Tuesday, 10 August 2010

the truth according to anna

Thank you all for all your words over the past couple of days. I am looking forward to trying my best before and after the wedding but I have something more to say. 

I am going to say what no-one ever says. It has taken me over a year to write this but only now I feel I have discovered what I need to say. 

We are not all beautiful. 

I'm sorry but it is true and is it really a problem?

Whilst it is but my personal opinion I do not see beauty everywhere. Maybe I am shallow but I do not see beauty with every step. I do see beauty in the oddest of places but never really in myself.  People in the blog world ask for validation and I enjoy being able to offer my thoughts. However, unless I feel someone is soliciting my totally honest opinion I often will not say anything. I am of the stock if you have nothing to nice to say, say nothing.

I am not asking for sympathy, I just want to be honest. Indeed a (perhaps) wise friend once did say to me many, many years ago, "there can only be one who is most beautiful" and this reconciled my niggles for sometime but gradually my old insecurities fought back. 

Yet I cannot decide whether my thoughts are a product of my upbringing (as in I was always told I was not attractive by family) or just my honest observations.  Perhaps I just have a blinkered view of what "beautiful" is? Or is it that I am insanely competitive and find it frustrating I shall never be seen as beautiful.

Although you realise I am only talking about physical beauty. I realise that I can be a beautiful person without being beautiful, per say. I know Bean loves me for who and what I am. My woe comes not from a need to impress him or anyone else. I want to be be "happy in myself." A phrase I ask my patients on a daily basis and am still to work out what the real meaning is.

I do worry that I suffer from a reverse type of a body dysmorphic disorder where I can convince myself I look nice. (Particularly in aeroplane loos. Their mirrors and yellow lighting makes me glow!) That is until I see a photograph and see what a monster I look like when standing next to my beautiful friends.

Most of the time I look like this. Dishevelled, bug eyed and excitable. Maybe my aim should not be beauty but to embrace my own uniqueness and actually enjoy myself? Yeah, that does sound like a good idea. I think it's time I banned beautiful from my vocabulary. Uniqueness is what I should strive for.


Unphotogenic 10 year old anna with a timid Pickles and a nearly headless Father

P.S. Hannah you looked so beautiful on your wedding day. I mean it.

29 comments:

  1. Oh Anna. It's true that not everyone is beautiful in the mass-media-defined way but, as I get older, I find that look a bit sad anyhow. Trust me, in Los Angeles I am surrounded by extraordinarily beautiful people... who are all consumed with their external looks. And it shows. The plastic shallowness and blank faces limit their real beauty. And so, I've found myself really finding beauty in the unique character we each bring to the world. I think scars and wrinkles and imperfections are stunning because they hint at the human. I think genuine smiles are better than perfect teethed posing beauties. I think my girlfriend, who just gave birth and put on a ton of weight, is more shiningly beautiful than she's ever been in her life. And therefore that, the most shiningly beautiful I've ever seen her was on her wedding day when, yes, she was still significantly overweight.

    And as for the wedding and photos, a wise friend emailed me yesterday about this same issue, and I hope her words help you like they help me, "And you know and I know that the kind of shots we see beauty in are the dirty, grimy, emotional, head-thrown-back-and-mouth-wide-open shots -- the kind of shots that sound like our own worst nightmares in terms of capturing the most unflattering features. So maybe the real key in getting pictures that we like is to relax and ignore the camera. Go inside ourselves and find our center of confidence, and just be one with the moments passing by around us. Let the photographer *find* the pretty, not try to *be* the pretty."

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  2. I do find the topic of beauty fascinating: how we define it, how that varies by time and place, is there such a thing as objective beauty, etc.

    I'm also of two minds when it comes to personal beauty. Sometimes, I find it liberating--yes, liberating--to admit that I am NOT nor will I ever be "beautiful" by ______'s standards (side note: these "standards" truly do vary, though--I once had took an African dance class from a teacher who had just arrived in the US from Senegal; he gave our class an impromptu lecture on how differently people in his country tend to look at beauty and how baffled he was by American beauty ideals. According to him, most Senegalese find very plump women to be the height of beauty and wouldn't look twice at scrawny Hollywood actresses).

