I received a very interesting comment from my article on Positively Positive a couple weeks ago – a reader said it was a shame that I could only allow myself to be seen once I had “become beautiful.” There were many other criticisms along that line which simply fascinated me.
That article was not about beauty. Yes, my particular journey into invisibility began because of my mixed feelings about my beauty, but that journey evolved into a way to hide because of my low self-esteem. The two defense mechanisms I happened to employ during my stint as “The Invisible Woman” were weight gain and acne. Both happen to be beauty-related, but there are many other mechanisms of invisibility that we women utilize and not all of them involve our physical appearance.
The healing of this invisibility, for me, happened to involve losing some weight and healing from the acne that had plagued me for nearly 20 years. Many people read this and made the assumption that I became "traditionally beautiful again,” and that the article was making a judgment that people who are overweight and/or struggling with acne are not beautiful.
Now I could sit here and say that I never lost all the weight (I’m still chubby, have stretch marks and cellulite), or that all those years of acne permanently and deeply scarred my skin (there’s nothing “traditionally beautiful” about me), but I think there’s a bigger issue at hand here.
Why have we bought into this compartmentalized beauty? There’s “traditionally beautiful,” and “non-traditionally beautiful.” The former is the category for all those people who more resemble our culture’s physical ideal and the latter is for the rest of us.
An entire sub-culture has developed, attracting those that disdain traditional beauty because it’s so exclusive and superficial. You write an article on self-esteem and body image and if you happen to mention that you lost a little weight – look out! How dare you! That’s like saying losing weight = good, losing weight = beauty, losing weight = worthiness.
People like this say they are fighting for every woman’s right to be beautiful. They believe that fighting any potential aspect of our culture’s standard of beauty (thinness, clear skin, youth, long hair, etc.) is the only road to positive body image.
But if you ask me, this is Lack Thinking in action. Ultimately, we’re vilifying traditional beauty because it has hurt us, in the past, by shoving its images of perfection in our faces, making us feel less than the beautiful creatures we already are. At some point, being a non-traditional beauty becomes our badge of honor. It may manifest in different ways (for me, I thought I could only choose beauty or intelligence, so I invested in the identity of “the smart one,” happily letting go of the idea of being “the pretty one”), but for many of us, it becomes just another way we get false power and invest in thoughts and beliefs that are entirely inaccurate.
At certain points in my life, I admit, I felt that beauty was shallow. And I’ve seen many others purposefully and forcefully turn their backs on the idea of being traditionally beautiful, as if being a non-traditional beauty made them better, somehow. More worthy. It’s no different than the belief that being poor is more honorable or spiritual than being rich. So many of us buy into beliefs like that because we’ve been hurt or disappointed and get to the point where we don’t believe it’s possible to have that kind of money or that kind of beauty. So we swing too far in the other direction and decide we are going to stand against all that nonsense.
But the thing is, it’s all nonsense! There’s no such thing as traditional beauty or non-traditional beauty! So long as we keep perpetuating these false categories, we will never heal our body image issues.
The criticism of those who are skinny has to stop as much as the criticism of those who aren’t. We can’t call ourselves Body Image Warriors while we hurl anger and judgment toward those who decide they want to lose some weight or heal their skin. In fact, we can’t keep us this fight, at all.
If we want to feel peace and acceptance when we look in the mirror, we have to extend peace and acceptance to all. We have to obliterate these random, meaningless beauty categories we have created with our Lack Thinking and use our Abundance Mentalities to increase the definition of beauty into something that includes everyone.
That is how we all become visible.