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You’re Beautiful

The ChickieNob needed new clothes, so I took her to the mall one night and told her that she could choose whatever she liked provided that it fit into the budget I had in mind and that I deemed it appropriate for her age. For instance, she wants a pair of steel-toed combat boots, but I told her that I wasn’t shelling out $100 for shoes she would wear all of one year. And while she has never asked for one, I would nix the black and white string bikini we saw last year in a size 5T.

So she picked out a bunch of outfits and took them to the dressing room. And then she slipped into each one and stood in front of the mirror, marveling at herself. “I look so beautiful! I look amazing.”

I ended up buying her everything because (1) it did look great — the girl has an amazing sense of style and (2) how can you not feed that self-esteem right now knowing how much it’s going to be damaged by life down the line. I mean, how many of us stand in front of the mirror and say with pure excitement, “I look so beautiful!” I am more likely to say, “wow, this isn’t half-bad” or “okay, this pair of pants doesn’t make me look too much like crap.”

I literally can’t remember the last time I tried on an outfit, looked in a mirror, and was amazed to see myself. To want to look at myself all day long because I thought I looked hot. Outfits that I was pleased with: certainly. But gazing at myself with the admiration I saw on the ChickieNob’s face: not in a long time.

Is it inevitable? That we get so accustomed to looking at ourselves that we get bored with ourselves? That youthful shopping trips are the equivalent of a new relationship? Of course everything is exciting — picking out your own outfits is new. It’s thrilling! It’s empowering! It makes you feel good! And then, like any relationship, we get used to it and we start picking it apart instead of just grinning at ourselves in the mirror. We start looking at clothing shopping as a chore — finding something that looks good that fits in a budget that is appropriate for the situation — vs. looking at it like an adventure, a sea of possibilities.

All I know is that I had this idea to take out the Flip camera and film her dancing in front of the mirror. The idea would be to show it to her later on, when she is starting to get down on her body. I’d remind her how much she loved herself back then. But then I thought about if it would change me to see myself gleefully loving my body, and I realized it wouldn’t. I did love my body like that; ask my parents to take pictures of me in outfits I loved with their Polaroid camera so I could instantly see the photograph and put it in my picture album (and now I mortify myself by adding those pictures to my blog post). I have those pictures and I looked at them to write this post, and it didn’t change the way I feel about my body one bit. Yes, I can guilt myself into feeling something different, but thoughts that stem from guilt are rarely lasting or even truthful.

I tried to think of the last time I looked at myself in the mirror and thought I was gorgeous, exquisite enough to be captured in a photograph. There was my wedding and the honeymoon afterward, when I felt good about my body. I was running daily and was at a good weight for my frame. I knew I was loved, and I had seen Josh’s face when I walked down the aisle, and that probably confirmed the good feelings I was already experiencing about myself.

That was probably the last time I asked Josh to take a picture of me because I wanted to remember how I looked in a moment; because I felt good about how I looked. There are pictures of me with the twins in my belly, and I felt gorgeous then, but it wasn’t about me, per se. It was about them. So I would have to say that my wedding, 10 years ago, was the last time I gasped when I looked in the mirror and wanted to gaze at myself for a while.

When was the last time you felt that way about your body or how you looked? Is there any way to hold onto that excitement from childhood when you thought you looked fantastic?

Part of me thinks that I need to send myself to the mall with the understanding that I’m not going to leave it until I have found something that makes me look at myself in the mirror like that. I don’t have to buy it, but I have to find an outfit that makes me want someone to take a picture of me in it to capture the moment. Though it would only count, only be meaningful, if I really meant it. Until I’m in that moment, I can’t tell (as I write this in the kitchen) if I’ll really mean it.