    As I wrote in the comments on my blog: "...this may sound weird, but as I was picking through my childhood/teen photos to assemble our photo clothesline, I realized something: I'm not standardly attractive. And I don't mean that in a "compliment me, please!" way, either. It's just that I realized that I've never looked like a celebrity, I don't have very symmetrical features, I look quite a lot like my dad, I had a h*ll of an awkward period, etc. So hoping for a wedding day miracle seemed kind of like setting myself up for disappointment - I've always looked like this. Dressed up, in sweatpants, barefaced or made up. And the brides who look like models look like that all the time, too. I know that's kind of 'duh,' but for some reason, it took me a while for that to sink in."

    So yes, I do kind of understand what you're saying. There is very much the need, esp. in America, to reaffirm each other constantly. Sometimes this is helpful. Sometimes it's based in truth. Sometimes it's just a reflex.

    However, then I watch videos like this -- which I HIGHLY suggest everyone watch, it's short (and yes, I know the Dove campaign has issues, but I still love this video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lp3TiHCO8os

    and I realize that beauty is a stupid measuring stick, I don't care who's standards you use. We are all, and we are all not, beautiful and it may be the very *least* important thing about us and our time here.

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  3. that is, "whose standards"

    (thanks for letting me clutter up you blog with my ramblings, btw ;))

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  4. @Margaret - it's absolutely true that other cultures define beauty differently and, to a large extent, it's a social construct (or at least, the weight portion of it is. I think I've seen studies where the symmetry of faces is equally appreciated across cultures.) When I was studied abroad in Kenya, I was a size 16/18 American. The other women on my program were slim college students. And I was the woman who got hit on (and proposed to!) all the time. Men would tell me how gorgeous my figure was and how ugly and malnourished my friends looked. While I don't appreciate body insults for anyone of any size, it was a real shock to realize how *relative* beauty is.

    And I love the Dove commercials. Even if I also have issues with them.

    And a last thing I forgot to mention in my first comment - beauty is the silliest and least fulfilling thing we can be competitive about. I know the pull of it (oh yes, I do) but it's an empty victory. And youth-and-slimness as beauty is bound to fade. And people who have lived good lives somehow continue to radiate joy and smiles along their crows feet instead of frown lines. And people who have really won at this competition we call life still have amazing partnerships and friendships that sustain them into old age. Because beauty certainly won't. So eff that. Hence my focus on health and being a good person. The rest, I can't "fox" nor do I want to. It's made me who I am. I had to focus on personality and smarts because, as an unattractive kid/teenager/early 20-something, those were the only resources I could rely on to succeed. I embraced myself and my own style and my own reality and do my best to be amazing within my own parameters. But beauty-as-defined-by-others? As I'm slowly learning, that can go to heck.

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  5. Beauty has so many different meanings for me. I see beauty differently now that I am a mom and engaged to a man who makes my heart skip beats. My family is not beautiful in a magazine-worthy sense. We are short, messy, a bit on the pudgy side. Tony's hair has cowlicks that cause it to stick up in strange ways all over his head. My hair. Well.

    But goodness I could stare into his eyes all day. He is beautiful.

    Often, when I pick up my messy, grubby daughter from school, she has somehow managed to cake mud all over her entire body, has matted and unkempt hair from apparently rolling around in said mud, and a huge grin. She has her two front adult teeth and a space on either side. Her front teeth look like giant chicklets hanging in her mouth. She has a tan on her neck that at first I kept trying to scrub off, thinking it was dirt. She is beautiful.

    My mom, who continues to drive me bonkers like she is supposed to, is short and heavier than she should be. She had breast cancer at a time when reconstructive surgery was not recommended because the implants used at the time were known to leak and believed to be a possible cause of breast cancer. So sometimes she wears a bra with falsies, but mostly it's uncomfortable and she doesn't bother. She is beautiful.

    As I grow older, and my life becomes more full and more complicated, I have grown to realize that I can see pretty people (like models and stars) who are enjoyable to watch, but I equate beauty with love.

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  6. @Becca - yes, yes yes. To everything you wrote.

    Also, just to hijack this topic some more, ;) one of the most interesting books on beauty that I've read (whichs deals a lot w/facial symmetry): "Survival of the Prettiest: the Science of Beauty" by Nancy Etcoff. One of those rare science-y books I couldn't put down.

