When I started working out again a few months ago, I also “followed” a facebook page called Women of CrossFit = Strong. It is full of motivation and inspiration in the form of pictures, personal stories, and quotes. It’s that extra little positive reminder I need everyday. I love it.
But the other day I saw a post on there that didn’t sit right with me. A young woman was thinking of quitting CrossFit because guys found her to be intimidating and too strong.
The advice everyone gave her was to keep working out and try dating guys who do CrossFit. I’m glad they told her to keep up the workout and pointed out the issue was the guys, not her. But I think something big was just glossed over.
We shouldn’t have to change who we are to fit in with someone else.
I wanted to tell her that she shouldn’t stop working out if she loves it. Guys who are intimidated by strong women are not the kind of guys any of us should want to date. They wouldn’t qualify as men, under my definition. I wanted to tell her that she didn’t have to just date guys who do CrossFit, but that any man of value would like her as she is.
If we change who we are to please other people, we will end up resenting them in the end. And we’ll probably go back to doing what we loved in the first place.
I didn’t type in my comments because there were already thousands of people telling her not to quit. But I couldn’t stop thinking about what she said.
I remember changing to please guys when I was younger, like most of us probably did. Now, I won’t even think once about it. If a guy doesn’t like who I am, then he’s not a guy I care about. I find it easy to keep on moving.
But men aren’t the only ones we change for. And then it hit me.
The person who I need to watch for the most is myself.
I can be strong when it comes to friends and men, but get me in a room with myself and I crumble.
I have certain, often silly, ideas about what I am supposed to look like, act like, and be like. When I started taking myself seriously as a writer I thought I had to have an image to match. I stopped bleaching my hair because blonds aren’t taken seriously. I had to stop being fun and start being smart. Obviously, that meant going brunette.
Before that, change had kind of been my thing. I love changing my hair, my make-up, my style. People who’ve known me for a long time have seen me with every hair color and length imaginable. And they have no idea what my natural hair color is. Because the real me doesn’t care.
I have been wanting to get back to me for while. I’m tired of having the same hair, the same look. This isn’t me and something inside is fighting back. But I keep telling myself that I have to fit the look of a serious writer. I’m forcing myself to change who I am to fit who I think I should be.
I am so much worse than any man could ever be.
I wonder if, to some extent, we all do this. We get an idea in our heads of who we are supposed to be. Then we try and fit that mold, no matter how tight and suffocating it is. No matter how much we don’t fit or how many parts of ourselves we have to chop off to cram ourselves inside.
There is no one else telling us we have to change. We are doing it to ourselves.
Today I’m deciding: No More!
I can be the serious, smart writer who changes her hair color like an accessory and has fun with bold make-up. I can wear the big earrings and the high heels. I can be me. And I can still fit into any role I choose.
Now I can’t wait to tell my hair dresser the good news! And I can’t wait to try out all the styles I’ve been putting off while I’ve been trying to fit this serious writer role.
Do you ever pressure yourself to make changes you don’t really want? What have you ever done to fit a certain role? Do you think we can all be taken seriously, just as we are?
My birthday came and went last week without too much hoopla. I got the phone calls from home where my step mom sang many renditions of the Happy Birthday song. Friends sent texts, Tweets, and posted on Facebook. And I went out to a nice dinner with a couple of friends. There was a chocolate martini and creme brule. It was a good day.
I didn’t spend much time thinking about my age or getting older. OK, I didn’t spend any time thinking about it. For me, birthdays are an excuse to have a good time and eat good food. But, it seemed like everywhere I went people were trying to force me to be upset about aging.
Well-meaning friends asked how it felt to get one year closer to 40. They talked about gray hair, wrinkles, and biological clocks. They said things like, “We’re not as young as we used to be.”
That’s true. But, neither is the First grader who just turned 7.
At the gym, people were complaining about their aging bodies. They said they were less flexible and more easily injured now that they are over 40. They looked at the 20-somethings with envy. Like they missed being that young.
I feel like the odd person out, because I just don’t feel the same way. I don’t understand the obsession with age and no one is going to convince me that I should.