1 Mo { 02.01.12 at 7:46 am }

I too haven’t felt good about myself in a quite a long time. I think it’s a great idea for you to go to the mall and do that for yourself.
I get why you didn’t take those pics of ChickieNob, but I do have a bit of a suggestion: When she does, inevitably, unfortunately start feeling bad about herself – that would be the time to take pictures. I know that seems counterproductive but here’s my reasoning from personal experience: I felt fat all through high school. Especially in 10th and 11th grade. I barely let anyone take my picture, I hated everything about myself. My mother did manage to snap a couple of pics of me during those two years. A few years later, I think around age 20, I saw those pictures again. I was actually gorgeous at that age. My figure was perfect, there was absolutely nothing wrong with my body. I could only see that with objective hindsight, and it gave me a lot of insight into how I perceive myself and how my own self image can be completely at odds with what I really am. I think it’s a worthwhile exercise for everyone to attempt, especially girls who are in the middle of building their self esteem.
Does that make any sense at all?

2 jodifur { 02.01.12 at 8:04 am }

I struggle with weight and body images too, but you deserve clothes you look and feel good in. Call nordstrom personal shopping services. It is free. And while the clothes may be expensive, buy one or two classic pieces that make you feel amazing. Go buy yourself, or take someone you trust. I actually adore shopping by myself. It is the only way I like to shop.

And Melissa, you are gorgeous.

3 HereWeGoAJen { 02.01.12 at 8:06 am }

I usually think I look pretty good. And I get excited when I find something new that I really like, but I rarely let myself shop for myself anymore.

4 Chickenpig { 02.01.12 at 8:51 am }

I felt wonderful on my wedding day. But I think the last outfit that made me feel beautiful was the dress I bought to wear to my BIL s wedding the year after we got married. It was a beautiful dress and I felt and looked beautiful in it. I think I gave the dress away a long time ago (although I may be wrong). I haven’t looked in a mirror and thought anything above “not too bad” in so long. I wish I could go to the mall and buy something that would make me feel good, but sadly I’m afraid of the opposite effect…that I will go and be reminded of how much weight I’ve gained and how totally un pretty I feel most of the time. Who needs that?

5 loribeth { 02.01.12 at 9:12 am }

Very good point, Mel. I’ve found outfits I really like that I think I look good in, & I’ve had exceedingly good hair days that have made me smile ; ) … but I can’t think of the last time I looked in the mirror & thought “Wow! I look great!” I think the closest I’ve come was when I found a dress to wear for PND’s wedding about two years ago… I brought about six into the dressing room that I liked on the rack, & they either didn’t fit or made me look frumpy. And then I tried on The Dress — and it fit, & I looked pretty damned good in it. But honestly? — I think the thing that excited me the most was that it was just $39, lol. ; )

Unfortunately, when I look at pictures of myself from the wedding, I don’t get the same feeling that I got looking at myself in the dressing room mirror. I notice how round my face loos or the sun damage on my cheeks & wish I was still able to wear contacts instead of my glasses. I do look nice, but I very rarely like myself in pictures these days.

I do agree with Mo, though — I look at pictures of myself in high school and university, when I thought I was fat & wrote “I MUST LOSE WEIGHT!!” in my diaries (50-60 pounds ago), & wonder where on earth I got that idea. Silly, silly girl. :p

6 loribeth { 02.01.12 at 9:13 am }

P.S. I love that picture of little Melissa. (At least, I’m assuming from the slightly faded colours that’s you & not the Chickienob.) You were adorable!

7 Blanche { 02.01.12 at 9:53 am }

Beautiful post Mel! Thank you so much for bringing it back. 🙂

The last two times I felt that way about myself were, first, when I looked in the mirror when trying on wedding dresses and knew that it was “the one.” I didn’t feel that wonderful on my wedding day even with my hair and makeup freshly done vs. the worn-down lipstick and tossed up hair of that day. The second time was about 7-8 years ago when I happened to catch a reflection of myself in a store door and thought some glamorous person was behind me before realizing it was me. That made me feel really good!

But what I’m realizing is that both of these experiences were before I went through IF. Must IF not only rob us of our confidence in ourselves as full women (in the “if I can’t have children, I must be broken” way) but also allow that feeling of negativity to seep into the way we view ourselves as a whole, on top of the societal pressures we may or may not feel to be attractive/thin/blonde/whatever?