    And on the topic of aging and how beauty fades, ohmygosh read this article:
    http://www.elle.com/Life-Love/Sex-Relationships/Failure-to-Launch-When-Beauty-Fades

    I read this in Elle magazine last year, and I keep coming back to it as an example of why I don't want to spend my life chasing beauty or regretting its departure or whatever. Sad way to grow old, but it makes sense: if you put ALL your self-worth into your looks... well, yeah, aging is gonna be rough.

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  7. L.A.Love has said it all.
    I once had a problem with my Asian looks. I grew up in a solely white middle upper class area. And was the one of two asians in my graduating year.
    Growing up though, I have embraced my weird eyes, my flat nose, my even flatter profile and realize there is beauty even in my crooked teeth, and stubborn hair, and wide feet.
    No, not everyone is beautiful.
    But everyone has beauty in them

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  8. Have you ever met someone who was homely (kinda ugly)? Then as you got to know them, you started to appreciate their looks more?

    That's inner beauty.

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  9. Great post, great comments! Now that I'm unemployed I've been finally finishing The Beauty Myth, which is 20 years old, US-Centric, and really ought to have been footnoted, but still might be worth reading.

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  10. Anna - I hear you. And without repeating what Los Angeles Love has already said (one smart lady!), I just want to say that your inner beauty is something us, your readers, recognized a long time ago....your sassiness, wit and charming nature is what makes you unique. Anyways, that's enough mushy from me. I just want to say you're right, not everyone is beautiful in the 'popular' sense but not everyone is beautiful inside either.

    p.s. yes, i will be your BM! i would never turn down a chance to come to England! ;)

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  11. Thank you. That's very nice to hear. Even if the photographer didn't get a single photo of me and David together that I would think of showing people.

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  12. Imho there is more beauty in genuine love and happiness.

    It's an interesting post, and reminded me of lots of stuff, sorry I didn't string it together into a cohert comment but it's just things which help, inspire or just make me think.

    Beauty is everywhere, especially in imperfection:
    Chapter 3, second paragraph of a wise book http://www.amazon.co.uk/Penguin-Great-Ideas-Marcus-Aurelius/dp/0141018828/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1281474936&sr=1-3

    Larkin thinks http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=178055
    My favourite rule & general motto http://rulesformyunbornson.tumblr.com/search/eleanor+roosevelt
    and maybe...? http://www.livinglifetothefull.com/

    You ain't no monster, you're fucking fabulous btw x

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  13. i don't have anything to add to what the others have said here, but i do have a question: what will make you happy in yourself?

    and then i have this: i still think you're beautiful. the photos you've posted, your outlook on life, all of those things combined make you beautiful.

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  14. Dearest Anna, if I may be so bold to ask, please don't call yourself a monster. I think silly faced, 10 year old Anna (above) is quite adorable. If your family felt the need to make you feel otherwise, the problem was theirs, not yours. We sometimes forget that our family are people too, with their own agendas, prejudices and insecurities. We give them the power to make us feel small and ugly and unloved and that is not OK. I'm not sure what else to add to what has been said here. No, we aren't all generically beautiful, but I have found, the older I get, that I have met few people who I consider ugly and all of them are ugly people (inside). When I think of beauty, I think of my lovely ladies, who stood up with me on my wedding day. Some were tall and some were short. A couple were slim, one was pregnant, one had just had a baby, one was struggling with her weight. One was a former beauty queen. Some were fair and some were dark. They are all wildly different, and beautiful. People actually commented to me, throughout that night, how gorgeous my friends were. I've watched most of these women struggle with their self-image over the years. Through eating disorders, hospital stays, and years and years of therapy. I think we all carry around an image of ourselves that is the worst, the ugliest manifestation of who we are, but the trick is, realizing that we are the only ones who see it. There is a lot to be said for: confidence, joy, grooming, a flattering outfit and haircut, good lighting, and oh yes, PHOTOSHOP.

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  16. i think you're beautiful and im sure bean thinks you are too!!

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  17. That's my favourite blogger that you're calling a monster! Watch out or I'll have to come over there and...and... give you a hug.

    Who gives a f*ck about beauty?

