I am both a little girl and a grown woman who is simultaneously ashamed to think of herself as beautiful, yet ready to be bold and unapologetic within the world.
I'm going to go ahead and drop any worry about sounding totally arrogant in this blog post. Those of you who know me know that I am not all that concerned with how I look. I mean, I am concerned about it but I'm not a fashion girl. I don't like to shop. I have never cared to "do" my hair or been into make up. My cousin used to chase me around with a curling iron when we were kids. I was just never that interested.
To be clear, in the past, I haven't always liked what I saw in the mirror or, to be more accurate, what I saw in the mirror didn't always correlate with how I felt on the inside. I was scouted for modeling at 16. I was tall slender and "had a good forehead and bone structure", whatever the hell that means. I knew that I must be pretty or I wouldn't have been approached by the photographer or signed by the agency.
When I looked in the mirror, I saw a beautiful girl. When I wasn't in front of the mirror, I felt too skinny in most places and fat where I shouldn't be. None of the in style clothes fit me right because of my long ass legs and torso. My size ten feet felt like boats in relation to my toothpick legs. I felt tense when a camera would point in my direction and my left arm locked up in nervous rebellion when I would walk down a runway. In short: I was not a very good fashion model because I didn't FEEL beautiful. I felt awkward and out of place.
I could say that I felt that way in just about every situation. I never felt very comfortable in my own skin and I always had social anxiety and hated being put on the spot. (Why I ever thought I would be a good model is a mystery to me.)
But on a deeper level, I had the worry: Is it even ok to like what I see in the mirror?
If I do, does that make me egotistic and full of myself? Even when I saw the pretty girl in the mirror and noticed that she was indeed pretty, I immediately felt ugly for having the thought and would put myself down for thinking arrogantly. I had self-love guilt, like I didn't have the right to feel good about myself.
This is the dichotomy that women live with. There is pressure to be beautiful, but if we think we're beautiful, we're stuck up bitches. WTF?
This is an interesting time to be a woman. I feel as thought we are in the middle of a great shift in how women move within the world. We are aware that we have been putting up with sexist behaviors that have been tolerated as the norm within our culture, and the #metoo movement is giving us braver voices. I'm also aware that this particular "time to be a woman" actually began back in 1848 when the first meeting of suffragists occurred in Seneca Falls, New York.
I would like to propose that we are not part of a new movement, but the continuation of a movement that began 171 years ago. We are the latest rebellion of women who maybe have been a bit in denial within our own movement, about how much progress had actually been made. Or maybe we were just plain tired of the fight. Or perhaps after joining the workforce, yet still retaining the bulk of homemaking responsibilities, we were just simply exhausted in a general sense. Whatever the reason, it seems possible that we thought we had come further than we actually had.
Maybe rebellions such as ours come in waves with periods of rest in between. I don't know. What I do know is that the fire has definitely been sparked, once again, and like most of the women I know, no matter their age, a psychic change has occurred, and things will never be the same. I know that my thinking on these matters today is vastly different than the way I thought on this same day, a year ago. Once I saw, I couldn't un-see.
Picture this: I got out of the shower yesterday and pulled on my daily work uniform of yoga pants, long sleeved t-shirt, and baggy hoody (fancy, I know). I brushed my hair and my teeth and stood back to look at myself in the bathroom mirror. I immediately liked what I saw. Immediately after that, I felt guilty.
But there was a change. Instead of clicking the light off and slinking away from the mirror in shame, I said forcefully and out loud, "JUST LOVE YOURSELF ALREADY. YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO." And just like that, the spell was broken.
It was my enlightened adult self speaking to my ashamed child self, who had only known one story: you don't have a right to feel beautiful. That's not my story anymore. As the infinitely wise Lady Gaga once said:
Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Frankly, I think I finally just got tired of feeling bad about myself due to being afraid of feeling good about myself. I am who I am. I am what I am. I do what I do because of why I do it and really, I don't need to explain myself to anyone, except myself. I understand my need to feel good within my own skin. I understand my want to live as a humble person. I guess I never thought those two things could go together but I now realize that they can, one hundred percent.
Thanks to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Lady Gaga, Tarana Burke, Daisy Coleman, Alice Stone Blackwell, Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinem and countless other amazingly strong and revolutionary women, we are where we are. We have a right and more importantly, a responsibility to continue to stand up. ALSO, we can be fabulous, both inside and out. All of us. Always.
This is my new story. I feel myself settling into my skin in a new way. I feel insecurity doesn't have a strong hold on me anymore. I see my current art as processing this juxtaposition of beauty and the challenges that come right along side of wanting to also feel beautiful. The complicated, gorgeous, vulnerable, scared, sometimes shy, sometimes outspoken woman who is standing in front of the mirror, asking for...no...demanding love from herself.
The photo above is a work in progress that for now, I am calling, "A Lovely Mess".
I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes. To hear from me more regularly, join me on this crazy, beautiful Artventure.