A boy in my class told his friend, who told a friend, who told me (you know how middle school works) that he liked me (liked me liked me? yes, liked me liked me) because I was creative. This did not compute with my understanding of how the world worked, and I balked at his interest.
I didn’t want to be liked for being creative. I wanted to be liked for being beautiful.
I wanted to be compared to everyone else and not be found different, but to be found better. I had seen that the best-loved girls around me were not wanted for aspects of their character. They were wanted because they had perfect skin, full bras, long legs. To me, happiness was any kind of validation that I could compete in that arena. To appease the deep hunger inside me, I donned my waterbra, straightened my hair for two hours a day, and threw my name in the ring.
I wish now that I could go back and withdraw from the race. To pile up the hours in front of the mirror with the straightener, the money spent on tanning and stupid trends, the thoughts I wasted on myself, and redirect all that energy into something noble.
Brennan Manning wrote, “Would that I had served my God the way I have watched my waistline!”
The sayings stenciled out on the neon posterboards at school were true: I am so much more than my face, my body, my clothes.
Beauty shines out of my heart, through my humor, through the way I treat people.
My grown-up self knows this. But that middle-school girl and her insecurities are still alive inside me, and I rather often need to put my arm around her, shake her to attention, and remind her:
The I Am Project :: Our wish is to affirm and inspire the beauty in every woman, to celebrate the uniqueness in each of us, as well as the commonalities that unite us as women. We want to create a space to confront the dark places that come with growth; to witness women being valued for more than their bodies, clothes, or societal projections; to feel inspired by stories and images; and to become more deeply rooted in who we are as women. We want to become a net of resources that will nurture and fortify each other's confidence, and fill women with awareness of the extraordinary beauty that each of us uniquely brings to the world.
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