On Body Image and Radical Self Love

On The Word “Beauty”

Wes actually slept through the night last night for the first time since his accident and that means that I slept through the night too! I’m hoping this is a sing of general improvement and that I’ll eventually stop feeling so exhausted (I’m still sleeping on his floor, albeit on actual mattresses now which helps) and therefor stop having to fight off tears every 5 minutes throughout my life.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “beauty” lately. In my journey to accepting my body and loving my body, I’ve been trying to – essentially – redefine beauty to include my body in whatever form it takes. I’ve alway been able to see beauty in other bodies of different shapes and sizes, I’ve never been so warped by our media and our beauty industry that I can’t see beauty in others. It has always just affected how I see myself, which was almost more frustrating. I could see a woman 100lbs heavier and say, “Yeah…but she’s not ugly like me because [insert random quality here that I would give anyone other than myself that would allow me to see them as beautiful.]”

Sometimes it would be because they’re successful or confident or maybe they have a beautiful face or great hair or maybe the shape of their body is different or maybe they are better at dressing their body. Either way, I would see everyone else in the world as “beautiful” but not myself.

I’ve mentioned before that I had to spend a lot of hours reprogramming my brain and actually looking in the mirror and saying, “Kim, you are beautiful,” even if I didn’t actually believe it. And eventually, I started believing it.

But recently a friend was talking about how “beauty” shouldn’t even be a necessity or a goal to achieve and I realized that maybe what I had been doing was redefining beauty for myself. Because I was always able to see non-traditionally “pretty” girls as beautiful. I heard an interview with Roxanne Gay once who said that while she loved the body positivity movement, she felt like it really only worked for “Lane Bryant Fat” women as opposed to women like her and I remember honestly thinking, “I understand living in a very large body would be difficult – especially for a woman of color – but she’s definitely prettier than me even with the extra 200lbs.”

So, yes, traditional beauty and being able to fit into some sort of magazine cover style of pretty should not be anyone’s standard. But I really think learning to see myself as “beautiful” meant redefining beauty for myself in the same way I already did it for every other woman around me. I honestly saw beauty in every woman I knew but myself. EVERYONE. I think that’s what finally helped me see how twisted my own self-image was because I was frustrated with a friend who kept insulting herself and then I realized how I literally never looked at anyone with critical eyes BUT MYSELF. If I know you? I see you as beautiful. Period. The only people I ever found myself thinking were “ugly” were ALL related to terrible personalities. And this is not just me saying the thing I’m supposed to say, this is 100% true.

So I was sitting there that day and realizing how generous I was with my friends and with people I admire, how I saw them all as truly beautiful and pretty in every way. And I thought, “Well, besides myself, is there anyone else I think of as ugly?” And y’all? The first person who popped into my head was a young Fox news commentator who says very ugly things very often. Now, she is VERY TRADITIONALLY beautiful but that day, when I was really trying to see how I defined “ugly” it was ME and the girl who compared Black Lives Matter to the KKK.

While it was good to see that my views of beauty were very – well – beautiful naturally and hadn’t been distorted by Hollywood and the beauty industry, it was very depressing that this generosity applied to literally everyone but myself.

So a lot of my journey has been applying my own beauty standards to myself. BUT! My friend has a point and not everyone has such generous definitions of beauty. Hollywood still doesn’t cast wrinkly women in middle-aged roles, magazines are still 90% covered with women with women with less than 15% body fat, makeup brands are still photoshopping their models. So, is beauty the right word to use anymore? When I talk about learning to see beauty when I look in the mirror, does the majority of the world still define “beauty” in the traditional sense or am I pushing for a bigger and better definition of the word “beauty”?

I definitely don’t want “cosmetic industry defined beauty” to be any sort necessary “goal” for myself or the body positivity movement or women in general. We should love ourselves for more than just our appearance FOR SURE, but in my head “beauty” is more than just some sort of media-defined package of external appearance. I’ve always been able to see beauty as a bigger and broader feeling of energy and love and kindness that surrounds a body, at least in everyone but myself. But is that rare? Is the word “beauty” too — triggering? For lack of a better word?

What are your thoughts on using the word “beauty” in relation to self-love? Do you think the connotations of the word in today’s twisted world of celebrity plastic surgery and personal trainers and photoshop are too much to reclaim in any real way? What is a better way to talk about self-love when we look in the mirror if the word “beauty” is too limiting?

And on topic, I’m going to end this post with photos from my most recent 5K trail race where I stripped off my shirt a mile in. I’m pretty sure my daughter was MORTIFIED but I was so VERY VERY VERY proud of myself for making it a solo Sports Bra Squad run, something I never would have done 30lbs ago. IT IS TOO DAMN HOT IN ALABAMA TO RACE IN A SHIRT!

3 thoughts on “On The Word “Beauty””

  1. I’ve thought a lot about this subject too. My body has seen better days, but I eat healthfully and in time I know it will come around. I’m not thrilled with my extra curves, but I refuse to see my body as anything but marvelous! After all, I see all it has been through, and like a Timex watch, it has taken a lickin’ and kept on tickin’!
    Likewise, five years ago I had cancer on my nose. Most of the right part of my nose bridge was taken, leaving me with a rather hideous scar. After 5 plastic surgeries, I still felt I was ugly. But the fact was, I look pretty darn good. But my head told me differently until I started to reprogram my mind.
    I’m alive! No more cancer! and I am beautiful!

  2. It’s crazy how we judge our own selves harsher than others. I think it’s absolutely amazing that you stripped off your shirt and ran in your sports bra because you are right about that heat! I want to have the confidence in myself to do the same thing!

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