I remember what I was like in my early 20′s. Insecure, desperate to fit in, and full of doubt mixed with self-hate. I dieted, over-exercised, dated all the wrong guys, and bent over backwards for people who mis-treated me. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted, so I took whatever was offered to me.
Sure, I had wrinkle-free skin. But I didn’t like myself very much.
Yes, there were times when I thought it would be fun to go back and re-do my early 20′s as the me I am now. But then I realized that it took going through my 20′s to become the confident woman I am now. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
My 30′s is when I started coming into my own. I figured out who I am and what I like. I know what I want and I have the confidence to go after it. I like myself and my body and I’m not willing to do anything to harm it. No more starvation or weird diets. No more running 50 miles a week. No more looking in the mirror and hating what I see.
Every year seems to get better than the last. It feels like there are more things I can do, not less. I’m willing to try and take risks. I’m not worried about falling on my face or what other people will say. I love being a mature, confident thirty-something.
I loved being 35. I have only been 36 for a few days, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be my best year yet!
I know that not everyone else feels the same way about aging. But that doesn’t mean I have to let it bother me. I think if we could all realize we are beautiful and vibrant no matter our age, we would all be a little happier.
How do you feel about getting older? Do you miss your “youthful” days or are you happy where you are now?
I can admit that I like the new Hawaii 5-o. No, the writing and acting are not good, but the scenery is beautiful. The trees, the flowers, the high rise buildings so close to the water. Beautiful. And I like watching to see how the actors’ hair reacts to the humidity. It gives me ideas for summer haircuts in the south. Strange, but practical.
It is Hawaii and it’s hot and there is an ocean. So, it is not a surprise that there are swim suit scenes. I know I’m not the only one who looks forward to Steve Mcgarrett coming out of the ocean. Or any scene where he is shirtless.
He is strong and muscular, which fits my definition of sexy for a man.
But then came a scene where one of the female characters got out of the swimming pool, in a bikini of course. She came out slow and the camera focused on the water dripping off of her body and the way she shook out her wet hair. It was definitely supposed to be sexy. And that made me mad.
The actress was so skinny it looked unnatural. Bones were poking out everywhere and she had no butt, no hips, no boobs. Nothing to fill out a bikini. It was like looking at a twelve year old girl in her first bikini. Pre-puberty.
It wasn’t sexy.
I get that there are different body types, and there are women who are naturally thin. And, yes, they are beautiful, too.
But just like we know that super thin girls are going to be runway models, we also know that they aren’t ever going to get into Victoria’s secret or Sports Illustrated. Because curves are sexy.
It seems to me that lately Hollywood is trying to change that. Since that episode of Hawaii 5-o I have noticed other shows doing the same thing. They are putting super skinny women in bikinis and lingerie and telling us they are sexy.
It doesn’t work.
Thin girls can rock some straight legged jeans and do the shorts as formal attire thing. They can be trendy, sleek, svelte. They can make skinny jeans look so good. And, yes, I get jealous.
But, when it comes to sexy, thin doesn’t do it. They need curves to fill out the bikinis and the lingerie. Womanly, feminine, curves. Those are all a part of being sexy.
Marilyn Monroe was sexy. Twiggy was trendy.
Yes, different people find different things sexy. And personality does have a lot to do with it. But, the truth is: I don’t want to look at a super skinny woman in a swim suit. And I don’t think we should have one body type shoved down our throats as the ideal. Because it isn’t.
I have accepted that skinny jeans and knee high boots don’t look good on my body. It’s time Hollywood realized that you need some curves to fill out a swim suit.
What do you think is sexy? How do you feel about the Hollywood ideal of skinny as the only beautiful? Do you agree with me, or do you think I have it all wrong?
I love the beach. I love the sun, the sand, and the warm water.
One of the best things is relaxing with a book or magazine until it gets too hot. So you run into the water, jump some waves, and swim around. Then, it’s back to the beach and the book to start the whole process over.
When I lived in South America, I got used to everyone in swimsuits. It didn’t matter what size anyone was or even how pasty our skin looked in the light. On the beach, everyone wore as little as possible.
I felt confident enough to wear a bikini. Even sitting down, when our thighs look the widest and even the skinniest stomach makes a roll. I fit in and I didn’t feel judged. So I didn’t judge myself.
