Archive for the ‘Self Esteem’ Category

I Felt So Purdy

Monday, June 15th, 2009

The Beautiful Like Me Project has another question to ponder today. WickedStepMom wants to know when I felt most beautiful so far on my journey in life. The true answer plays right to the point of this project. I wish I felt the most beautiful when I was the natural me. Not so though. I know for a fact the time I felt the most beautiful was when I was heavily costumed as a young adult. It could have been a costume for a show I was in or a costume for work. Layers of fancy clothes, makeup and fake tan decorating my too thin body made me feel perfect. Add to the mix permed curls and gold streaks to transform my normal bone straight and unremarkable brown hair and I was smoking! I clearly remember several moments in my life when I received some oohs and ahhhhs that gave me a great sense of satisfaction and self-worth. I felt powerful. Why wouldn’t I? Beauty and power often go hand in hand. At least, this seems to be true when speaking of material beauty.

Looking back at old pictures of myself I have a hard time relating to the girl who was me. The 37 year old sees so many layers that didn’t have to be there. The face looks proud and confident. I imagine the confidence was genuine, but can you really call it that when it was only present after countless hours of primping and prepping?

I spent years keeping up the rituals of makeup, elaborate hairstyles, tans and fashionable clothing. The rituals came to an abrupt end with my first pregnancy. I was one of those women you hear about who spends the entire nine months puking her brains out. I was too sick to care about rituals. Getting through the day took all my effort. The same thing happened with my second pregnancy. Those were a combined 18 months of Lisa in her most natural form. By the time I was done with pregnancies and had more energy to invest in my appearance, and some investment was definitely needed because I know for a fact I looked like hell, I couldn’t bring myself to don all the makeup and fancy clothes. I found myself satisfied, even if not impressed, by the less glam Lisa. Eyeliner and mascara made me feel ridiculous. The thought of adding a tan was insane. Why get people used to seeing me all bronzed up again? Now I could be my chalky white self without people asking me if I was feeling okay. Life was just easier without all of the chaos of beauty. Clean skin, a touch of lipstick, a decent hair cut, clothes that weren’t too mommyish and a healthy dose of color to hide my gray was all I needed to feel good about myself.

You’d think that what I just shared would bring me to a point where I could say I felt beautiful now. I don’t. Not really. Not in terms of how we’ve been groomed to assign beauty. It’s true I feel satisfied, however. There are times when I wonder if feeling satisfied might be more valuable than feeling beautiful. It’s all encompassing acceptance, after all. Satisfaction seems more durable and better able to stand the test of time until society gets its act together and stops using the idea of beauty as a means to marginalize, harm, profit and promote.

Who Done It? The Beautiful Like Me Project

Monday, June 1st, 2009

It’s Monday and another Beautiful Like Me question is waiting to be answered. WickedStepMom wants to know, “What person or people are the most influential about how you feel about yourself? Who influences you the most to feel beautiful?”

In simple terms, I have no earthly idea. I think that’s what makes it hard to get my head in the right place when it comes to my own self-image. I’m not all that clear who it is I am trying to appeal to or what message is resonating at the moment. Was it something I heard/read recently or events and words from long ago? That’s the big mystery. So much of how we feel about ourselves in the present has been shaped through the course of time and it is difficult to know what is inspiring my take on myself.

With the “Beautiful Like Me” project I’ve been forcing myself to take a closer look at who and what have shaped me so I can be a better parent to my kids. It bothers me that I don’t have a solid answer for this question. I know as an adult the primary person most responsible for how beautiful I feel is me. It’s my mental strength and open-mindedness that reigns supreme. Who gave that to me though? I’m not sure that it came from my family. My husband contributed, although he also put his foot in his mouth enough to negate the positive. My friends have also given me a mix of good and bad, so it’s just hard to know. WickedStepMom, I might have to think on this some more.

I’m not sure if it’s directly relevant to today’s question, but I was thinking about something this morning I’d like to share real quick. With a little bit of luck I can make it relevant. We shall see.

