I am standing at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, NC. It’s a magnificent structure high atop a hill overlooking the field where their historic first flights took place. The memorial features strong words etched into its surface. Words like “dauntless resolution,” “faith” and “conquest.” I am waiting patiently for tourists to vacate long enough to take photos, and I watch a family snap some of their own. The husband wants his wife and very young daughter to stand at the base of the memorial while he does his best to try and capture the moment.
The wife and daughter get into position but before the husband can take one photo, his wife says, “Do I look fat?” The husband shakes his head no, and gives her an encouraging smile. She yanks on her shirt, repositions herself, clasps her arm over her daughter’s shoulders and the two smile while the husband takes several shots.
Afterward, the mom says, “I am the least photogenic person I know! I look terrible in photos! That’s why I take the photos. I don’t know why I did this!”
The husband says something to her I cannot hear, but the daughter takes her mother’s hand and says, “I love you, Mommy.”
This transaction was almost painful to watch, but I imagine it happens around the globe every second.
I felt empathy for all parties:
1) The wife who is uncomfortable in her own skin, feeling her size or perceived flaws are unflattering and not worth photographing, missing the joy of the moment and most likely, not loving herself for all the wonderful things she is.
2) The daughter, who is learning it’s “normal” to find flaws with one’s self and put herself down if she believes she’s imperfect, and who also perhaps could not find joy in this moment upon hearing her mother’s angst. I don’t know whether to love or cry at her efforts to help her mother feel love as it feels like a role reversal, with the daughter so young.
3) The husband, who must likely battle his wife’s perceptions of herself that do not match his own, and for whom it may never feel like a battle he’s winning.
This example is precisely why I threw myself into the topic of self-loathing and produced The Self-Loathing Project. The constant verbal and non-verbal assault women (and men) have with themselves is pervasive.
Perhaps you have similar feelings when a photo is about to be taken. Perhaps this will help you see things from a different perspective. You really are fabulous just the way you are. With some effort, you can believe what others do, too.
Pick up a copy of The Self-Loathing Project for a little help and perspective with that—or any number of resources that now exist on the topic.
#theselfloathingproject #selflove #loveyourself #authorkatherinecobb
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A collection of columns, articles and general a-musings.