Monday, January 21, 2013


Unless you are extraordinarily blessed in some way, it's safe to say that if you are a female, you struggle with self-perception at least from time to time. It's been a very up and down journey for me over the years. I find myself struggling again, and if it's alright with you, I thought I might work out some of my thoughts about it here. I am in no way seeking compliments or assurances that I am "beautiful." I simply want to be honest for a moment. Because I am sure that I am not alone in these thoughts or feelings.

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This is me as a little girl. From around this time through to the summer between my 9th and 10th grade years, I suffered with a lot of self loathing. I don't mean self-consciousness, I mean loathing. I used to yell at myself and throw things at my image in the mirror. I would tell myself I was ugly, and stupid and no one loved me. I had a very loving family and an incredibly close family, so I have no idea where these feelings came from. I have no dark memories. But, I was convinced that I was unlovable. 

 The summer between my 9th and 10th grade years, I came to a different understanding about who I was. I began to feel and believe that God had created me, exactly as he had planned. And for me to hate who I was, was to question his design. I also believed that Christ had died for me, out of love, exactly as I was. And if he had found that much worth in me, then I needed to begin accepting myself. Somehow, I was released from the bondage I had known for years. For the next few years, I lived with a confidence I had never known before. And because of that confidence, I started to feel beautiful. I had never felt that way before. In college, where I was studying fashion design, I did some modeling.

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  And while I had irregular features, my confidence made me a decent runway model.

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This is how I felt about and saw myself for the next ten years or so. Then I started having children. Oh how that will challenge your perception of your physical self. I didn't know how to dress myself for my new life. Spit up, and crawling around and chasing after little ones don't lend themselves to heels and dresses and, you know, daily showers. 

 Not only that, there is reconciling yourself to your new body. Even though I lost weight quickly after my first two, nothing was the same, and nothing, therefore fit the same. After my third child, my daughter, I couldn't ditch the weight and I just look more tired and worn out. Frankly, that's because I am. With some health issues that cause sleep to be illusive, a booming little business, and three kids who take turns waking me, I. Am. Tired.

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Still, I manage at times, to feel like this (the pictures below). A photo shoot taken this past year for my business.

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 Most of the time, these days though, this is how it plays out in my head. (I took these pics a couple of days ago as a sort of therapeutic test.) 

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 I look at the picture and am okay with the results. Then I look again and feel an uneasiness. Then I look a little closer and things start to shift and all I can see are the fact that my eyes aren't even, and my skin is ruddy, and I have the Putnam double chin. I see time leaving its mark all over my face. And then I try to stop there and realize my face says a couple of things about me. The lines between my eyes are deep, from too often furrowing my brow. And my smile lines are deep as well. So, apparently, I feel deeply and often. I am okay with that story. 

 I am sure my self-perception will continue to evolve.  But, I am hopeful that I can maintain the winning edge over it. I want to reclaim the confidence I had. I want my sons to think their mom is pretty. And I want my daughter to have a healthy understanding of beauty. Part of that comes with taking care of myself. Most of it comes with continuing to be close to the one who created me and getting my worth from him. Throw in the fact that I have a husband who tells me daily that he thinks I am beautiful, and my chances are pretty good.

Thanks for letting me get that out. If you have any thoughts to add, I would love to hear them. 


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing, for putting yourself out there like this...I can absolutely relate to everything you're saying, as I've felt the exact same way. I'm a middle aged, overweight woman now, but there is something I've figured out over the years, especially the last few. My physical imperfections are many, but there is something about true happiness that makes you look and feel beautiful, regardless of the external. I strive for peace of mind, living in the present moment, enjoying my loved ones as much as I can...somehow, it does for me what no facelift, or weight loss program could ever do. For the record, Susan, you are one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen, inside and out:) Much love, Alexis

Susan Woods said...

Alexis, first of all, thank you. But, mostly, holy cow. You are gorgeous. And it isn't just your hair that I am totally jealous of, or your eyes, or your incredible smile. Actually, it might be your eyes and your smile, because they radiate exactly what you are talking about. Your inner beauty and joy shining through. I am so thankful that our paths have crossed.

Trish said...

Ah Susan....thank you so much for sharing this link with me! I can relate to so many of these feelings that you had so many years ago, and again most recently. Society puts so much pressure on having that size 2 waist. Even though at a size 14, which I know after four kids isn't that big, there are some days I feel like a beached whale. I don't know if I have starts that mid-life crisis people talk about, but I don't feel old, its just looking in the mirror and not liking what I see. I am working on trying to see the beauty that others say they see. I'm getting better :). Thanks again for the fantastic blog!

Hena Tayeb said...

I'd rather have those smile lines than never smiling..
that was a wonderfully personal post.. thank you for sharing.