    I can guarantee you, nobody is happy with themselves all of the time. If you see something you don't like in the mirror, ignore it and look at something you do like. Concentrate on the good and more good will come. There are many bad photos in the world... but in this new age of digital cameras you can delete the shitty ones and take another. Don't look for reasons to make yourself feel bad. Just concentrate on being the happiest and best version of YOU that you can be.

    The little girl in that photo is gorgeous, and I'm sure the grown-up version is even better.

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  18. i love this and it makes my heart break at the same time. There are times when I look in the mirror and feel like 'damn girl!!!! :)' then there are times when I look in the mirror and think 'damn girl! :(' (not necessarily airplane bathrooms but usually in our 3 paneled bedroom mirror...so horrifying but much better than it seems!)

    i've decided my view of myself is too effed up to really be accurate and the beau seems to love me so I'm just going to go with that.

    p.s. i love baby anna! that outfit is so great
    p.p.s please embrace your awesomeness! I think you are the coolest

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  19. Here's one thing I've learned about photos. They are a very difficult medium to capture what a person really looks like. In real life, a person is always moving. Photos they are stationary. Captured in one position. You don't get to see any other part of them. So the flaws can get magnified and any of that person's grace is reduced automatically.

    Many smart ladies have commented before me, that it is true that the majority of us are note conventionally beautiful. But I refuse to take conventional beauty to sum up all I think about beauty. Beauty is multilayered. We all have different qualities that add to our beauty. Some people's beauty is more subtle visually. Other's more apparent.

    I love that you are going to strive toward uniqueness. Who wants a bunch of people that look exactly the same? Variety is the spice of life. And to pull this full circle, variety is beautiful.

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  20. Last night, I sat next to my poised, thin, tanned friends and felt like a giant, gangly, fat, dishevelled mess. This is often the case.

    And yet when I speak to them, these waif-life ladies who surely can't have a care in the world... guess what: they feel exactly the same. A dishevelled mess. Often fat, though they are not. Like they too are taking up too much space, and that space is a mess.

    It's not their fault, though it can drive you insane. Sometimes: at work, the thin ones complain about their size 10 figures and not being able to wear a bikini as their stomach is too big, all the while eating chocolate. I want to stand on my swivelly chair and shout: I HAVE NEVER WORN A BIKINI! SHUT UP!

    I too feel like the opposite of a dysmorphic anorexic: even when I was a size 24 (uk) I still looked in the mirror every morning and thought 'I look pretty good today'. And then I would see photos and cry.

    But those friends, the skinny minnies. They never ever ever make me feel bad. J does not make me feel bad. The only person who makes me feel bad is... me. That's it.

    If you look in the mirror every morning, Anna, and feel OK then - well, you know that there is nothing really wrong. Happy in yourself doesn't involve mirrors or photographs. Pretty is not a contest.

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  21. I feel angry at your family for telling a child they were unattractive. Who does that?!

    I personally believe attractiveness is related to self confidence but they have robbed you of that. Sad.

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  22. I for one cannot wait to see your wedding photos. I just know they and YOU will be beautiful in them. I'm sorry you feel this way about yourself. And I am sorry that others have said mean things to you too.

    Rubbish to that.

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  23. I have always felt that you may not think you look beautiful but if you can do things that will make yourself "feel" beautiful it will show through you. That sounds weird but I can see it in my posture, the way I walk, and my facial expressions, the way I act and come across to people on days I feel ugly vs. days I feel beautiful. It might be why I have a shopping problem come to think of it. But I can tell you right now, no matter what, you will feel beautiful on your wedding day, when he looks at you walking down the aisle? Oh man, you'll feel like a queen :) And PS, unique IS beautiful, I don't think beauty all has to look the same, that would be oh so boring.

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  24. Oh Anna, I just about cried when I read the statement in bold... I wish there was something I could do to make you feel better about yourself. (I grew up with a mother who called me fat and ugly on a daily basis and it took me a very long time after I left home to come to realise she was wrong (and just how wrong it was that she was like that)... so I really do understand that there's perhaps an inherited mindset you have about how you look and how hard that is to get past.)

