It's Time to Redefine Beauty, Especially Within Our Own Hearts
We live in a society obsessed with beauty. This is hardly a revelation and I think most people, male and female, are aware of it as fact. We try to act like we don’t care, but the truth is, most of us are very conscious (at times, self- conscious) about our looks. I have suffered from self-esteem issues since I was a very little girl. My sisters, one older and one younger, are both beautiful girls and I always felt like I never quite measured up. They were slim and looked like each other, where I was thick and more athletic in my build. I wasn’t heavier necessarily, just different. Compared to them, though, I felt huge. I look at pictures now and think “What on earth were you thinking? You are so not fat…” but if you could talk to 12 year-old me, I am sure I would say so. I once found a letter written by my Mom to my Grandma. In it, she made the statement “Tracy thinks she is fat”. I was eight when that letter was written. Eight. I shouldn’t have even been aware of what that means, let alone obsessed about it personally.
I’m not sure where this idea originated from, I just know that all my life, I have felt “less than”. I remember my Father telling me in high school “You’re always going to be one of those people who has to watch their weight”. I took that offhanded comment straight into my heart and made it absolute truth. As far as I was concerned, there was an obese person just waiting to get out and in my 30’s and 40’s, that became a self-fulfilling prophesy. We really are what we think and in my case, I thought I was fat until I became so. I compensated by being funny and was the Queen of self-deprecating humor. I quickly pointed out my flaws so no one else would have to. When I look back at those images, all I see is someone really, really sad. Yet, my children who were my constant companions back in those days, tell me they never remember me as “fat”. My daughter, Katelynn, said “I remember you being constantly busy, always working and laughing a lot, but never fat”. How is that possible? She’s seen me, right? Perhaps, it just didn’t matter to them because they love me. There’s a thought.
I have lost weight, gained weight, had long hair, short hair, great clothes, not-so-great clothes and everything in between. I will admit that there have been times I have not seen friends from high school because I didn’t want them to see how much weight I had put on. So, I neglected friendships and let people go, simply because I was ashamed of how I looked. I am embarrassed to admit that even as I write the words, but there it is. I went through a serious “selfie phase” after my divorce, desperately trying to see myself in a different light. I was finally learning to love myself and it’s the only time in my life I actually wanted a picture taken. I have received kind and generous compliments from friends and loved ones, but you know what I’m honestly thinking? “I just take good pictures”. Someone told me a few years ago that I “didn’t look anything like my pictures and would be accused of false advertising” out in the dating world. That comment cut me to the quick and again, I took it straight to heart. My logical self knows the person that said this was just being mean-spirited, but my other self says “Yep! She’s right, you big, fat faker!” To this day, I feel like I don’t look like my pictures and should have some sort of disclaimer on my website and social media pages. “Warning! Real life Tracy is going to be underwhelming and disappointing, so take this picture with a grain of salt!” It’s messed up in so many ways and yet, I know my strength lies in my transparency, so I’m telling it like it is. The truth is, I don’t think I’m alone out here. I think there are a lot of us, fighting the same twisted dialogues.
I have done so much work on my soul-self, trying to relinquish this crippling sense that somehow, my worth is tied to my looks. I have untangled a lot of knots, but some remain. At 50, the situation is hardly going to get “better”. All the skin care regimens, beauty aids, and interventions the world tries to sell us are not going to stop time. Eventually, age comes for us all and I want to age gracefully, or at least as gracefully as I can. Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to what beauty actually is. You can’t ask society, because that opinion is going to change like the wind. Different cultures have different views, so it’s all relative anyway. So what is it about me that could be considered beautiful? Well, I’m nice to people, I can say that. I try very hard to see the good in everyone; to convey to them that they matter, at least to me. I’m resilient, too, in more ways than most will ever know. I have perfected the art of “getting back up”, even when it’s taken a minute. I love my children and grandchildren and they know it, without question. I’m very proud of that and know it’s my greatest legacy. I am smart and am usually pretty astute. I can read a room and adjust my behavior accordingly. I am loyal, too. You can’t discount that. So, in the end, there are few things about me that can be considered beautiful and none of them have anything to do with the outward appearance.
It's time to redefine beauty, especially within our own hearts. To the girl reading this that thinks she’s too fat to be considered sexy, I say “Nonsense, my dear one. You are worthy to be loved and have a smile that lights up the room!” To the man who wishes he were taller and had more hair, I say “Look at what a great partner you are! Your very presence inspires calm and a feeling of safety!” To the old woman missing her youth, I say “Come sit by me and share your wisdom! You have so much to teach me”. There is something beautiful hidden is each of us just waiting to be discovered. We just have to redefine what beauty actually is. Be strong, friends, and dig deep; all the way to your soul and the very essence of who you are. I see you! You are so very beautiful .