This week I received a difficult challenge in a business course I am working on. I was asked to specify my area of brilliance, and I found myself coming up short. It is so easy for me to see the beauty and brilliance in others, why is it so damn hard to see it in myself? When did standing in and claiming my own personal power get to be egotistical and self-serving (at least this is how I felt when I started to work on this project). We have a whole self-help and cosmetic industry based on the perception that we are somehow flawed or not “enough” exactly as we are.
I started feeling embarrassed and ashamed, and then I just got angry. I look at my beautiful children and I see that they are perfect, just as they are. When did I lose that? Where along the way did I lose touch with the fact that just by existing I am enough? That there is nothing inherently flawed that needs to be fixed? I want, no, I need them to believe this about themselves, but how can I model positive self-image if I am struggling with it myself?
The first step in this journey towards positive modelling and self acceptance started a couple of years ago when I ditched cosmetics. I used to work as a make up artist, and spent years not leaving the house without my “face” on. God forbid that someone see I have a pimple, or other unsightly blemish. I have since realized that everyone else is far too wrapped up in their own lives to care that much about the state of my skin, but that idea that I had to “fix” myself before showing my face to the world stuck with me for years. The marketing put out by the cosmetics industry certainly doesn’t help. They wouldn’t sell much to women who felt good about and comfortable in their own skin.
It took my kids to turn this around for me. I looked at my two beautiful little girls (my son wasn’t born yet at that point) and saw how incredibly beautiful and perfect they were. I started thinking about all of the hair dye and cosmetics I applied through my teens in order to feel like I was ok, and I started to cringe at the thought of my girls doing all of that. Don’t get me wrong, there is a huge creative side to cosmetics that I also embraced for years, and if make up or hair dye is something you love, all the power to you. The part that bothers me about it (where my own relationship to cosmetics is concerned) is the fact that I felt like I needed it in order to be enough. What would happen if cosmetics were marketed as a fun activity, to do when you feel like it, rather than something you need to do on a daily basis in order to look like fill in the blank celebrity in the latest ad campaign? A lot less product would be sold, but there would (arguably) be a huge rise in self-esteem. This is incidentally the discussion I have with my kids when I wear make up for a wedding or other event (something that happens now once or twice a year).
This process has not been easy. I am a couple of years in and I still need to adjust to the fact that I look different in photographs. Sometimes I look tired (because guess what, I am!) and sometimes I have an unsightly blemish on my face. But I take a deep breath and try to love myself through the imperfection, and often remind myself that the world isn’t going to end because I am showing my face to it. I am embracing myself as I am, and it is terrifying but also incredibly liberating.
The fact is, playing small does no one any good. It doesn’t serve me to have poor self-esteem. It doesn’t serve anyone else if I am playing small, and not finding the courage to claim my strengths and put myself out there. I am done with not feeling “enough”. I am done with feeling that I need to be/do more in order to be ok. Who am I to say that I am beautiful, and brilliant and have something to offer the world? When it comes down to it, who am I not to?