beat em to the punch

18 Aug

Whenever I decide to write about self-love, I always hesitate.

This is partially because I am an enormous hypocrite.  It’s easy for me to recognize the beauty and style in those around me.  When I shop with my friends and they debate over whether they should try on that short dress, or that sleeveless shirt, I’m always the first to say, “Go for it!  You’re gorgeous!”  When I look at somebody, the lovely color of their hair, the interesting shape of their eyes, the attractive flare of their hips or softness of their faces is always obvious to me.  It’s the simplest thing in the world, to look at the people walking past you and find them unique and brilliant.

Much harder to find that same appreciation in the mirror, though.

I make it my habit to walk frequently through stores and try on tons of clothes, but I never buy, because I never look perfect.  It doesn’t matter if that dress is twelve dollars.  If I wear it outside, the general public will point and scream, dear God!  That girl is too short for that pattern!  I can see where her belly pooches out!  Somebody call the police, or the fire department!  She’s burning my eyes with her average physique!  SHE’LL GIVE US ALL FASHION LEPROSY.  WE’LL DIE.  WE’RE DYING.  WE’RE DEAD.

And in the dressing room, as this scene plays out in my mind, throngs of people clawing their faces in terror because I have cellulitey legs, I decide that mmmaybe I’ll just put this back on the rack and save it for somebody who has a flatter tummy, and whose legs aren’t so white as to draw the attention of passing satellites.

The weird thing is that I don’t actually think I have an awful body.  I can look at it objectively and go, “Oh, hey, I have a waist!  That is a nice thing to have.”  I can try to rate myself on the 10 scale (I don’t recommend this) and come up with a number that isn’t in the negatives.  I am pretty dang standard, but as soon as I try to dress above my ‘attractiveness rating’ I get nervous.

I think this is because a woman’s confidence can be seen as an inherently dangerous thing.  If a woman proudly posits that her ears were, in fact, carved by artisan Gods, people will give her The Look.  You know The Look.  The ‘Mm, do you really think you can afford to say things like that?  Are your ears really that fantastic?  In fact, I think one is bigger than the other.  Hey, Barbara, look at this girl’s ears, don’t you think one is too big?”  Rather than deal with the heartbreak of somebody tearing down her assumptions, the woman with the fabulous ears will keep her confidences to herself, becoming ashamed of her own pride in a weird cycle of non-esteemy esteem.

What it boils down to is this: I am okay with my body, but I don’t want other people to know that I am okay with my body, because then they will notice it, and what if they discover something that is not okay?  And then if they think I am okay with something that really isn’t okay, they’ll think I’m a snob, or a bitch.  They’ll think I’m one of those blindly self-praising girls who thinks she’s all that.  They’ll tell everybody else that that’s what I am.  A girl who thinks she is all that, when I am not all that at all, I’m not even a little bit that!  And then everyone will talk about me behind my back and I’ll never get asked to prom and nobody will ever approve my housing loans.

I am not afraid of people thinking I am ugly.

I am afraid of people thinking that I am presumptuous.

This is why I am eager to beat The Universe to the punch, to explain that oh, no, don’t worry.  I know my nose is weird and blobby and crooked.  I get that my fingers are the size and shape of chewed-on cigars.  It’s cool.  I’m cool.  I don’t think I’m ‘above my station’ or anything.  I’m being realistic here.

And the really weird thing?

I have never in my life thought that somebody was being too confident in their appearance*.  I have absolutely zero basis for this irrational fear, but since when has anybody ever been rational about their bodies?

It’s a conundrum, and I’m a hypocrite, but hey.  I’m working on it.

In the meantime, I am getting my pep talks from places like Already Pretty, Daddy Likey, and Chicken Soup For The Dorky Soul. If you thought you looked entirely too fat in that fabulous skirt from Goodwill, I would encourage you to go read a bit about beautiful unconventional women who are unashamed of their talent and appearance.

How do you feel about expressing your body-confidence?  Happy?  Nervous?  No body-confidence to speak of?  Express!

