I got my wedding pictures back this week. I got pictures from one of the most fantastic days in my life, a day I felt absolutely lovely.
I got them back and the first thing I noticed was not that I was glowing and happy. It was not that my dress was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever worn. It was not even that my hair was exactly how I envisioned it.
Nope. The first thing I noticed was my chin. My terrible, horrible, no good, very bad chin. My chin that makes me feel like I am sloppy and unattractive and weigh about 4000lbs.
I mentioned this to my wife who called me crazy. I blocked many photos from being visible on my Facebook. The worst of them I untagged entirely. And then I talked to my mom.
My mom’s first reaction on seeing my pictures: “Well, everyone looks good except me for this particular reason.”
I found this ludicrous. My mother looked beautiful walking me down the aisle and at all points after.
Then my sister called. “The pictures are really great but I look terrible in most of them.”
My cousin. “Why’d you tag that awful picture of me?”
And I thought to myself, this is lunacy. These women looked great in those pictures. They looked well put together and happy and beautiful.
And I thought about this a little more, but I still wasn’t ready to accept the connection that logically follows. If they looked beautiful despite thinking they looked terrible, what does that say about my own reaction?
And I continued on that path for a little longer.
My grandmother refuses to smile in pictures because she hates her teeth. And before she hated her teeth she refused to be in pictures because of her thin hair.
I’m certain that her mother before her must have had some “fatal flaw” as well.
And then I got really, really sad. Because the reality of this whole train of thought is that not a single one of us has any idea what we look like. We hone in on a part to focus our negative body image on and that’s the only thing we see. It pulls our entire focus.
And I recalled an article I had read recently. It talked to mothers of daughters. And what it said was, mothers, don’t talk to your daughters about their bodies in ways that refer to what they look like. And don’t make reference to the “flaws” you perceive in your own. Don’t let your daughter hear how you need to go on a diet and how your cellulite makes your legs look like cottage cheese. Don’t let them see you abusing yourself that way. And don’t comment to them about how they’ve gained or lost weight.
Tell your daughters they’re strong. Tell them they’re smart. Tell them they’re brave. Tell them they’re beautiful.
And show them the same is true for their mother.
It seems to me that we are in a cycle. That we have spent generations perpetuating this idea that whatever we are, we’re not enough.
But my legs get me where I’m going and my smile makes people smile back. It seems to me that that is something worth celebrating, not criticizing.
It’s time to end the cycle. It’s time for me to look at my wedding pictures and notice that my eyes are shining and my dress is perfect on me.
There are two little girls in my life that look up to me. There are two beautiful children who take in every word they hear me say. Maybe it’s time for me to think about that, too. It seems to me that they deserve a chance to grow up never cringing at their pictures and always smiling their biggest when someone says, “Say cheese!”