July 1, 2013

We’re All Alright. ~ Kel McIntyre Marthe

Insecurities: if you’re anything like I am, you’ve got them. If you’re anything like I am, you’ve got them aplenty.

Actually—sadly—if you’re anything like I am, you’ve got so many of them, it’s hard for you to believe anyone sees you as anything but the not-quite-right being you see when you look in the mirror.

I have news for you, though. That not-quite rightness you perceive? Studies show (okay, maybe not studies, but recent personal experience) that not-quite rightness is in your eyes only.

I’ve long had a less-than-secure sense of self. As a round-bellied, brown-eyed, brown-haired girl growing up with a thin, fair-haired, blue-eyed barely-older sister and parents who constantly asked why I didn’t get A pluses instead of As despite my having skipped two grades, I never felt like I was good enough.

Add a constant flow of books in which the protagonists’ looks were no less than perfect (read: perfectly thin)—the Sweet Valley High series, the Cheerleaders series, a bunch of Danielle Steeles; and all the V.C. Andrews novels—add an unhealthy addiction to women’s fashion magazines to that childhood, and insecurity abounds.

Recently, though, something happened that made me realize my insecurities may be a little extreme.

What happened recently may not seem like such a big deal to you, but it was definitely a big deal to me: a friend told me I inspire her. She said she loves my writing and is envious that I express myself the way that I do.

My first reaction was surprise. Hearing that “I’m inspirational” to someone took me aback.

I simply thought, What?

In the two days since then, though, I’ve been thinking about my friend’s statement, which, in turn, led me to think of two other instances when I was taken aback in the same way.

Both incidents occurred about a year and a half ago, very close in time to one another:

A former friend of mine and I were talking, and she told me that she loved the way I looked and would give anything to look like me. I can’t even tell you how shocked that statement made me.

Okay, wait–maybe I can–let’s see.

That statement shocked the hell out of me. I’d spent my entire life, up to that point, vacillating toward being okay with my looks and hating every single thing about myself.

I spent (and still spend) countless hours in the mirror lamenting my looks, from my swimming-pool-sized pores and my dimple-ridden, extra-large ass to the Greek-Italian monstrosity of a nose that sits in the middle of my face to the Jew-curl hair that I could never control, all of which were (are) so different from the pore-less faces, taut yet curvy backsides, itty-bitty noses, and just-out-of-bed perfect hair gracing the covers and pages of my magazines.

I’ve pored over countless issues of US Weekly, Cosmopolitan, and Allure in my day, scrutinizing pictures of models and actresses and thinking that if I could just look like any one of them, my life would be so much better.

And then, suddenly, somebody was doing the same thing I’d always done, expressing her desire to look like somebody else, but shock of all shocks, she wasn’t expressing the desire to look like Drew Barrymore or Lucy Liu (two people I’d trade places with any day), she was expressing the desire to look like me.


The second incident came pretty soon after when I was out playing pool one night.

I was in the bathroom when a complete stranger told me that she loved my hair (it was shorter-than-pixie-cut short and fire-engine red at the time) and that she wished she had the confidence and nerve that I had. It’s been a while, so I don’t remember her exact words, but I remember they were the kind of words that made me feel the same way I felt when my former friend said that she would give anything to look like me and that I recently felt when my friend told me that I was inspirational.


And, now, here’s where I’m going:

We’re all so busy—and when I say all, I mean me, and because I mean me, and I’m not a complete anomaly, I also mean you—seeing what’s wrong with ourselves that oftentimes we don’t see what’s right.

We’re so busy complaining about what we have—in my case, a crooked, chipped front tooth, my grandmother’s hips (on a smaller scale, thank God), a fine layer of facial fuzz that gleams in the sun—and wanting what we don’t have—to be Asian, to be dewy but not shiny, to carry off the gamine thing as flawlessly as Jean Seberg did (yes, my case again) that we don’t realize that we—we! Yes, you! And, yes, me!—are to other people as our objects of admiration/inspirations/motivations are to us.

In a lot of ways—in so many ways!—we’re so much better than we think.

So the next time you’re having an episode, staring in the mirror and thinking that if only you’d upped your SPF way back when, you wouldn’t look like a leather bag with eyes or like anything you do is futile because you’re just a big nobody who could just disappear and nobody would even notice, remember that I—I!—am somebody else’s Drew Barrymore, another someone else’s Zora Neale Hurston.

And that, readers, means so are you.


Kel McIntyre Marthe loves two things above all: cake and dogs. She has not yet figured out how to combine her two loves, but she’s working on it. Read about her daily antics on her blog.




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Assistant Ed: Paula Carrasquillo/Ed: Bryonie Wise

{Photo: Jose Romussi’s embroidered art via Pinterest}


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