8 serenity { 02.01.12 at 10:20 am }

Love, love, LOVE this post.

I had Charlie Brown take a picture of me just after I finished my first half marathon 2 years ago. I had just lost 25lbs and ran 13.1 miles for the first time in my life. I was fit and accomplished and happy and you can see it radiating from me in the picture.

9 Emily { 02.01.12 at 10:26 am }

I love that image of your daughter in front of the mirror. I’m not sure when it happened, but I too went from being uninhibited and always wanting my picture taken, to be the picture taker. Hmm…something to ponder.

10 Finding My New Normal { 02.01.12 at 10:29 am }

Oh, to be young again and love the way you look. Too bad we can’t bottle that feeling and take it like a drug when we’re feeling down about ourselves.

That being said, I do like how I look when I’m pregnant. Not that I’m super skinny or ready to be shown naked on the cover of Vanity Fair or anything, but I love that I don’t have to hold in my stomach when photos are taken. I can dress to enhance my bump instead of my normal dressing to hide my pot belly. Plus the elastic maternity trousers/jeans are super comfy.

11 Rebecca { 02.01.12 at 10:44 am }

The last time I looked at myself in the mirror (and the last pictures I look at that still make me smile about myself) was my wedding and my rehearsal dinner. I look at them and think “I looked beautiful. I looked happy.” I remember feeling beautiful and feeling beyond happy.

I can’t remember being that way when I was a kid. I’m sure I must have been at some point. All I remember is being a teenager and having panic attacks about how I looked. Crying attacks where I was afraid to be seen I was so insecure. Any day where I wasn’t wearing a t-shirt that was 5 sizes too big was a scary, scary day. People might see my skinny, big-boobed body! Or, my horrible knees!!! I was a dancer and hated how I looked in a leotard. Makes me sad to think about, now. I’ve gotten better over the years, but I can’t imagine ever really feeling completely positive about how I look.

And, just like you, pregnant is when I’m staring at myself constantly and taking pictures of myself constantly and smiling every time. But, it’s because I feel like this time is so fleeting and I’m so happy with what my body is doing at right this moment and so amazed to look at the differences. But, even then I can’t help my brain from thinking “ooh, look how big my arms have gotten, what is happening with my face?”

12 Peg { 02.01.12 at 11:10 am }

Hmmm….not sure when that would be. I think sporadically over the years since our wedding I’ve felt okay about the way I look. It does usually relate to a cool outfit that I feel good about not necessarily my body. I also usually feel good when I’m having a good hair day. At present, I don’t feel good about my body at all…hair is boring and needs color and I’ve just lost too much weight in the last two years. I don’t look healthy, I just look worn and thin.

13 Eggs In A Row { 02.01.12 at 11:29 am }

When I was really skinny, there are pictures that I love of myself that other people say, “Gd, you look like a child in that! Way too skinny!”

But there is one from my wedding…where D is nuzzling my nose, and we both look so happy….I hold on to it.

14 Denver Laura { 02.01.12 at 11:39 am }

I have a picture of me in high school when I didn’t do anything and was super skinny. I hated my body becuase I was flat.

Then I hit my mid 20’s and gained a bit of weight. I hated my “new” body becuase I thought I was fat.

Then the year of my divorce, I lost 30 pounds. I worked hard at losing that weight but those pictures bring out some horrible memories of my emotional state at that point.

I like my body now – I’m not so flat. I’m not as big as I have been in the past but not as skinny. I’m not starving. I’m happy. Can I stand to lose some weight? Sure. but for me the pictures I take now capture a real smile and not a forced one.

15 Louisa { 02.01.12 at 12:01 pm }

Definately my wedding day! Which was not that long ago (sept 2010) although I was not at my thinnest because I was 3 months prego I was very happy and loved my dress.

16 battynurse { 02.01.12 at 1:28 pm }

When I dropped below 200 pounds finally I had a few months of that. Now I’m sadly back to picking apart my body and looking at what I wish were different. It is a sucky cycle to be in.

17 {sue} { 02.01.12 at 1:55 pm }

I don’t remember the last time I felt like I looked good enough that I wanted someone to take my picture. How sad is that? I read somewhere that the people who are happiest about their bodies are those whose idea of what they look like in their head is closest to what they see in the mirror. (Yeah. I have a big disconnect there.)

I remember watching my 3 year old parading naked in front of a mirror and admiring her reflection and I wondered, what age between 3 and 40 is it that I longer wanted to look at my naked body. (Pregnancy excepted.)

18 Queenie { 02.01.12 at 2:22 pm }

Love the sweet wallpaper in that photo!

It’s funny, I was kind of neutral about how I looked as a child/teenager. I certainly never felt attractive, but I didn’t feel unattractive, either. After college, I became really happy with how I looked, and that’s never really gone away–even now, when I am a giant woman who swallowed a basketball. I’m happy to be my age, I’m happy to have these little lines and imperfections–I’m just really happy with where I’m at. I’m not perfect, but it suits me just fine.

19 Katie { 02.01.12 at 4:53 pm }

I have to say my wedding day. I’ve always struggled with self-esteem and my body image, but I truly did feel like a princess on my wedding day. It was before IF. Before all the surgeries. I remember there was one point, right in the middle of IF treatments, where I stopped and looked in the mirror, and I barely recognized myself. It’s a little better now than it was before, but nothing like pre-IF. I sometimes feel like that’s the way my entire life will be categorized from here on out: before and after.

20 Eve { 02.01.12 at 5:35 pm }

What a timely post for me, as we have a portrait session this weekend…and I just got back from the mall. I didn’t even shop for myself – just my dh and kids. I’ve always had pretty ‘decent’ body self-esteem…of course I was too picky when I was younger…but of course I also look back and marvel and how fit I was. Both of my pregnancies were really good for my body self-esteem mostly because I had hyperemesis and lost weight both times. But the rebound of my twin pregnancy has really got me down. I am the same weight I was 9 months pregnant (lost weight and then regained it)…mostly due to Zoloft and an incessant urge to eat my troubles away. I really hate being this weight…I hate my ‘twin skin’ stomach when I don’t have the twins to show for it. My mom has just lost about 50 lbs and looks and feels amazing…and I so terribly jealous of her and yet cannot seem to find the gumption to get myself to put down the fries and start running again. Anyway, I do remind myself often that having the ‘perfect body’ does not make one happy – as I was certainly not an extremely happy teenager. But…I really miss my four-pack abs. I REALLY miss them. I hope you are doing great on your diet you were telling us about. I spent three days ponderin if I would do something super extreme like the HCG diet…and then I came to my senses.

21 Kimberly B. { 02.01.12 at 5:44 pm }

The last time I really felt like that was my wedding day almost 3 years ago. I felt amazing. I felt confident. I had it confirmed when my husband saw me walk down the aisle. I felt it again when the first thing he said to me was “wow”. And again when people told me how beautiful I was and the look of awe on my husbands face. But honestly, while I have been told by my parents and friends and hubby when we were dating and family, extended family and hubby’s family that I am beautiful, the first time I truly believed it 100% was on my wedding day.

We were blessed with an amazing photographer who managed to capture us in our element that day, us as we always are, candid moments where even though we were surrounded by over 300 of our closest family and friends, we were so caught up in each other that we noticed nothing and no one else. So when I have a day where I need to be reminded of my beauty, I go back and just flip through my pictures. It helps me remember that its true, I’m beautiful.

22 Justine { 02.01.12 at 10:14 pm }

Wow, how interesting that so many of the commenters talk about their wedding day!

First, I agree with jodifur: you ARE gorgeous.

Second: I was at the dentist’s office the other night, and happened upon an article about style in Real Simple. It’s not a magazine I usually read, nor do I usually read about clothing, but oh, did it describe me to a T … down to the gym pants when I’m not even going to the gym, the baggy sweater, the lack of accessories, the same purse for years on end, the color brown … honestly, I don’t think I’ve *ever* had the experience of going to the mall and saying “I look amazing.” Perhaps “I look professional” or “This outfit will do” but exuberance? Nope.

