by Katina Hubbard
We know what it feels like to be loved by our parents, friends, and/or significant others. But what does it feel like to be loved from the inside out?
I grew up as a “pretty” girl. I was skinny, with a nice complexion, and had fortunate genetic makeup from 16 generations of white men fathering children with Native-American and African-American women.
And I remember feeling beautiful. I danced in public without fear of judgment. I ran around the beach in a swimsuit without noticing my bare skin. I crouched by the creek to find frogs without wondering if I was normal. I felt beautiful because I had no definition of what beautiful was. I was just me.
This is how we all start out, every one of us. We come out of the womb exactly perfect. All unique, but generally accepted as cute, adorable, and lovable. Then at some point, someone clues us into what “beautiful” is. Whether it’s at age 4 when someone points at our belly hanging over our tutu, or at age 3 when we compare ourselves to our Barbie dolls, or when we’re even younger and we intuitively hear the silent thoughts of others comparing us to a standard definition of “beauty.”
Other people teach us that we aren’t beautiful.
I was 8 years old, and standing in my swimsuit under a mango tree at my Great-Grandma’s house in Honolulu. My mom looked at me and remarked at how beautiful I was, the most beautiful girl in the world. To which my Great-Grandma spat, “Don’t tell her that. It’ll go to her head.”
In retrospect, it almost seems like prudent advice. Don’t let your daughter think she’s special or pretty, she might not work hard enough, or she’ll think she’s better than other people, or she’ll try and take advantage of you. I’m sure there was some goodness in it somewhere. But at eight years old, the only message I heard was one of spite, anger, and guilt. There’s something wrong with the way I look, and we shouldn’t talk about it.
A few years later I was in a theater group at the local college. At age 10, I was one of the younger members, but had the glorious chance to hang around talented kids from all over the bay area who were much older than me. I was friends with a boy who was 14. He was funny and charming, we genuinely got along and I stayed friends with him for years through our similar interests.
For some reason, though, that season he took it upon his 14 year-old-self to teach me a life lesson. “You’re very pretty,” he told me. “So you will be capable of hurting a lot of people. Don’t do it. Be very careful not to turn into one of those girls.”
Again, perhaps this was prudent advice. I definitely could have used that pep-talk when I turned 18 and learned that I could get away with anything by engaging my eye contact.
But at 10 years old, I felt ashamed of myself. I was horrified with the fact that I was capable of hurting people like him. I felt scared to be myself, and started looking at every boy as someone I was capable of hurting without even knowing I was doing it!
I became a “nice girl.” I wouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings directly. I was in multi-year relationships with men who never told me I was beautiful. Instead of being straightforward and factual, I’d let missed calls from men wondering what happened after our second date go on for months.
I was hiding from men because I was hiding myself.
This quote from Marianne Williamson in A Return to Love deeply affected me:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.”
Now I’m sometimes the polar opposite of my old self. Instead of playing the “nice girl,” I take pleasure in calling men out on their dishonorable intentions. I learned that treating men with respect is treating myself with respect. And my body, my time, and my intellect are special because they are MINE, I don’t have to share them with anyone I don’t want to. I’m growing and changing, but sometimes, inside, I still find the little girl who’s playing small.
This is my story. But you have yours.
We are all slowly talked out of our intrinsic beauty and instead taught that there is a standard of beauty – and we’re not it.
Our whole society overvalues our physicality, so much so that little girls cannot help but be hyper-concerned with their looks from a very young age. Lisa Bloom explains it clearly in an article about the way we talk to little girls in our society. We see a little boy and ask him about his truck, his baseball practice, or what type of space ship he’s pretending to be. But what do we do when we see a little girl? What a pretty dress, how cute your pigtails are, what nice shoes…
Without realizing it, we’re perpetuate the same paradigm that keeps us locked behind the bars of our clothes, hair, and makeup instead of celebrating the freedom of our thoughts, intuition, and ideas.
I am privileged to be in a creative field where my ideas and skills are valued. I’m dating a man who loves me because I’m smart, creative, and eloquent. And yet I look in the mirror and the only thing I see are the wrinkles around my eyes. I feel my aging body as impending doom. And I have to bite my tongue to prevent from chiming in during regular social gatherings where women complain about their bodies.
If I start complaining about my body aging and not being good enough, I will NEVER STOP. That’s the way it works, we deteriorate. At some point we have to replace the negative, body-focused thoughts and words with positive, loving thoughts about the quality of our characters and the wisdom we are gaining. Marianne Williamson continues:
“We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
I have had moments of feeling completely loved from the inside out. Completely unaware of a beauty hierarchy, I remember looking at people and having no judgement because I so fully accepted myself.
It takes constant vigilance and work to love ourselves. When I think about the amount of time I put into making other people happy, I could certainly spare some additional time focusing on my own well being.
We’re so chocked full of negative thoughts, ideas, and images about ourselves and other women’s bodies, that it takes conviction and strategy to reverse the negative effects. Paramahansa Yogananda proscribes a sure-fire way to reverse negativity:
“Habits of thought are mental magnets that draw to you certain things, people, and conditions. Weaken a bad habit by avoiding everything that occasioned it or stimulated it, without concentrating upon it in your zeal to avoid it. Then divert your mind to some good habit and steadily cultivate it until it becomes a dependable part of you.”
The best thing to do is dive deep within and find specific positive affirmations that work for you. You can also look at affirmation and find which one sets of a “ping” in your heart when you hear it — that ones a good place to start.
Every time you look in the mirror, instead of noticing something you don’t like about yourself, try instead affirming something positive:
- I am perfectly beautiful from the inside, out
- My body is an instrument, not an ornament
- I have more important things to do than fight with my body
- I accept my body as it is
- I am beautiful, just as I am
- I am perfect, whole, and complete
- I lovingly do everything I can to assist my body in maintaining perfect health
- I love my _______(insert body part or quality of character you admire about yourself)
Check out Louise Hay’s website for a fabulous new affirmation every day.
An afterthought, on how media distorts our perception of beauty: