Being blind due to double retinal detachment for three months made it impossible for me to see the image reflected back to me from the mirror. All my beauty needs were taken care of by my sisters and nieces; helping me bathe, wash comb, and French braid my hair to keep it out of my face while I sat face-down all day to regulate the pressure in my eyes. I admit that it was great to be nurtured.
Up until the age of 10 I never thought about my looks. All my thoughts focused on fun, adventure and how to master the sport of the season and proving to the boys that I could do anything they did. All that changed with puberty and my first boy crush. This obsession with my looks lead to a short period of anorexia and bulimia, and exercise obsession with the goal to be as skinny or as small as possible. This was the message …to be loved I had to be skinny. Not much has changed in our culture; amped up by the dark side of social media, women are left feeling like we will never measure up – or should I say down.
In my adult life I’ve experienced the feeling of accepting my body, for the first time, during the miracle of pregnancy. The second time, while training for a pole dance competition, as I was strong in a bad ass way. And the third while long distance backpacking with no mirror in site; covered in sweat and dirt, not showering for weeks, chin hair on full display and eyebrows gone wild. I did not think about my looks as I was focusing outward on the beauty that surrounded me.
As the gas bubbles inserted in my eyes to heal my retinas slowly dissipated and my warped and blurred face came into view I noticed my inner dialogue was not critical, but so grateful to be seeing again. I was excited, and in that moment made a commitment to appreciate my reflection in the mirror no matter what. I thought about all the time, energy and money I spent trying to “fix” myself so would look like the supermodel image we get inundated with everywhere we look. Not seeing what was really right in front of my eyes…a woman with her very own unique beauty that comes not only from the surface but a light shining from the inside out.
I recall the day I meet Elle McPhearson on the set of the Sports Illustrated Super Shape Up program. I was getting my makeup done and was so excited and nervous about the filming. She walked in, a glorious beautiful woman, not a stitch of makeup – a natural beauty. The first thing she said to the makeup artist was “wake me up when you’re done. I can’t stand to look at myself”! I was shocked. Right in front of my eyes was the supermodel of my generation, the woman we all wanted to be, and even she couldn’t look in the mirror. I said to her, “how can you say that? And what hope is there for the rest of us?” Her response was “in this business there is always someone younger and someone prettier and so much competition it makes me feel insecure.”
Now I have the answer to the question. The hope for all of us is to take a break from the mirror and the selfie obsession. We should take our power back and decide for ourselves what true beauty means.
Remember, what you see has more to do with what’s behind your eyes then in front of them. So let’s fast from how the world wants us to see ourselves and instead spend time working on activities that will change our self-perception; work out to be strong instead of thin, eat real food to have energy, use social media as a tool for social justice, and educate ourselves by studying things of interest. Get outside and enjoy the beautiful view of Mother Nature in all her imperfect perfection. Spend a day without looking in the mirror…maybe even a month in the back country to cure ourselves for good.