*Okay, okay, okay, there was one girl that I judged.  After expressing a desire to become a plus-size fashion designer, she had surgery to reduce her weight and talked constantly about how annoying it was that everyone kept looking at her outrageously sexy new body.  I know this behavior stems from a basic insecurity about her appearance, but after she looked me up and down and suggested that I could get the same weight-loss surgery, I may have…eh…lost patience with her.  Just a little bit.

Posted by on August 18, 2010 in Uncategorized


14 responses to “beat em to the punch

  1. knowoneyouknow

    August 18, 2010 at 9:47 am

    well, I’m 5’8″ – so maybe I shouldn’t talk. But I am 40 years old now and my 5’8″ frame’s metabolism is now collecting the cheeseburgers and beer around my middle section, so I look like maybe I could be a few months pregnant. The good thing is I can always wear clothes that accentuate the better bits and draw the eye away from the burger bun. But don’t get me started on swimsuits – I have to wear a one-piece now b/c it’s not polite to show what I have to the general public. I’ve just accepted that fact here:

    No, I won’t stop eating cheeseburgers… or drinking beer

    But the real question is confidence.

    I still feel okay about mine, belly and all, because I know my body does not define me, but let me tell you this: I’ve been around taller girls and prettier girls and their ugliness or beauty runs only as deep as their personalities. This is not a cliche, it’s the truth. I work at a TV Station where they only put physically pretty people on the air, and I’ll meet two gorgeous women of “equal beauty” and once they open their mouths, one of them turns repulsive. Not because of anything physical but because of her horrible attitude toword life and humans in general. It Shows Through.

    Maybe it’s a trick of the brain.

    But dear Jess, all you need to do is put your best Jess forward and the beauty we already see in you will grow more and more as we get to know you (um, yeah, I realize we’ve never “met” physically – but I’ve seen pictures 😉 You’re pretty already dammit! You know that. Accept it and love it, we do.

    And your mind, soul and body are already loved not only by friends and family but by your wonderful man. That’s what really matters.

    I think it’s a good idea to get the pep talks every now and then – I need them too for other things I wrestle with in life. It’s just human nature.

    So… yeah, that’s my two cents.

  2. Melissa

    August 18, 2010 at 10:07 am

    You know, I *thought* I was beginning to get worried that I’m outgrowing all my jeans. But then I read your blog, and all the calories I burn from laughing so hard make it all ok.
    I would insert a smiley here, but the cheesy wordpress fairies will turn it into a little cartoon. Hate. That.

  3. jenny

    August 18, 2010 at 10:25 am

    i’ve had some of these exact thoughts myself at various times, and am so glad to find that i’m not alone! it *does* seem to be a vicious self-esteem crushing cycle to try and keep one’s consciousness of one’s confidence in check. i fall prey to this cyclical psychosis for the same reason i never wear those t-shirts proclaiming ‘i’m a princess’ or anything similar; that is so presumptuous! i’ve always felt that would make me bitchy or snobby and that i’d rather be humble, but it seems, in retrospect, to be a much more degrading way to live.
    thanks so much for writing this post. it has given me a new perspective on this and some food for thought. we are all beautiful and, though i sometimes struggle to find the beauty in myself, i do keep trying. and i guess that’s all any of us can do – strive to find the beauty in ALL things, including ourselves!


  4. Winona

    August 18, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Aaaahhhh I love this post! So true and insightful. Your writing is amazing, Jessica. And thanks for the shoutout!!

  5. PlantingOaks

    August 18, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    I love you and your meta-think

  6. Sally

    August 18, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Thanks for the shout-out, lady. I adore your candor. And if you haven’t yet, take a peek at this post from Peter a few weeks back. Remarkably insightful, I think:

  7. Kelly

    August 18, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Hey! I love your new header! A girl after my own heart.

    “I am not afraid of people thinking I am ugly.

    I am afraid of people thinking that I am presumptuous.”

