the Beast of Self-Loathing
Updated: Jan 25
I'm just going to say it - I hate my stomach.
After three beautiful, healthy babies, it has been stretched to capacity and back in such a way that it will never recover (not without surgery anyway). Relatively happy with the rest of my body, my stomach makes me want to cringe and I am ruthlessly hard on myself about it. I'm not going to lie...I miss my youthful abs, rock-hard and muscular. At 18, I was fearless in a swimsuit and totally self-confident in low-rise jeans. That girl hasn't been around since 1995, when baby number three ensured those days were gone for good. I have tried everything. Weight loss, exercise, and a very expensive series of wraps that amounted to being rolled in Saran Wrap, propped in a chair and left to gasp for air like a fish on dry land. After two days, I was right back to square (or should I say roll) one. My personal trainer's stellar advice? "Some things you just have to live with and be grateful for your good health".
Yeah, ok, 25 year-old human Ken doll with the perfect body and ultra white teeth. You can go now.
In a fit of desperation fueled by vanity and self-pity, I consulted with a Plastic Surgeon.Given the situation, we weren't talking about a mere nip and tuck. It was going to be full blown abdominoplasty, which is major surgery. There are risks involved that would make any reasonable person pause like a deer in the headlights. Besides, that shit's expensive! Right around ten grand's worth, if you're wondering, not to mention the time off work, etc .In the end, I couldn't justify the risk or expense, so I didn't go that route. So, here I am, massively self-conscious about something I can't control and doesn't really matter in the big scheme of things. No one else seems to care, but it still bothers me... a lot. My "lingerie" consists of a series of tank tops that leave out all the important parts, but covers the tummy that I wish away on a daily basis. It's ludicrous, but I'm not alone in the abyss. Lots of women live here and none of us seem to be too happy.
One of my friends hates her lips. The only thing that keeps her from permanently altering her face is her paralyzing fear of needles. So, as an alternative, she has tried the craziest stuff I have ever heard of in the name of "plumping things up". She once mixed Epsom salt and lime juice in a shot glass, scrubbed the hide off her poor lips and then - and I'm not making this up - rubbed Tabasco sauce into them. They did, in fact, plump up...to roughly three times their normal size! When she showed me the pictures, I thought she had been stung in the mouth by a swarm of killer bees. I know I only made things worse by laughing, but I couldn't help it! I just couldn't believe she did it! She looked at me and deadpanned "This coming from the girl who wrapped herself like a baked potato until she passed out". Then she started crying and said I couldn't possibly understand because I have great lips. I was speechless. Here's the kicker: this friend is drop-dead gorgeous. Perfect skin, Playboy Bunny body and legs up to her armpits. Yet, she obsesses about her lips.
The things we don't like about our bodies are endless. We are incredibly hard on ourselves and do insane things in the name of beauty; ripping hair off of our bodies in places that would make Superman weep like a sissified pansy; painting on our eyebrows, contouring our faces, putting bleach in places bleach was never meant to go. And for what? To look like the women in the magazines? They don't even look like that - not in real life! Those airbrushed, cropped and pieced-together photographs are nothing more than optical illusions used to sell products. That's it. On some level, we all know this, but our cabinets and bathroom drawers are graveyards of eye wrinkle creams and fillers that didn't quite deliver the 15 years ago we were hoping for. It's endless, depressing and pointless, but we still battle it out, trying to gain ground in a war that time is ultimately going to win anyway.
The most beautiful woman I know is about 40 pounds overweight. She has crazy curly hair that grows like a Chia Pet in the humidity. She has crow's feet and smile lines, but the way her husband looks at her makes me blush. They've been married almost 20 years, but he still lusts after her like a teenage boy - and she knows it. Her quiet beauty comes from a place I hope to find one day ~ total and complete self-acceptance. She's not perfect, nor does she care to be. She thinks she's beautiful because she has her Mother's eyes; she likes her hands because they produce the most beautiful gardens in the county; she enjoys her curls because they give her the excuse to never comb her hair. If she has insecurities, she never shows them, which gives her an air of calm that is both soothing and empowering. That's a gift to oneself that money can't buy, not now and not ever.
In the end, if I decide to have Plastic Surgery, no one will judge me for it. Lots of people do and feel empowered and beautiful because of it. I'm happy for them and admire their dedication to live their best lives. I will never stop trying to be the best version of myself I can be. This will always be true. But maybe it's time we give ourselves a break; to spend more time developing our inner beauty instead of obsessing about the outward things that don't really define us anyway. Instead of bemoaning the loss of my flat little tummy, maybe I'll spend more time being grateful for the kids who not only left their mark on my flesh, but my heart as well. Maybe I'll ditch the tank tops and just let my man love me, imperfections and all. And the next time the woman in the mirror tells me my beauty doesn't quite measure up, maybe I'll just tell that hateful heifer to sit down and shut up for once. Now that will be a beautiful moment.