Back in the states, things are a little different. Especially at a warm beach on the Atlantic. People in small clothing are fit. They look good and they know it. The women in bikinis have bodies straight off the cover of Women’s Health and the men run along with the tide, shirtless and muscular.
It’s a little intimidating.
Normally, I’m a pretty confident person. I exercise, eat healthy, and I’m happy with myself. But take me to the beach and I become a different person.
In preparation for an American beach, I went out and bought a one piece. I don’t have a six pack and I thought I’d feel more comfortable with my middle covered.
The trouble with a swimsuit is, bikini or one piece, my most uncomfortable parts still show. It’s my butt and thighs that make me want to get a sarong or keep my sundress on.
In jeans, I totally appreciate my booty. And I’ve come to accept my meaty thighs. It’s my body, it’s who I am.
But the pants come off, and suddenly I’m comparing my body to everyone else on the beach.
Everybody else seems so skinny. And so tan.
So I stay on the beach towel, with my sundress on and my nose in a book. Until my friend comes to get me and won’t take no for an answer.
I had to actually say the words out loud.
I don’t like myself in a swimsuit. I feel fat. Look at all the skinny people on the beach.
She gave me that look that only a good friend can. Not pity, but love mixed with empathy and a little bit of whoop-ass.
She told me that I’m beautiful. She told me to take off my dress and get in the water because we came to the beach to have fun. And she said that I just needed a little bit of a tan to get rid of my Pacific Northwest complexion and I’d feel fine.
I guess we take turns with our friends, helping each other see ourselves as our best when we are feeling our worst. We all need a friend to give us that kick in the butt sometimes. To tell us they love us and we’re beautiful, but we’re being kind of ridiculous.
Because no matter how confident we are, we all have our moments. We may want to be a superhero and save ourselves all the time. But everyone has a weakness.
A swimsuit is my self-confidence kryptonite.
Do you feel more self-confident in some places than in others? How do you feel about swimsuits? If you have any self-confidence secrets, I’d love to hear them.
Self-confidence is a funny thing. No matter how much we love ourselves and how great we think we are, we all have our moments.
Those moments when we don’t feel thin enough, pretty enough, or even smart enough.
It usually happens when we compare ourselves to others.
One of my Bestie’s and I recently got together after not seeing each other for over a year. The last time I had seen her she was 9 months pregnant. Needless to say, she hadn’t been out dancing in a while. And she was a little too quick to put her own body down.
I figured it was my duty to help her see and remember the beautiful woman she is.
So, at the store when she was looking at A-line and pleated dresses that hit at her knee, I went and found her the perfect party dress. Fitted, but not tight. Black lace over a nude liner. It was sleeveless, but came up to her neck.
It was gorgeous and sexy.
She kept asking if it was too slutty. And adding in “for someone who has kids.”
She looked amazingly hot, and luckily she trusted me enough to buy it. That’s what friends are for. Sometimes we just need to put our trust in them and know that they wouldn’t steer us wrong. Because I could see how great she looked when she couldn’t.
We went out dancing that night and she strutted her stuff like the confident friend I remembered.
At one bar in the middle of our evening an extremely intoxicated man opened the door for us and stopped when he saw my friend. He looked right at her and said, “You ‘da finest one!” Then he told the guy at the door to make sure and let her in.
We joked about it all night, but the thing is, he was right. She was the finest one. I think I looked great in my red jeans, but that dress was A-MAZING.
Every time I told that story to someone, she tried to discount the man. As if he couldn’t be right because he was drunk. It made me wonder why we do that to ourselves.
Why do we look for excuses or reasons to discount someone who gives us a compliment?
Was he smooth in his delivery? No.
Was he someone she would be interested in if she wasn’t married? A big No. Or as she would say, “H to the No.”
But that doesn’t make him wrong. Or his compliment any less real or true.
I think all of us need to practice believing people when they tell us we look good. Because we probably do! And we need to stop discounting compliments and looking for reasons to discredit the person who complimented us.
We are all so much more beautiful than we realize.
And sometimes it takes someone else to see it. Even if he is drunk.
