Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Teacher, Author

Am I Ugly? Learning to Love Ourselves

In the wake of the YouTube “Am I Ugly” trend, with girls going on line to ask perfect strangers to weigh in on their value as measured by their physical appearance, I thought it was important to repost this article. It is vital that we all share this message with the kids in our lives: You are beautiful because of the unique individual that you are, because of your gifts and talents. You are so much more than how you look! Young girls get the message from a barrage of media that tells them that their value is found in their physical appearance. We must counteract that message. We must begin with the kids in our own lives to share a new message, to teach them how to learn to love themselves. And we can start by loving ourselves authentically.

My friends Lexie and Lindsay Kite at Beauty Redefined ask the question: Are we trying to physically photoshop ourselves? They say,

“When the digital world of female faces and bodies looks nothing like the natural world, is it any wonder that women have turned to physical alteration to meet the unreal standards? The possibility of achieving unnatural ideals through enhancements, procedures and products is a game-changer for what women today are capable of looking like. But what about their daughters, nieces, students and coworkers? What will their own developing, aging, otherwise “flawed” forms look like in comparison to that manipulated reality?”

via Physically Photoshopping Ourselves Out of Reality | BEAUTY REDEFINED.

As girls and women are exposed to unrealistic and manipulated ideals of beauty, they begin to look to enhancements to attempt to achieve that goal themselves. But, this is not what real people look like! So women are bleaching their teeth, getting plastic surgery, going on extreme diets, or just giving up in shame and frustration, all in an attempt to achieve a look that IS NOT REAL.

As a woman who recently turned 40, I can tell you that the pressure is high to maintain a youthful look. And I remember as a younger woman in my early to mid 20’s wishing I was more this or less that, not all the time, but enough that it’s something that I can recall. But here’s the question that we need to be asking of ourselves, what if we embraced our own beauty for what it is? What if, instead of striving to meet the unrealistic photoshopped ideal, trying to claw our way toward some “ideal” look, girls and young women saw the older women in their lives loving and nurturing their own personal beauty?

Imagine the message that we would be sending if we DIDN’T talk about how we wished we weren’t getting wrinkles, grey hair or shifting body parts but instead talked about the things we’ve learned, the ways our bodies tell the story of our lives right now, the strength and health that we have found in ourselves? I want my daughters to get the message loud and clear that the most important thing about them isn’t how they look, that they don’t have to go to a lot of expense and pain to shape their bodies into something desirable, that their bodies are just a part of who they are and that they need to take care of them, but not obsess over them.

The way that we feel about our bodies is a charged topic for women, and I won’t throw out criticism and judgement on people who are already feeling vulnerable. I won’t say that it’s wrong to color your hair or bleach your teeth or whatever. How we pursue our own individual beauty is a very personal decision. And I do think it’s important for everyone to do their best to take care of their body’s health. But I will say this, you are a beautiful person for who you are, not what you look like.

You don’t have to dye, pluck, bleach, and enhance to reach your full potential. I read a story in the newspaper recently about a young man who, through a horrific accident, was left with no facial features. And yet, he continued to try to reach out to the world, to make a difference in any way that he can. Take some time to learn to love who you are, flaws and all. Think about what your talents are, what you have to contribute to this amazing world. As you step forward into your future, do so with the confidence that you have something valuable to contribute to this world, and it’s not about how you look, but about using your talents and strengths to make this world a better place.

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