We are our own worst critics.
The recent video making its rounds by Dove, where a sketch artist creates drawings of women based on both their perception of themselves and the descriptions of a complete stranger, is eye-opening in numerous ways. We see each and every flaw in ourselves while others are seemingly more inclined to see the beauty in us when describing our faces to another.
Why are we so hard on ourselves? Why do we diminish our own awesomeness while concentrating so heavily on what we perceive to be flaws in our appearance? Why are we putting so much emphasis on those crow’s feet, the gray-colored hair, the laugh lines that form at the corners of our mouth when we crack a smile?
Why are those things turned into such negative attributes rather than celebrated for the milestones that they really are?
Those lines, the crow’s feet, the wrinkles in my forehead all mean that I’ve spent a lot of time laughing over the years and the more of them that there are must certainly mean more happy times. I will absolutely celebrate them if they mean that I’ve been living a happy life.
The gray? I see them, but no one else seems to, even when I make a feeble attempt to grasp one between my fingers and blatantly point it out.
My grandmother wore her gray hair more elegantly than anyone I know who dyes their hair. I mean no offense to anyone who covers their gray; it’s just that my grandmother dyed her hair brown for years, and when I look back at photos of her and compare them to those when she stopped dying it, I truly believe that her deep gray, silver waves made her even more beautiful.
Why? Because her beauty was inside who she was, the wisdom she carried—and, boy, did she ever carry a lot of it. Wisdom like that doesn’t come from having your face stretched out or applying tons of chemicals to it, or the rest of your body, for years.
It comes from true living and experience.
We are what we are. We are who we are and we earn every badge that our bodies receive. No one could ever make me feel bad about the Cesarean scar that extends more than six inches across my bikini line or convince me to make it disappear because it’s a reminder of my children’s birth. It exists in the whole event, the whole of their being, the whole of my being as a mother and it’s something I will always wear with honor.
This need for perfection is suffocating our natural beauty. It’s driving us to judge each other and compare ourselves to unattainable ways of being. There is no such thing as perfect, and even if there were, I wouldn’t want anything to do with it.
I’m a mess sometimes. My hair gets greasy if I go too long without washing it. I have scars on every part of my body; some are more noticeable than others, but some are only truly noticeable with the microscope I put them under.
I’ve stopped wearing make-up. Over the years I have worn it minimally off and on. I’ll usually wear it over the colder winter months to cover up the pastiness that comes with the chilly, dry weather. Then summer will come and I’ll get tired of being sweaty and feeling it all over my face. Instead, my skin gets that natural sun-kissed glow and my freckles begin to pop out (something I hated when I was younger), so I’ve stopped wearing any of it and allow my natural self to be visible to the world.
It’s been about two years now that I’ve gone au naturel. Over the past couple months I’ve tried to wear it again, usually just eye shadow and eyeliner and, honestly, I think it makes me look awful. Kind of contradictory to what it’s supposed to do, right? But you know what? It feels good to be happy with myself without needing to ‘tweak’ anything.
Watching the Dove video caused me to think about all of this.
I don’t always feel great about myself. I criticize myself and compare myself to others just as much as anyone and, sometimes, I feel like the ugliest human being in the world. But, I do generally feel love. I feel a deep appreciation for myself, for my friends and family and the beautiful world around me.
I love life, I love living and I love every part of the experience.
I believe that’s what makes my beauty visible and I guess I don’t want to cover any of that up—even the messy parts that I’m not always so fond of. It also takes time to put on a mask just to walk out of the house, and just as my true self is precious, so is every minute of my day.
I choose to celebrate it all.
Tawyna Wagner is a multi-talented owner of a photography business located in south central Pennsylvania and an etsy shop where she is currently finding homes for five generations of family heirlooms. She has a love for all things vintage (especially the sentimental pieces that have ancestral stories attached to them), the beach (more specifically Ocracoke Island, North Carolina), her gorgeous twin boys and pretty much all things creative. She’s a strong advocate of supporting all things local, natural living, being kind to the environment, self-sustaining and anything that involves creativity and art. You can find her at her website or her etsy shop.
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