Do you accept compliments easily? Or do you brush them off or disagree with them? What is the most difficult compliment for you to hear?
I have always had straight hair. As a kid it was stick straight and fine. And blond, but that’s a different post. I remember my mother telling me that she would know if I ever got pregnant because my hair would go curly. That’s what had happened to her.
Well I didn’t get pregnant, but with puberty my hair changed. It went from the sleek straightness I’d always know to wavy. I started calling it The Butt Wave mostly because I didn’t like it. It was half way in between straight and curly, and I didn’t like doing things half way.
I can admit I’m a bit of an extremist.
Then someone heard me call it The Butt Wave and thought I meant that it looked like a Butt-Rocker’s hair-do. I never listened to Butt Rock, but I’ve seen pictures of them. Oh, god, that was so not what I wanted to look like!
A man with bad hair. No way.
So I did what any normal girl would do. I became close friends with my blow dryer. And a round brush. I bought the kind of product you use to make hair sleek, with fun names like Super Skinny. Who doesn’t want to be skinny?
For special occasions a home-done blow out wasn’t enough. I went out and bought a flat iron. After product and drying, I’d spritz on more product and clamp my hair down between the hot pieces of metal. And no cheap flat irons would do. I needed to see the steam rising and hear the sizzle for me to know it was really working.
Oh how I loved sleek, straight hair.
But then I went to Miami. I wasn’t worried because there is air-conditioning everywhere. Even my good-for-the-budget hotel. In the morning before I went out I showered and dried my hair straight like normal.
Normal on the West coast is not the same as normal in Miami.
I love the heat and the humidity, so I didn’t worry about anything. Until I looked in the mirror. My hair wasn’t straight anymore. It had poofed back out into its natural state. It was wavy. I grabbed an elastic hair band from my purse and stuck it up into a pony tail. I could worry about it later.
The next day I decided not to fight it. Why not just let my hair do what it wants and see what happens? I just wouldn’t take any pictures.
So I washed it and combed it, and then let it be. I went out into the heat of the day and walked around, doing normal tourist stuff. I totally forgot about my hair until I walked by a mirror. So I stopped and looked.
What I saw surprised me. My hair was wavy and bouncy and full of body. I liked what I saw.
Yes, that’s right, I actually liked my hair exactly how it was. No blow dryer, not flat iron, no skinny. It felt so good to like myself just as I was.
Since that trip I have decided to stop fighting nature in the form of my hair. I have decided to go with flow. Embrace the wave. I don’t call it The Butt Wave anymore. It’s just my hair.
And I like it the way it is.
What do you go through to get your hair the way you like it? What things do you like about yourself just they way they are?
Everywhere we look there are images of beautiful women. In magazines, on TV, in the movies. They usually meet the same standards: thin, young, and blond. There have been a few changes in what is beautiful over the past few years. Hair and skin can be a little darker. Ethnically ambiguous is ok, but thin and blond is still the best. Heidi Klum, Giselle, and that girl from the latest Transformer movie. They are beautiful.
Once every few years a magazine will include a picture of a “normal sized” woman and everyone will get excited. She is probably a size eight and considered plus size. And she won’t be in a mainstream magazine for another few years. Then the fashion critics give Octavia Spencer a Best-Dressed award and say she “knows how to dress for her figure.”
And we wonder why we all feel the pressure to eat less, work out, and stay wrinkle free.
But if we look at the women in our lives and think about who we consider beautiful, we would find a very different answer.
My friends are all beautiful in different ways. I have a tiny, pocket sized friend who has the most infectious smile. Another friend has perfect corkscrew curls and skin the color of cinnamon. One has the cutest button nose and another has bright green eyes that make everyone stare. They are all regular women and they are amazingly beautiful.
When I think of each of them separately, I think of features. What stands out on them. But when I picture them all together, I can see the source of true beauty. It shines from inside them. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true. You can see it in their eyes. They actually sparkle. Their skin glows like they wear some sort of shimmery moisturizer. And don’t get me started on their smiles. It’s like they smile with their entire bodies.
Yes, my friends are freaking gorgeous. More beautiful than most of the women on TV and in the magazines.
Because beauty is more than having a flat stomach or professionally styled hair. Real beauty comes from confidence, from knowing and loving who you are. There are actresses and models who radiate beauty. Think about it, you’ll see what I mean. The ones who you look at in the magazines and think, “Damn, she looks good!” They are the same kind of beautiful as you and me.
Beauty shines on the outside, but its source is deep within.
Pick up a mirror and look at yourself. Really look. You’ll see that I’m right. Beautiful.
How do you define beauty? What do you think of the media interpretation?
Tomorrow, Friday February 10th, please check out August McLaughlin’s blog for the Beauty of a Woman Blog fest. There will be links to other blogs about beauty and a chance to win prizes, including a kindle. I hope you check it out.
I was a chunky kid, or so I thought. I grew up in the time before J.Lo and Beyonce hit it big. No one really looked at the Fly Girls as a body image role model. They were just background.
So, when I was with my school friends, it was hard for me to accept that I was thick. I used to dream of skinny thighs that didn’t even come close to each other and a flat butt that stayed inside jeans. Mine has always been round and, shall we say, meaty. Even as a kid I needed a belt to cinch in the waist over my derrière. I hope that’s French for butt.
Thankfully I have a family that loves me, accepts me, and always thought I was beautiful exactly as I am. In my family being thick wasn’t a bad thing. My dad and brother would tell me I didn’t need to run so much and they’d comment about how celebrities like Paris Hilton and Angelina Jolie looked like they needed to eat a burger.
But I always felt caught in between two worlds. The home world of my family where I was ok and the real world of everyone else. My friends always put down their own bodies, which were clearly smaller than mine. And their moms dieted and never had dessert. It was all about losing those last ten pounds.
I don’t remember ever having a scale in the house. But I do remember my step-mom pointing out someone and saying, “Oh, that poor woman, it must be rough to have a flat butt.” I’d laugh and say, “Yeah, I bet it hurts when she sits down.”
Then I went away to college and I didn’t see my family as often. I was surrounded by people who I thought were thin and beautiful. But, they all talked about being fat and not attractive enough. If they were fat, what did that make me?
So I went through college, and a few years after, being the fat friend. I was the one who couldn’t get her own date to the dance. Thank goodness for set-ups, right? Don’t get me wrong, my friends never told me I was fat or chubby, or even that I needed to work out. It was the assumption I made from the way they talked about themselves. I could see that they were thinner than me, so I figured I was a real fatty.
After enough time back home with my family, and living in Ecuador where I was called despampanante and caderona because being curvy and having hips is a good thing, I got my head back on straight. I could see that there is an epidemic of self hate in this country, especially when it comes to women and body image. Not to offend anyone, but I called it “White Girls’ Disease” because that’s where it usually runs rampant.
But I still couldn’t see that I had caught the disease. I thought I had really been obese in college and just lost all the weight. Sure, I started working out in grad school and became a runner for a while. Yeah, I lost some weight. Maybe ten whole pounds.
Then I took it too far and tried dieting. I portioned out mini meals and stuck to a plan six days a week, only to gorge on my off day. All I thought about was food and my next meal. I wasn’t fun to be around. Finally, a friend told me it was disgusting and I’d taken it too far. So I stopped.
I’m sure my body went up or down a little at the time, but not enough to make a big difference. I have never been a swimsuit model and I’m ok with that. I think I look better with a little meat on my bones. Actually, I think all women do. But that’s just my opinion.
The shocking thing was for me to look back at pictures and see who I really was. A picture of me at my heaviest didn’t look so good, that’s true. It was also taken close up from a bad angle and my hair was highlighter yellow. I thought I was enormous back then, even though I bought all my clothes at the regular store. Size ten isn’t actually plus size.
The problem was all in my head.
I saw myself as fat no matter what was actually staring back at me in the mirror. That’s how bad this epidemic is. It twists our image of ourselves so much that we become blind to the truth. I was beautiful. I am beautiful. A few pounds up or a few pounds down doesn’t really change that much. But until we undo the brainwashing that comes from the media, society, everywhere it seems, we can’t see how beautiful we really are.
You are beautiful.
And my brother is right, those celebrities could stand to eat a burger!
