Week 2: Scars

Wow. Such a beautifully powerful week. I love watching people grow and learn to love who they are and the skin they are in.

I was going to write a post for this, but then I remembered that years ago I’d already summed up everything I wanted to say today when I was writing for BlogHer’s Own Your Beauty Initiative. So I’m reposting it below, you can read the original here.

The Story of You, Perfectly Imperfect

As women, we are bombarded by ads and advice for products or remedies designed to cover gray, lift your butt, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, make scars go away, make your boobs look bigger, flatten your tummy, and in every possible way, minimize your imperfections. As mothers we must consider a whole other list of “must-have” products to minimize stretch marks and other pregnancy-caused changes. We worry our lives away about all these imperfections, each mark upon our bodies, never once stopping to consider them as the story of our lives, of who we are, etched into our bodies by Mother Nature herself. We are told through visual images, subtle words and sometimes even outright statements that we must fight against these things because they make us imperfect.

The fact is that we don’t have to fight this implied war. Because there isn’t a problem to begin with.

Every mark on my body tells my story: The scar on my forehead speaks of the time when I was two and needed stitches for running into a wall at full force. The stretch marks on my inner thighs tell of my incredible growth spurt when I was 14. The scar on my wrist tells of when I had surgery to remove a small ganglion cyst. And the stretch marks, well, everywhere else, tell of my first pregnancy, the one which changed every aspect of my being from soul to belly. They tell of the water I retained, and the amazing little girl who grew inside me. They are a part of me. Imperfect. Beautiful.

I recently watched Babies with my kids, a documentary chronicling the lives of four babies across the globe from before birth to toddlerhood. It was incredible. Honest, heartwarming, cutest stuff on the big screen, ever, and, most of all, enlightening. One thing that struck me was how the mamas in Namibia, who were always shirtless, looked like so many mamas I’ve seen on The Shape of a Mother, and not unlike myself in some ways -– but they carried not even a hint of shame. Pendulous breasts, swinging, yanked around by the baby -– and it was normal. Because it is normal! Their bodies tell their stories. They haven’t been told to live to the the standards to which we hold ourselves. Because no matter what, our bodies will change as we grow older gracefully. These mamas just sit there in all their normal beautiful imperfect selves. All women –- those who have birthed or mothered children as well as those who haven’t –- should strive to live that free.

I’m a people watcher. I’m drawn to imperfections. I happen to find them unique and lovely. I remember being in middle school and admiring all the cool girls, even their imperfections. The way their hair didn’t cooperate, or maybe their small breasts or rounded belly, their sloppy handwriting or scribbles, a nose that might be considered long or large –- these were my ideas of beauty. Of course I could not apply these beauty rules to myself until very recently, and even then only by some sort of mental force. I’ve had to work at it. Every picture of me with bad posture, or where I am making some bizarre face, or which shows my double chin, I’ve had to make the conscious choice to shrug and tell myself, “Oh well. That’s who I am. And I AM beautiful.” No excuses for it. No ignoring it. My beauty encompasses my entire self. My beauty, inside and out, tells my story.

“No one in the world ever gets what they want, and that is beautiful.” One of my favorite bands ever, They Might Be Giants, taught me one of my favorite quotes ever in their song, Don’t Let’s Start. I’m sure the duo didn’t intend it to be about body image, and yet, the quote fits the topic. I’ve met very few people who are fully happy with how they look –- most everyone feels this frustration of wishing they had something else. It is beautiful –- in part because we are in this together and can support each other in our journey on this road to loving ourselves wholly. More importantly, and more simply, it is beautiful because it is beautiful. You are beautiful. Your story is beautiful. Your imperfections, particularly, are beautiful.

The entire act of living is imperfect (and that is beautiful), so why on Earth do we expect this aspect to be any different? But what’s more is that once one has embraced imperfection, she finds that it, in itself, is beautiful. Each little line that caresses my belly, the joy springing around my eyes, the strands of silver hiding among my ash-brown hair -– this is my road map that will show you my travels. And the path my story has taken has been twisted and difficult at times, but I wouldn’t change it for anything because it brought me to where I am now. And my body will show you that. And that is perfectly beautiful.

Own Your Beauty: Creativity

Karen’s post went up yesterday talking about how important creativity is to owning your beauty. It’s an excellent post; I found myself nodding along the whole way through. Creativity isn’t something out of your reach – it’s something you already do every day, and something that truly enhances the soul the more you intentionally practice it (am I’m not talking just about making “art”). Go, read it. Be inspired. Make a vision board – I know I will (and I will probably post about it on my personal blog).

Also, did you know Karen’s book has been released? Check it out, it’s beautiful and, frankly, I think would make a perfect gift for any woman.

12 Steps of Letting Go of Perfectionism – Own Your Beauty

Brene Brown has shared her 12 steps to letting go of perfectionism with BlogHer’s Own Your Beauty. As usual, the woman is full of wisdom. Steps three and 12, particularly, spoke to me. Number three, because it’s something I’ve done myself over the years with incredible results, and number 12 because it is something that directly relates to this website:

Practice self-compassion. We need to be kind and tender with ourselves. Most of us talk to ourselves in ways we would NEVER consider talking to other people. We are critical instead of kind. We are judgmental instead of loving. Perfectionism is ultimately a struggle for worthiness and there’s no better place to start than remembering that our imperfections and vulnerabilities connect us to each other and to our humanity.

You should aim to speak to yourself the way you would lovingly speak to a friend. Or the way your friends lovingly speak to you. You deserve the same respect you would afford to anyone else. Allow yourself to be loved.

Now, go forth and embrace good-enough-ness.

Not the Perfect Coach – Own Your Beauty

“I left the first session feeling pretty confident that they liked me because I wasn’t the Perfect Coach … I was just Coach Caitlin.”

This month, Caitlin talks about working with young girls through a program that teaches fitness as well as self esteem. An inspirational story – and a program I’m considering looking into for my daughter now that I’ve heard of it! Read the article here.

There Are No Flaws

Karen’s first post on this month’s theme of Imperfection went up this week. She spoke with author Katherine Center about beauty and her book, Everyone is Beautiful. I’ve only read the title (so far, that is – my copy has been shipped, but not yet arrived) and I already know I’ll like it. As an aside, I did grab a copy of another book of Katherine’s called Get Lucky which sort of begins with a website a little bit like SOAM – although far more like 007 Breasts – and I found that really damn cool.

Anyway, go check out Karen’s post – it’ll lift your day and probably your life. I’m going to participate in her homework – a month of self portraits – I hope to see you over at BlogHer’s new Flickr group!

Own Your Beauty

I’m so excited to be participating in this year-long initiative sponsored by BlogHer. Just launched yesterday, it features interviews and posts by Karen of Chookooloonks, Caitlin of Operation Beautiful and myself. Each month we’ll be discussing a different topic; this month’s is Authenticity. Go check it out, participate, and pass it on. I believe this could really change the world. ?

In celebration, I think I’ll leave some Operation Beautiful Post-It’s around the zoo today. Why don’t you spread some around wherever you are going to be? I’d love to hear you share your experiences with it so share them in the comments here if you do, OK?

Updated: I totally did it!

operation beautiful.com

How about you?