You’re always with yourself, so you might as well enjoy the company. — Diane Von Furstenberg
“She’ll probably look like me at least a little,” I said. Then I stopped. The kneejerk reaction was to add two little words to that statement: “poor kid.”
But I bit my tongue. Now that we’re expecting a baby, I’m trying to keep those words from passing my lips.
I have a bunch of baby books on my Kindle, each at different levels of completion. There’s cloth diaper lingo to become fluent in, childbirth class to attend, and itty bitty socks to hoard! Yet my time is taken up by thinking deliberately about reigning in my self-deprecation, of all things. You’d think this would be a back-burner thing not related to having a baby at all, but I disagree. It has everything to do with having a little one.
Self-deprecation and wry remarks have been my modus operandi for so long, it’s second nature to me. I make the same face in photos all the time because, if I make a face, I think it looks better than my natural smile. I have fluoride staining on my two front teeth, which my dentist assures me is not my fault, but also assures me is not something that can be fixed with, say, Crest White Strips. Veneers were thrown about as a possibility, but I’m still debating what I want to do. Is it a slippery cosmetic slope, or simple self-image improvement?
But there’s more for me to consider beyond whether or not I’m willing to make a relatively small change for my own ego. It seems like, regardless of that, I’m deeply self-conscious about my appearance, to the point where when I put together a bio page for my blog, my first inclination was to write about how I’m kind of boyish and wonky-looking. My non-conventionally-pretty-appearance was the first thing I thought of when pondering the essence of who I am. Wonky. Boyish. Awkward. Plain. These are the words that rise to the surface. Tiny knives that I throw at myself.
I want to change for my daughter. If I’m always throwing those knives at myself, and there’s this little person who shares those traits and who’s privy to those remarks, then the logical conclusion she might make would be that she, too, should sharpen her blades. I’d rather not actively pack such baggage for her. Maybe she won’t be conventionally pretty. Maybe she will be. Either way, society will tell her it matters in a myriad of ways–through beauty privilege (yes, that’s a thing), marketing, body shaming, etc. I don’t think I need to help. While I fear overdoing the self-esteem boosting thing,1 there’s something to be said for not recoiling at every photo in which you appear or waving off any compliment as someone just being polite.
There’s nothing wrong with having an appearance that conforms to the standard idea of pretty, of course–just like wearing clothes that are in style is accepted behavior, as is getting one’s nails done. It feels good to look good to mainstream society…but it can be very hard to feel like you don’t conform in the grand scheme of things. Do people notice the fluoride stains on my teeth? Probably. But I know I think about them way, way more than anybody else. I’m also not in high school anymore;2 not everyone is looking for things to criticize about me. So I’m not conventionally pretty! I’m also not the ogre I think is reflected in the pool. Besides: what’s awkward to one person may be heartbreaker-status to another.
If I desperately want my smile to not embarrass me, I think that’s reasonable. What’s not reasonable is my self-deprecation about my entire appearance and boyish profile,3 which goes much deeper than a little tooth stain. It’s not OK to obsess over those small perceived flaws to the point that it overtakes my entire sense of who I am.4 I’m ready to change all of that regardless of what I end up doing about the chomper situation. No more “If she’s lucky, she won’t look like me” remarks. I hope that in changing this for myself, I’m changing this for my daughter, too.
Photo by: danichro
- Sometimes feeling bad about something can be a great motivator. Not everyone can be the best at everything, either. But that’s a whole different article. ↩
- My inner reaction whenever I remind myself of this fact. ↩
- Although I realize my complaints about my profile are small in comparison to someone like Lucy Grealy. ↩
- Especially when my perceived sense of self may be totally different from what others see. ↩