Have you ever thought you were heavier than you really are? Ever felt pressure to be a certain size? Look a certain way?
We all know people who are photogenic. Even if they don’t look so good in real life, in pictures they could be a model. I even have one friend who will make you stand on a chair and tilt the camera at the perfect angle to take her picture. Yes, including random moments and while chaperoning the kids at the amusement park. She never has to worry about a bad picture.
I look better in real life. People who love me put it nicely. “You’re cuter in person.” Was what my step-mom said when I asked her to help me choose a profile picture for FaceBook. And the one time I was set up on a date, blind for me, I saw relief and surprise in his eyes when he saw me. He even told me I was prettier than he expected. Smooth. He must’ve seen a picture.
To solve the problem, I always forgot to take my camera with me. I used the same profile picture for years, the one my picky friend took on the beach. She was determined to find the right angle. In pictures with her, I looked like an alien with my giant five-head. Yes, that’s one finger wider than a forehead.
Then there was the crooked tooth to deal with. Small children have been known to ask if I’m a vampire. Not, it just looks pointy because of the way it’s twisted. The last dentist I went to said he could file it down and cap it. It sounded both gross and painful, and wasn’t covered by insurance. See mom, I told you I needed braces.
I tried bangs to cover the forehead, but that was when I learned the straight line just emphasized my cheeks. High cheekbones turn into a chipmunk hoarding acorns when I smile. I know I’m not fat, and most of the time I even think I’m cute. I’d think I looked fabulous, but then I’d see the picture. Hello, Vampire Chipmunk From Mars. I didn’t know what was going wrong.
Could I be the world’s most un-photogenic person?
Over the summer I had headshots taken. I hadn’t really planned on it, but one of my best friends is married to a professional photographer. She thought it would be fun. I thought I’d rather get a root canal.
We made a whole day of it: a make-over at the channel counter and playing dress-up in her closet. It was fun with her as my stylist.
But then came the dreaded camera. Thank goodness that Ryan knows me well, because I was a crabby pain in the butt. I was sensitive and hard to please, a total diva. He made fun of America’s Next Top Model and my friend danced around and made me laugh. Eventually I loosened up.
He was all about all lighting, artsy and interesting. I just wanted to like the way I looked. He took over 300 pictures that day and I honestly liked most of them. I was smiling. I looked happy. There was something fun behind my eyes.
Maybe I’m not so ugly in pictures. I guess I just have to find the right ratio of forehead-to-cheek-to-crooked-tooth. And be ok with it when I don’t.
How do you feel about having your picture taken? What are your best and worst angles?
At some point we all are going to go gray. There
seems to be a big difference in the way men and women are viewed with silver
hair. Men, like George Clooney, are considered handsome and seasoned. I don’t get the whole George Clooney thing, but that’s a different topic.
Women are considered just one thing when they go gray: old.
They may try to phrase it nicely with words like mature, wise, sage. Different ways of saying the same thing. Old.
What does that mean for us as we age?
There are the rare few who look great with gray hair. I am friends with one.
Gloria has long, wavy silver hair that flows to her mid-back. It makes her blue eyes stand out, and it fits her personality. I can’t imagine Gloria coloring her hair, or doing anything to change the way she looks. She is an original hippie, not one of those new fake eco-conscious hipsters who seem to be at every coffee shop referring to themselves at hippies. Gloria drives an old Mercedes that she had converted to run on
something like vegetable oil, but she walks most places unless it’s pouring with rain. She gardened, composted, and recycled long before it was cool. She’s not a vegan or a vegetarian and I’ve never seen her eat tofu.
Gloria is for real. And she rocks the gray hair.
But what about the rest of us? Me, I shop at Nordstom Rack and Winco. I drive a hybrid because I want to save money on gas, not for the environment. And, let’s be honest, I am anything but outdoorsy. Nothing about me says all natural,
from my purple eye shadow to my costume jewelry from Claire’s. I’m okay with
that. It’s me.
But when I go gray, will I leave it and try to make it work? I don’t think so.
With gray hair, I would just look old. I do not have the personality to make gray
I am no Gloria.
Will any of you choose to go gray? Or will you be coloring your hair in the sink at the nursing home with me?