    This is how I feel a lot. I actually wrote a big long blog post sort of on the same topic, but I saved it to go back in a few weeks (which actually is now) and look at it with fresh eyes before I published.

  8. shakinghandswithtoday

    August 18, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Haha. I do exactly the same thing but I didn’t realize exactly what I was doing until I read this. I’m just sure that everyone is looking at me and judging me on my appearance, but I’m really afraid that they are thinking that I’m too confident in my ‘imperfections’. Thanks for the insight.

  9. lisa

    August 18, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    “as soon as I try to dress above my ‘attractiveness rating’ I get nervous”

    Oooh boy does this sentiment resonate with me. I went through an ugly duckling phase in high school and wasn’t always into fashion. Instead I was the nerdy kid who was always reading and trying to get good grades. It’s jarring to bump into people from high school these days who know about my blog…deep down I wonder if they think I’m dressing above my nerdiness. Anyway, at some point the desire to please yourself will outweigh your doubts about what others are thinking of you, and it’s a pretty satisfying feeling when that happens.

    • knowoneyouknow

      August 18, 2010 at 6:33 pm

      “…at some point the desire to please yourself will outweigh your doubts about what others are thinking of you, and it’s a pretty satisfying feeling when that happens.”

      well put Lisa! Amen sister!

  10. Vanessa

    August 19, 2010 at 11:40 am

    First, the very fact that you would give me a shout-out of sorts in this post makes me feel all blushy and awesome. Thanks! I’m glad you appreciate what I write 🙂 It’s a great thing to hear from someone as talented as yourself.

    Second, I’m really glad you wrote this because it’s the perfect wording to an issue that I often wrestle with– and in fact wrote about, kinda, in a non-body-image way (On Being an Authority was the post, I believe). People are so afraid of how to go about walking the line between confidence and arrogance. If you say “I’m pretty” people will say “what a stuck-up bitch she’s not that hot ughhhhh.” The same goes for things like talents and intelligence and the like. But we also live in a society where a lot of us HAVE to learn to sell ourselves to get things like employment and dates and things. So basically if you have poor self-esteem it’s a shame but you’re ALLOWED to be like that and people might even go “Wow, she’s so pretty and she doesn’t even know it that makes her AMAZING!” I think the whole thing is pretty bull and silly when it comes down to it. We would all be happy if we could appreciate ourselves without the fear of being seen as presumptuous.

    And to plug my Love 365 thingy, but this was one of the initial ideas I struggled with in deciding whether to integrate it with my blog or not. Would people think I was really stuck-up for spending the year publicly appreciating myself? Would that stop them from participating? Self-love often seems taboo.

  11. Cynthia

    August 20, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    You know, you probably are all that. Just sayin’. ’cause I’m all that. I look in the mirror and I like what I see. Always have, since I finished my awkward stage at about 14. Even when I was really fat and knew I needed to lose weight, I basically liked the way I looked to myself in the mirror. No one else is going to love you like you do. I also guarantee that once you’re past your late teens/early 20s, very few people are looking to randomly tear you down. In fact, the most freeing realization is that very few people are looking at you at all, so you can do exactly what you like. And if that is thinking you’re “all that”, you’re going to have more fun.

  12. Zeynep

    August 21, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    This reminded me of Megan Fox. I really like her, but so many women I speak to hate her. I’ve asked why, and people have told me it’s because she’s too conceited. In my mind, she’s confident, and that confidence is both awesome and sexy and something I would want to have. She loves her body, she knows she is attractive, and she has no problem with this fact. That is just so awesome. We are all expected to put ourselves down, that when a woman comes up who loves her body and loves herself without shame, she’s a self-conceited bitch. I wish people spoke about how much they loved their bodies instead of putting themselves down. It’s just so refreshing to hear.

  13. Alexandra

    February 23, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    I’ve been searching your archives for the proper post to add this link. It’s written by a friend of mine and it’s something all women should remember. My god, beauty should not dictate our happiness.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: