own your beauty: some final thoughts on imperfection and perception
One of my early photographs during the self-portrait month is above - and admittedly, I didn't stick with it as well as I should have. But I promise, I tried.
As we wrap up a month of discussing imperfection here on the Own Your Beauty initiative, I can't help but be incredibly blown away by all of the thoughts and images you guys have shared with us over the past month. I love seeing you guys really get it: the concept that if we live in a world where its great variety is what gives it its great beauty, that when it comes to the physical, there are no such things as flaws, merely differences -- and, in fact, it is all of our differences that add to the complex beauty of the world.
Which, you know, is just sort of immensely awesome.
It's like the beautiful Bonnie said in her contribution to this month's topic:
As women, we are bombarded by ads and advice for products or remedies designed to cover gray, lift your butt, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, make scars go away, make your boobs look bigger, flatten your tummy, and in every possible way, minimize your imperfections. As mothers we must consider a whole other list of “must-have” products to minimize stretch marks and other pregnancy-caused changes. We worry our lives away about all these imperfections, each mark upon our bodies, never once stopping to consider them as the story of our lives, of who we are, etched into our bodies by Mother Nature herself. We are told through visual images, subtle words and sometimes even outright statements that we must fight against these things because they make us imperfect.
The fact is that we don't have to fight this implied war. Because there isn't a problem to begin with.
Every mark on my body tells my story: The scar on my forehead speaks of the time when I was two and needed stitches for running into a wall at full force. The stretch marks on my inner thighs tell of my incredible growth spurt when I was 14. The scar on my wrist tells of when I had surgery to remove a small ganglion cyst. And the stretch marks, well, everywhere else, tell of my first pregnancy, the one which changed every aspect of my being from soul to belly. They tell of the water I retained, and the amazing little girl who grew inside me. They are a part of me. Imperfect. Beautiful.
Alleluia and amen, man. I couldn't have said this better myself.
So, last month, I challenged you to start taking self-portraits, in an experiment of self-exploration, for you to start seeing how beautiful the people around you perceive you. Thanks to all of you who shared your awesome self-portraits; also, so many of you shared such wonderful thoughts in the process. For example, Erin, of Living Happily Ever After? mused that she had lost her "me-ness." She said, "I have forgotten what makes me special. So that is my goal for the next month. Rediscover my me-ness. Who I am." Happily, the following day, she posted a self-portrait of herself and said, "Anyway, my favourite feature is my eyes. I generally do not like not smiling pictures of myself, but this one seems different. The focus on that right eye appeals to me for some reason."
See? This is exactly what the exercise does: it allows you to look at yourself as a person who loves you would. Which, really, you should, you know?
But the photos -- oh, the photos! -- that you shared with us in the Own Your Beauty Flickr pool. They were so amazing. Some favourites:
"Over the past few years, I've become comfortable wearing little to no make-up. Also, I've become more authentic in my writing and deciding what I want in my life.
When I first started blogging, I used the name "Anali" as my aka. It's still part of my blog name, but now I blog under my real name, Lisa. I made the final change to blogging under my real name this week, during the experiment. Suddenly, it just felt right. And I don't think it's a coincidence. Maybe that's why doing the self-portraits really seemed like something I needed to do at this time.
I see different sides of myself in these pictures, but they are all aspects of me. Maybe having an aka when I started blogging was a different more brave part of me that I needed to take that leap of faith. But now, I feel like I have that courage as Lisa too.
One of the things that I hear over and over when people talk about getting the life that you want is to know yourself. I feel like this experiment took me a few steps closer to knowing the real me. Even though I'm shy, sometimes I can be very very brave. And that's what makes me beautifully different."
"Monday Night Football! Sporting a black t-shirt, my Steelers colored necklace and... no makeup? Oh yeah. I even went to the library and store with no makeup today. Monday is one of my days off from the paper. Why wear makeup? Pfft!
I also twisted my hair up and off my face because it was annoying me. I loved it. Fun and funky and ... me. :)"
"It took me 25 years of life to accept all the bits of me that my experiences have left behind. But that me is far more interesting than the me I want to box myself into.
And so, even though my last studio lesson was at age nine, no matter what the world thinks, whether it fits my daily life or not - despite all the reasons that I want to cut it out of me - there's a piece of my heart that's a ballerina. And I'm going to accept it, live it, love it, share it."
Aren't these images and words amazing?
So as we close out this month focusing on imperfection and perfection, I hope you'll continue to take frequent self-portraits of yourself. I think the practice can help you see yourself as an artist would -- because, when you think of it, you ARE an artist, and your story is your art.
And on that note, we'll see you next month. In fact, speaking of artist, next month we're going to tackle the subject of creativity. So see you soon, you beautiful artist, you.