    I guess yes technically we don't all get to be beautiful at least in the conventional/glossy mag sense... but god I don't know anyone who is. (Well, apart from my actress little sis is who is dazzling!) But I certainly know lots of cute, sexy, stunning, smart, funny, quirky, special gals who make beautiful look boring! So this isn't sympathy, I'm just stating a fact that you are a gorgeous wee soul and a off-one, exclusive one at that! I hope some day you can see that xx

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  25. Physical beauty is a passing thing, and often different according to who is looking. What counts is that we love ourselves for who we are and we are honest and true to our own convictions and morals. Acceptance of ourselves and truly embracing and loving the person we are on the inside is so much more important than physical looks.

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  26. I had the hardest time not breaking out in tears reading this. I do think all women are beautiful. Not in a mass-media beauty magazine way, I'm certainly not beautiful like that - but I wouldn't want to be! I prefer the type of beauty that doesn't hit you in the teeth, the kind that is quietly stunning. I have a vivid memory of the first time I really realized that all women are beautiful - I went to a girls school for 6 years, and sometime in my final year I remember sitting in a class meeting and looking at all of my classmates and trying to remember what I first thought of each of them the first time we met. I tried to look at them with fresh eyes, and I remember being struck with how lovely and how different each of them was - even the girls I didn't like. I know it sounds corny, but I find it easier and easier to see beauty in the women around me - strangers, even - and the more I appreciate them for their differences the easier I am on myself. I hope that you can find a way to see the beauty in yourself and in everyone around you - and that you are surrounded by people who help you feel gorgeous (Bean, I hope you're reading these comments, you can help with this!).

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  27. I don't agree.
    WE ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL.
    Beauty is everywhere in this world.
    I get most of my inspiration from things that are old, broken, dirty, asymetric...because this things have a story to tell and that's beauty.
    what you are doing here is beautiful and that you are in love is beautiful. it is beautiful that you question beauty and the picture you just posted is the best example:
    come on : the pic is hilarious! its beautiful, its comical, its genius, its real!

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  28. I'm not beautiful and I'm not unique. I do, however, see beauty in others. The photos that I love aren't the ones of my husband and I (although there a couple I can just about cope with). The ones I love most are of our guests dancing and laughing, hugging and kissing. Sweaty and tipsy doing strip the willow with people they'd never met until that morning and were now technically part of their family.
    I'm trying to get my head round the fact that the image in the mirror or the photos is actually how I look and for some crazy, bizarre, mystery to me, reason my husband loves that face and thinks it is beautiful. It is the best I can do.

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  29. I confess that this post cuts me to the bone.

    I too have had a lot of family members committed to making me feel unattractive and overweight. Many years ago in the throws of struggling with an alarming and scary eating disorder, the advice I got from family was to make sure I kept the weight off.

    I often see women with these incredibly nice wonderful bodies and feel an overwhelming lust, not for their bodies, but to have their bodies. I have wasted many an hour imagining what my life would be like if I could walk through it in another (skinnier/prettier) body. I confess that this is always a very pleasant day dream.

    In the past I have had occasion to conclude that the only thing that stood between me and some guy that I loved was my body/size. I realize that there are many ways to refute this, but I think it was true. I was always the best friend, never the girlfriend.

    I think what's most important to keep in mind is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that we have been brainwashed.

    It's truly sad that the popular media has brainwashed us into having a beauty standard that is so exclusive. I think this is important to focus on: we have been brain washed to think of ourselves as fat and ugly because corporations want to sell us things. It's that simple.

    However, empowering as this idea is, it dosen't help with the day to day, and it doesn't change the fact that everyone has been brain washed and most people aren't ready to be liberated from equating skinny with beautiful, and that photography isn't always kind to voluptuous women.

    So a few healthy things that have helped me feel better about myself, and that I may have done to loose a stone in the weeks before my wedding:

    Yoga
    eating raw
    eating vegan
    drinking lots of water
    laying off the beer
    long fast paced walks to awesome fast paced music

    I wish you the best and I think that you are awesome. I only wish I had stumbled across your blog long ago! x

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So, I really love all the sweet and/or informative comments that you lovelies leave. Yet if you feel the need to be unnecessarily rude or offensive I will delete your comment and not feel bad about it. So just be constructive alright! Hugs to all you wondrous others.

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