Category Archives: girls’ empowerment

Reflected beauty

The other day I saw a woman across the room. And my first thought was – she looks like she’d be a great friend, she’s just my sort of woman. Beautiful patterned artsy clothes, an open face, radiating her own unique beauty, she looks happy in her own skin.

Then my brain caught up. That woman, that beautiful woman was me, reflected in the bedroom mirror as I walked by. What a moment it was! Genuinely seeing yourself as objectively beautiful – free from ego or doubt or intentional self esteem raising. Just seeing. And knowing.

Me and my daughters

And it was in such contrast to another mirror moment three years earlier.

In a restaurant with our children, I caught sight of myself in the mirror across the room – and felt physical disgust as I dissected my faults – my eyes filled with tears, I felt sorry for my husband to be not only married to such a hideous creature, but embarrassed for him that he had to be out in public with me. Then I caught sight of my daughter sitting opposite. Angel faced, the epitome of beauty. I scanned back to my own face, and noticed what I am always told. She looks just like me. So similar its scary. The eyes, the nose, the mouth, the shape of her face. I know her beauty to the depths of my heart. It is truth. So how, if we looked so similar, could she be beauty incarnate, and me a hag? I knew then that I really was dealing with a problem of perception and not reality.

I have had an ongoing hate-hate relationship with my own beauty. A general disgust of my reflection in a mirror, photographs of me, my thighs and belly as they sit quietly… I have always found my physical self unacceptable. Its so cliched. So dull. So pointless. And yet so real, omnipresent in my mind and life. Beauty shouldn’t matter… but it does. With beauty come value, love, acceptance – of self and others.

I know where its roots for me lie. In not fitting in. My dad not thinking I was beautiful. My mother and step mother showing dismay at their post baby bodies and carving them back into shape with diets and harsh exercise routines. A friend’s mother who thought her daughter, aged nine, was fat and should diet. Friend’s comments, magazines, TV… the list goes on. The poison is everywhere. And I swallowed it down like a good girl. Until I hated every part of my beautiful self.

I found myself looking back over our wedding photos, and oh how beautiful I was. But acceptably beautiful. The slimmest I have ever been. Hair dyed back to its natural color. But I remember just how uncomfortable I was in my skin. I showed the photos to my children. And to my shame asked if they thought I was beautiful then, they said yes. And if I was beautiful now, not really, was their response. They make references to me being big, being fat. You know where they learnt that from. Because that is how I have felt.

But recently I have realised, that being heavier I feel fully myself. Full of me. in my own skin. I was never much good at being a teen or in my twenties. When life was about weight and surface beauty. I never cared enough about it to sacrifice myself on the altar of beauty and fashion. I always wanted to be me. But me was apparently unacceptable.

But now, when I look in the mirror, I do not carve myself into pieces of unacceptability. I see the curves and the flesh and the hair and the skin, the wholeness of my beauty. My spirit incarnate. And I shake my booty, and laugh with pleasure and joy at this body that I get to call mine. And I revel in the flesh of my children. Flesh of my flesh. And I tell them that I think they are beautiful. Strong. Kind. Loving. Smart. Creative.

And I tell them that I am too. I show them my work, my actions, my heart. And when I look at myself in the mirror, I share my beauty too.

I am commited to this admiring and celebrating of our beauty, inside and out. And this is why…

“When I was growing up there wasn’t one woman in my environment who I heard saying something positive about her body. Everything I heard was negative, negative, negative. I accept my body. I accept how I am and make the best of what I am given. Children orientate towards examples. That’s why I talk solely positive about my body in front of my [daughter. I say things like ‘Hey, look at my strong arms!’ Or I shake my butt and say ‘Look at my fabulous butt!’ I do that deliberately,”

Kate Winslet, in a new interview with German magazine Brigitte.

And this powerful post by Amanda at Offbeat Mama

“I don’t want my girls to be children who are perfect and then, when they start to feel like women, they remember how I thought of myself as ugly and so they will be ugly too. They will get older and their breasts will lose their shape and they will hate their bodies, because that’s what women do. That’s what mommy did. I want them to become women who remember me modeling impossible beauty. Modeling beauty in the face of a mean world, a scary world, a world where we don’t know what to make of ourselves.”

And finally this powerful performance by Kate Makkai: Now for sale: Daughters $10,000 each

“When my daughter asks me if she’s pretty, I’ll say no! The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be. And no child of mine will be contained in five letters. You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing, but you will never be merely pretty.”

How do you celebrate your beauty? And what has your journey been?

A call to action: girls in need…

I was recently reading Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: a new biography and she shares research in it which proves that sexual abuse is not “just” done to the body. It is the ultimate way to destroy a woman’s sense of self and sacredness. Because of the connection between yoni, spinal nerves and brain, an attack on the vagina literally closes down feminine consciousness.

My biggest fear as a woman, as a mother of daughters is the possibility of my sex, my sexuality being raped or abused. Not just for the moment that it happens, but for the life long consequences of it. It is our biggest vulnerability as women, and one that has been ruthlessly used globally throughout history to punish women, keep them small, keep them silent, shamed, alone, indentured.

I was contacted today by More Than Me, an education and girls’ empowerment non-profit that gets little girls off the street and into school in one of the world’s most dangerous slums in the world in Liberia, West Africa. They work with community leaders to identify the girls who are at the highest risk of being sexually exploited to ensure that education and opportunity, not exploitation and poverty, defines their lives. They pay tuition, provide school lunch and work with the school and community to make it impossible for her to fail.

 

They have been shortlisted for a $1 million prize and need our votes. Their work is in total alignment with my aims at The Happy Womb, and I ask you all to take 15 seconds out of your day to support their campaign, so that they are financially assisted in helping empower many more girls who need support, love and safety and have nowhere else to turn to for it.

Educating one girl changes, well, everything. Here’s why:

One of the girls they are currently helping is Abigale.

My name is Abigail.

I’m 13-years-old. I live in West Point, Liberia. I don’t know my parents… I was left with prostitutes when I was six-years-old. They took care of me, but life was hard. Often, I didn’t have a place to sleep or food to eat. I never went to school. And I would often sleep at a video club so men could find me and then “rent” me for the night. I was abused, both in my mind and body. I didn’t feel loved.

When I met the people at More Than Me, my life changed. I have a new home now and food to eat. I’m in school now. I’m happy now. I feel like I have a future now. I feel loved. I’ve learned how to bake, which helps me earn extra money.

Please help vote for me so I can continue in this new life and stay in school. Your vote is my future. I’ll do anything to show you that I’ll do my best in school and become something with my life.

Love,

Abigail

Please, take 15 seconds to make the lives of these girls a bit better by doing two very simple and extremely meaningful things: VOTE NOW through Dec. 4 for Abigail and girls like her at voteabigail.org and… then share it with others.