An ex-colleague of mine told me that if I get a job interview she is going to take me shopping, because I am not permitted to wear my old black suit and black boots. I told her she’s killing me. 😉 (But perhaps change IS good … I could use some of what ChickieNob’s got, too!)

23 Katie { 02.01.12 at 10:55 pm }

I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, but you might be interested in the traveling red dress project. It’s a bunch of women who have fabulous red dresses to pass on, and are doing photo shoots in them. It doesn’t have to be a red dress, just something that makes you feel furiously happy. http://thebloggess.com/2012/01/the-end-and-the-beginning/

24 Emily { 02.02.12 at 12:19 am }

I love when you really make me think. Hmm. the last time I felt great about the way I looked in an outfit was almost 2 years ago at my Hubby’s 10 year reunion. I wore a cute black dress and was very proud of the makeup job I did(I don’t wear makeup often) I really felt pretty. Every once in a while like this morning when I was brushing my teeth I catch myself in the mirror and smile. I see my eyes which are my favorite and I think “I look pretty” Yes even with toothpaste dripping out my mouth LOL!

25 smiling scar { 02.02.12 at 4:14 am }

Its funny — I used.. and in photos I haven’t changed much, but moving to a place where I look so different from others (I am the EXTREMELY tall on here and foreign and really the most average looking american girl imaginable.. but I don’t feel exotic here, just large and awkward). But I cherish those moments where my mind lets me see myself in a kind way. I hope you and your daughter have many more moments like that in your futures.

26 Becky { 02.02.12 at 9:02 am }

Do you read the Bloggess? She’s irreverant and hilarous. She started this red dress campaign (not intentionally, mind you) with the thought that we all deserve to feel beautiful and fabulous about ourselves. You don a red dress that you feel fabulous in and get pics taken, as a reminder on those days when you’re just not feelin’ it. There’s a FB page now, too, and red dresses are flying across the country, from woman to woman, sharing the love.
I don’t remember the last time I looked in the mirror and thought “wow” (at least in a good way). I’m hoping to find my “red dress” and get that feeling back, at least for a little while…

27 Gail { 02.02.12 at 9:11 am }

I have photos of my at all different stages of weight and I find that I’m happiest when there are no other people in the photo with me to compare me to. Being nearly 6 feet tall (5′ 11″), I am often the biggest girl in the picture, not just in height but also I have broad shoulders. So, next to my petite 5’2″ friend, I look gigantic. But, I photo by myself shows me that I can be beautiful.
I’m also taking a quasi-Bible study class based on a book on the topic of dieting and how we should learn to crave G*d and not food. One of the biggest take-aways that I’ve had from that class so far is changing the “Nothing tastes as good as THIN feels” phrase to “Nothing tastes as good as PEACE feels”. I like the idea of learning to be at peace with my body and weight rather than fighting a constant battle with it.

28 Valery { 02.02.12 at 3:45 pm }

I know I am naive , but it makes me sad to read that some people think it is *inevitable* to feel bad about your body. Please don’t believe that?

29 Lori Lavender Luz { 02.02.12 at 6:16 pm }

There is something so refreshing about a young girl’s love of herself and her body, before the self-doubt sets in. I wonder if the “damaged down the line ” is a given? Hmmmm…..I can’t say that I know anyone who has been immune.

I can admit now that I enjoy watching myself at moments during yoga and Nia. Finally, I can look at my body with appreciation instead of seeing glaring flaws. Which probably were never really that glaring.

I think it requires a two-prong approach: (1) becoming the person I can love (more) by using and enjoying my body in some way and (2) accepting the person I am.

I adore the pic at the top of this post.

30 Orodemniades { 02.05.12 at 9:35 pm }

Having been called fat since the age of 8, I can honestly say that I have literally never felt good about my body.

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