Some time ago, I got really wrapped up in being a woman, not just any kind of woman, but a woman who really loved herself-all of herself. During that time, I had to step back and re-evaluate compliments, and who I thought those compliments were making me become. It's quite easy to get wrapped up in who everyone says you are, rather than who you feel you actually are. For some, that's good, being wrapped up in what others think of them, the good parts at least. For others, like myself, I noticed that I felt watered down. I felt that I was often defending my real womanhood, my scars and my flaws without someone even knowing they were the offender. In fact, they were not; it was me. always.
When I was young, my family started to see dry spots form around my mouth. The dry spots turned into what looked somewhat similar to a sunburn, and later the "sunburn" turned into white spots called Vitiligo. The white spots increased in location, spreading under my eyes, my elbows, my knees, my ankles, and even the knuckles of my hands (I've talked about this on here before). It seemed as if it spread rapidly, too rapidly for a young girl to comprehend, and truthfully, I was torn into pieces internally about it. No matter how awesome my clan of brothers, sister, mother, father, grandma, and aunts and uncles thought I was, once I stepped out of my house I felt vulnerable. My soft spot was there for anyone to open and poke at. Knowing that I was so easily accessible in that way hardened me without a doubt.
A few years later with a diet change and much less stress the white spots started to go away, just like the doctor had once said (I love this article on health and her personal experience) . They decreased a substantial amount in a few years, becoming non existent on my face and only making slight appearances throughout other areas. I became more confident, I felt more beautiful, and embraced every little white spot that speckled my body. I think this change came with knowing that acceptance is the key to loving yourself. My white spots were flaws and are flaws that are -mostly- out of my control, but I also don't feel controlled by them. Not one tiny bit. I no longer feel vulnerable if you happen to notice them, or even point them out. They've become such a part of me, that I don't even notice them, but yet I am so very proud of them. But when the time comes that I feel as if that confident person with a story to tell is watered down, by her and her alone, I sit and stare at my flaws. I reflect on my past, my story. I remind myself that most of what you and I see daily is just stuff; make-up, a diet change, oils, the list goes on. I feel as though if I called myself beautiful, it would be because I know my flaws exist and I accept them, because I am weird and loud at times, because I can look on my past and it can knock me down from whatever pedestal I had set before, because no matter what path you've walked I feel as though I can identify with you, and because I know that in an instant all of the stuff and pretty talk can just disappear. If I were to call myself beautiful, I'd rather be beautiful for all of it.. not just the stuff.
I often think about this and how it will affect River. How as a pretty girl she might get wrapped in just that. Compliments from strangers, friends, and teachers, how they can easily mold her. Mold her into thinking that being pretty, will actually create some sort of deep happiness for her. As her mother and as a woman who has seen all sides, I want to raise a girl who knows that it's all just stuff. I want her to know that being pretty won't fulfill you internally-at least long term. I want to teach her that when people say you're pretty, it's best if they're saying it because your a good person, because you treat others well, because your compassionate and loving, and because you accept every part of yourself.
Finally, I want to teach her, and also remind myself, that as long as I (we) know that we aren't flawless individuals, there's no reason to feel as though we have to defend our real womanhood. The inner stuff, the parts that we constantly work on, aren't watered down, they will always be there reminding us of our place, who we are and the paths we've walked.
Here's to being beautiful on the outside, but more importantly on the inside, always and forever.