I recently got some new make up, courtesy of an Ulta gift card and a mom who loves to help me spend my Ulta gift cards. If you're not familiar with Ulta, it's a beauty/make up store that has a ton of different brands of make up, shampoo, hair accessories - basically it's a one-stop-shop for all your beauty needs. I love it there. And, no, this post is not paid for by Ulta (but if anyone from Ulta is reading this, you're welcome and also I need some free eyeshadow).
Last night, I was getting ready in the bathroom while Daniel played with the kids. I began to put my make up on, and, like always, I began criticizing the way I looked. At first I kept it to myself, just noticing my dry skin, my round face, the way my nose looked. I eventually became so frustrated that I said out loud, "I cannot beLIEVE how ugly I am right now. I hate how awful I look." Daniel, who is a saint, told me that I was wrong and that I looked lovely.
As much as I appreciated his words, that wasn't what made me stop complaining. It was the sound of Josh laughing as Daniel tossed him the air that stopped my next words from coming out of my mouth. I looked into the living room, and there was the rest of my family, playing together and smiling. And both of my kids had just heard me say that I was ugly, and that I hated the way I looked. I mean, they probably didn't hear me say those actual words. Josh was very busy being wrestled with and Jenna was trying to fit her whole hand into her mouth, so odds are good that they never even knew that I was there. But my words still horrified me.
I know that seems like an over-the-top response to something that wasn't a big deal. But in that moment, I realized how much I complain about my looks, my skills, my life. And maybe my kids don't understand that right now, but they will. They will hear me say that and understand my words sooner than I realize. And I don't want that.
Recently I was watching Jenna play with one of her favorite toys, a stuffed monkey from Aunt ShonShon. As I sat next to her, watching her laugh and giggle over something that really was not that funny, I found my mind wandering to the future. What would Jenna be like as a teenager? Would she still be my smiling, happy girl? Would she be feeling the pressure of friends, classmates, and commercials to look and act a certain way? Would she like the way she looked? The thought of my beautiful little girl thinking that she was ugly broke my heart. I don't want that for her. I don't want it for Joshua, either.
I want both of my kids to know that their beauty has little to do with their appearance. I want them to know that to be a truly beautiful person, you have to start from the inside and work your way out. That they do not have to prove anything to anyone in order to obtain self-worth. That they may not always feel their best, but that as long as they are trying their best, everything will be okay. I want them to know that bad haircuts are a rite of passage, and instead of focusing on their bangs, they should focus on the friends they have made and the blessings that they have. I want them to realize that they are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that no matter what their eye color is or how much they weigh, they are loved and valued.
But how I can teach my kids how important it is to value themselves if I don't value myself? If Josh and Jenna hear me tell them that it's what's on the inside the counts, and then turn around and call myself ugly, what kind of message am I sending them?
So I have decided to stop saying things like that. More importantly, I am going to try to stop thinking things like that. Don't get me wrong - make up isn't evil. I still love Ulta (and am still waiting for my eyeshadow, AHEM), and I will continue to wear make up like I normally do. I know it is equally important for my kids to know that eating well and living a healthy life is something that will benefit them, and I will continue to encourage them to do that. But in this house, there will be no more complaints of being ugly, of being fat, of being unworthy of other people.
Nothing I can do or say will totally stop my kids from feeling down about themselves at some point. I know that. But I also know that the most important lessons in life start at home, and if I want to teach my children anything, first I have to believe it for myself.