Those of us participating in this project haven’t been too kind towards the fashion and entertainment industry. We’ve been quick to point out how the messages coming from magazines, television and such have made it hard for us to feel good about our natural selves. Something hit me this morning though. I realized something that shocked me, quite frankly. The fashion industry as a whole has put a lot of effort into making the unique beautiful. It celebrates the odd. In the past I’ve suggested the industry makes us feel if we are different than what is being sold as the ideal we are lacking. That may have been off the mark and rash. Ever seen pictures from a runway show? Women proudly walk the catwalks with clothes, hair and makeup that most of us would be laughed at and ridiculed for if we attempted it in our normal lives. It’s easy to focus on the Gisele’s of the industry, but we shouldn’t forget the others whose confidence with nonconformity is truly amazing. If beauty can be found in and felt by women who are altered to the point of being freakish, what is the obstacle for the rest of us? If a woman with chocolate brown triangles painted above her eyes, a gold snake slithering down her cheek and what looks to be a green bed sheet dress draped around her can pull off beautiful, why the heck can’t I? Maybe if we followed the fashion industry’s lead as a whole, and not just the parts about body fat and wrinkles, we’d be able to see and feel the beauty in ourselves and others more easily. Beauty really is whatever we want it to be. It’s a state of mind.

Today’s topic leaves me feeling I have some work to do. For one, I need to take a closer look at what is motivating my mindset and who is contributing to my positive self-image. Those people are the ones I want to surround myself with the most. Secondly, I need a bit of an attitude adjustment. I didn’t expect the tangent about the fashion industry. It came to me as I was thinking through today’s question. I’m realizing that I am guilty of proclaiming the uniqueness being sold as ugly. I’ve made no effort to appreciate. I’ve judged and I’ve criticized. How is that any different than what we’ve been challenging others and ourselves to avoid doing?

The Present Game – Beautiful Like Me Project

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Today’s question for the Beautiful Like Me project is “what is the best way to build self-esteem.”

Honestly, I think self-esteem isn’t something to be built, but something to be preserved. We come ready made with a strong sense of self. I’m sure of it. My kids are young, 3 and 1 1/2. Both of them love every inch of themselves. Coincidentally, they love every inch of others too. They are able to do what most adults can’t, love and appreciate who they are without needing to diminish what others have. My daughter can tell another girl her hair is pretty without even thinking about her own hair. She can go to another kid’s house or play with another kid’s toys without any thought to how what that kid has compares to what she has. Her eyes and mind digest the world around her with no need to pick it apart and stomp on it or on herself.

It won’t last, I know. Society will make daily attempts to tell my kids how flawed they are, mostly in the hopes they will see the wisdom in opening their wallets and buying their way to a new improved human form. Adults will model for them the tried and true method of making oneself feel better by judging what others have as lacking or less than ideal. The best I can do, in the immediate sense, is make darn sure I’m not one of those adults.

Back to the question for the day, it is important to ask how to build self-esteem since so many of us have had our original infrastructure dismantled. So where do we find the tools and equipment for the rebuild? We could scout out building materials and spend a fortune on supplies and contractors. The handy thing is, in many cases, the boards, bricks and nails we were equipped with originally are still there. They just have to be rediscovered. Time needs to be taken to notice what is great about us again, to celebrate what is fabulous.

Just as my daughter has a good handle on self-esteem, she has also mastered the rediscovery process. She isn’t doing it with her own qualities yet, but with what she has around her. Perhaps we could follow her lead.

She loves to play the ‘present game’. I saved a dark blue velvet box from a gift a few years back. Olivia adores the thing. She frequently stuffs various toys and objects in the box and asks me to open my present. I ooh and ah over the contents. Then it is my turn to find something to hide inside so she has a chance to open a present. She’s always delighted. No matter how many times she’s seen or played with whatever she finds, opening the box and seeing it there is exciting.

Not long ago Olivia had a birthday and was able to open real presents. Interestingly enough, her reaction wasn’t all that different from when she’d been opening a velvet box jammed full of things she already had. Maybe at her tender age Olivia has managed to figure out the best gifts we have are already in our possession. What a blessing if she can find pleasure with what she has versus always wanting more. How thoughtful to take the time to reopen the same old stuff and allow the opportunity to take another look at what makes them so great. It’s so easy to become indifferent over time to the old and crave the new and improved. Perhaps we wouldn’t need so much new in our life if we followed Olivia’s lead and wrapped up the gifts we already have so we can rip them open and rediscover them again. Maybe we could do this with more than material objects. Maybe we could do this with all of the special qualities that make up us and our kids. Maybe we could dedicate time every day to unwrapping the forgotten and cheering with delight. Maybe we could help everyone to realize all that we have and are truly is a gift and that the best part of gifts isn’t the bows or paper that decorates the box, but what lies underneath waiting to be discovered. I know when my daughter is opening presents, the joy and celebration is an impermeable barrier to anything negative. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be so focused on the excitement of our own gifts the messages fall on deaf ears.

Thanks for reading, if you are interested in reading more blogs covering the Beautiful Like Me project, follow the links built into this post to Wicked Step Mom’s site. She is also on my blog roll. The list of participants grows each time. If you’d like to join in the cause, we’d love to have your voice.

The Questions Get Harder

Monday, May 4th, 2009

If you’ve been following my blog recently you know I’ve been participating in “Beautiful Like Me.” It’s a project started by a fellow blogger, Wicked Stepmom, that challenges those participating to dissect different factors that contribute to poor self-esteem in kids. You can read more about the project here. My first two contributions to this project were


Both topics were tough and took a while to work through. Today’s topic is no exception. In fact, I think the questions seem to get harder as we go along. Not because I have no ideas of what to write. To the contrary, my mind seems to swim with thoughts and potential responses. The challenge is in making it count. The more I contribute to this project, the more it matters to me to get it right. Its importance and the revelations participants have the potential to collectively make are on the forefront of my mind.

Today’s topic: What features/qualities would we like today’s children to see as beautiful?

My knee jerk response to this question is to say I would be happy if kids saw humanity as beautiful. Sounds simple, but we may have a problem. That would require kids being consistently aware of the humanity in us all. It’s not that they are incapable, but I suspect popular culture is grooming them to notice the material instead the person. Kids are saturated with gadgets, accessories, cosmetics and celebrity culture. How others measure up in the above seems to determine how they are viewed on the surface. The result is a generation destined to follow, compelled to copy and motivated to spend their way to self-appreciation.

Now, does this mean kids view their Razor phones and Paris Hilton sunglasses as beautiful? I’d like to think not. Perhaps it’s more beauty not being a focus. They talk about what is cool, hot, awesome and pretty. Beauty doesn’t seem to come up all that often. Our kids are moving a mile a minute. Judgments are made in haste with eyes trained to notice decorations.

The failure to see the humanity in each other, and arguably in ourselves, could very well be the catalyst for the growing discontent many seem to feel. The heart knows there is more to existence than all of this superficial garbage. It nags at the brain by churning an inner desire to be ourselves in all of our unique glory. The brain wants to believe, but it has to overcome the growing fear what is unique and real won’t be acceptable. It has reason to doubt as it has been bombarded by messages of what is falsely important and ideal.

If it were up to me, I’d like kids to find diversity, courage, strength, compassion, love and nature beautiful. I’d like them to fall hopelessly in love with the rare individuals amongst us who are able to show their raw emotions in times when others may expect them to present a stiff upper lip. There is beauty in what is genuine. There is beauty in what is real. When I think of a beautiful person, I’m more inclined to think of those who have touched me in some deep and compelling way. Their actions gave me pause and helped me to see a greater meaning in life. Trinkets, decorations, pomp and bravado just don’t take me there. Usually what touched me was just part of that person being them. It’s not like they were doing something for my benefit. By some blessing from above, I was allowed to witness a moment, long or short, of humanity at its best.

You Know Those Commercials

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

You know those commercials for exotic vacation islands where beautiful couples are frolicking in sand and water?  Yeah, makes me not want to go.  Seriously.  How many women do you know who want to spend buckets of money to relax on a beach with women who could double as models for Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition?  Not me.  I’m smart enough to realize I’m not magically going to transform into a bathing goddess when I don a swimsuit on one of these beaches.  To the contrary.  The bright natural light will likely wash me out, expose cellulite I’ve been in denial over and negate whatever slimming effect my suit has on my post baby belly.  Based on the commercials, it is fair for the real person to assume they’d stick out like a sore thumb.  Not exactly my idea of blending into the scenery while on vacation.

More advertisements than ever are parading uber flawless people in front of the general consumer.  Many have been bronzed, airbrushed and tweaked beyond any possible reality.  Those of us who are, how should I say it, normal, are left feeling like shabby disgraces to humanity.  Lord help us that we need publications like the Enquirer, a tabloid known for fabrication, in order to see real photos of people’s dimpled buns, mashed potato upper arms and dark circled eyes.  There has been some push back to get advertisers to promote realistic images.  A few are bending.  Not enough though.  Maybe to get more on board those of us who don’t look like the people in the ads should sit on our wallets and wait.  Advertisers may not like how we look at the moment, but I know they like the look of our cash.


Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Until Sunday I thought seeing red was just about being angry.  My daughter’s innocent dance twirl that catapulted her face first into our television stand changed all that.  Where delicate flesh met unforgiving wood, injury reigned supreme.  I saw red alright.  My heart wasn’t angry, it was shattered.  What was supposed to be a relaxing afternoon at home turned into a chaotic race to the hospital.  There capable hands worked to put her back together again while I struggled to keep my emotions in check.  How did it happen?  How did the little twirl she’d done countless times before go so wrong?  How was my little girl smiling and facing needles and thread so bravely when her big and protective mom wanted to sob on the floor?

By the time we made it home, my daughter was lost in the joy of the grape popsicle she earned for being such a good patient.  Though well aware of her boo-boo, she was completely over the events that led us to that point.  Mommy wasn’t though.  When she asked for some music and for us all to dance I wanted to say no.  I wanted to bundle her up on the couch with a good book and make sure she was safe and sound.  Her eyes pleaded as only a 2 year old’s can.  So we danced and she spun and I realized a split lip and a couple of stitches wasn’t the worst injury she could have walked away with.  Had her confidence been damaged, it would have left a deeper wound.

It’s Just Nature

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Have you heard the story of the old man who kept trying to lean over and pass gas while seated on a sofa?  His caretaker kept thinking he was tipping over and would prop him back up with a pillow so he could sit up straight.  This went on for an entire day and when the old man’s daughter returned home and asked how his new caretaker did he explained she was nice and all, but she wouldn’t let him fart.

That story popped into my head this morning when I realized I was doing the same thing to my son that the caretaker was unknowingly doing to the old man.  She was getting in the way of nature and thinking she was doing him a favor.  My son’s issue isn’t with farting.  He pulls that off with ease.  When it comes to nature for him, he has a deep need to put himself in danger.  Simply put, my son likes to fall.  He likes to press the limits.  He has no problem stumbling and needing to pick himself up again.  Like the caretaker, I run around after my son while surrounding him with as many pillows as possible.  It’s created an interesting dynamic as we are both increasingly frustrated with one another.  I’m frustrated he can’t see I’m trying to keep him safe and he is frustrated I am replacing adventure with cushions and sterile environments.

It is clear to me we need a compromise.  I need to find a way to embrace his nature while making sure he comes out on the otherside unscathed.

Somebody Stop Me

Friday, September 26th, 2008

I’ve put it off too long.  My hair is overgrown and my color is a mess.  Today just had to be ‘the one’ where I woke up unable to stand it one second longer.  I swear I look like Albert Einstein.  Why do I do this?  Why can’t I be proactive and schedule appointments ahead of time with people I trust so I don’t get to this stage of desperation?  I’m about 30 minutes away from getting in the van and dropping by a walk-in salon at the mall.  I’ve gone that route before and always have been pissed at the results.  Yet, here I am ready to roll the dice again.  It’s better than plan ‘B’ which is me trimming what I can and having my husband massage a color product into my hair.  Gone that route before too.  I had brown swirls on my cheeks because my husband couldn’t seem to rub in the goo without pressing the hair against my skin.  Wish me luck.  At least I don’t expect to come out looking gorgeous.  It’s much easier to be satisfied when going into a process with low expectations.  Even bangs and a color that doesn’t resemble rust on a pipe is all it will take to ‘wow’ me today.  Man, I hope I’m wowed.  Somebody stop me.

Younger Looking Skin

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Well paint me lucky! I’ve been thinking about investing in one of those expensive bottles of goop promising younger looking skin. Glad I procrastinated a bit. I woke up this morning with not one, but TWO pimples! If that ain’t younger looking skin I don’t know what is. Just goes to show our bodies are capable of many great things and we don’t always have to go looking for some product to give us what we want. I’d wish for younger looking hair, but judging by what I’ve seen walking around lately that would mean I’d wake up with a giant blue or pink strip decorating my mane.

Touch of Gray

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

I saw a hair color product for men advertised the other day. It’s called “Touch of Gray.” It lets men keep some of their gray while coloring away what they don’t want. Can you imagine the outcry if a woman’s hair color product left a touch of gray? Even an errant strand sticking up all wiry and white makes me upset. How is it that men have been able to associate gray with being distinguished while hag comes to mind for women? It’s not fair and I suspect women have played a significant role in both. We’ve allowed men to feel great about aging while denying ourselves the same courtesy. My grandmother died a brunette in her late 90’s. I suspect I will follow suit. Ladies, ladies, ladies what on earth have we done to ourselves?