Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I Can't Hate My Chin Anymore

There have been several posts about parenting and beauty that have really resonated with me lately. This beautiful Offbeat Mama post has a mom explaining why she pushes her own bodily insecurities aside for the sake of her daughters:
I don't want my girls to be children who are perfect and then, when they start to feel like women, they remember how I thought of myself as ugly and so they will be ugly too. They will get older and their breasts will lose their shape and they will hate their bodies, because that's what women do. That's what mommy did. I want them to become women who remember me modeling impossible beauty. Modeling beauty in the face of a mean world, a scary world, a world where we don't know what to make of ourselves.
"Look at me, girls!" I say to them. "Look at how beautiful I am. I feel really beautiful, today."
Then there was Allison Tate's essay about choosing to stay in the picture even when she wasn't looking her "best."
I'm everywhere in their young lives, and yet I have very few pictures of me with them. Someday I won't be here -- and I don't know if that someday is tomorrow or thirty or forty or fifty years from now -- but I want them to have pictures of me. I want them to see the way I looked at them, see how much I loved them. I am not perfect to look at and I am not perfect to love, but I am perfectly their mother.
I've fought through my own body image demons in my day, but the one that was hardest to slay was my loathing for my own chin. I know that sounds silly. It is silly. It's ridiculous, but it's also true.

Whenever I saw a picture of myself, I would hone in on my chin and criticize it. That's what I saw when I looked at myself: a flaw, a marred feature, an ugliness.

Then, there were a couple of pictures that stopped me dead in my tracks:



That chin, the one I had spent so much time hating and singling out as a flaw, had shown up in the most unexpected of places: on my daughter's absolutely perfect face. 

As she's grown older, it's quite clearly kept the genetic predisposition, and it's gotten no less gorgeous. 



I couldn't hate my chin anymore. Every time I looked at a picture of myself, I no longer saw that ugliness. I saw a piece of my daughter's beauty, and I remembered that any criticism I gave of my own "flaw" would be a criticism of hers. So what could I do instead? Could I look at a picture of myself and single out something else as a flaw. Could I decide that I weighed too much? Could I dislike my haircut? Could I wish those bags under my eyes would disappear? 

Of course I could (and, admittedly, sometimes I do). But someday my daughter may think she weighs too much. She could dislike her haircut. She could have bags under her eyes, too. These things are just scapegoats for a more generalized insecurity, a more amorphous belief that we do not meet the standard--whatever that is.

The things that I say about my body are things that she's going to learn to say about her body. Every flaw I see in myself is a flaw I am teaching her to see in herself. Every cruel remark I make against my body is a cruel remark she learns to use against her own. 

And she is beautiful. She is gorgeous. She is amazing. 

So that she can remain that way, I must be, too. Have I mentioned to you how awesome my chin is?

9 comments:

  1. This is lovely! And your daughter is ridiculously adorable. :)

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  2. this is such a great way to look at it - our daughters are beautiful, so of course, we must be too. I have also struggled with body image and how to keep myself from passing this along. I watched Miss Representation with my tween daughter earlier this year in hopes of helping her to resist the pressures that the media puts on girls. It had the unexpected effect of asking me to look in the mirror and as you say, "stop hating." I learned that I can lead by example if I realy want to teach her this. I hope it's not too tacky to link up in the spirit of showing you're not the only mom struggling with this. and btw - beautiful daughter, and great chin!it looks good on both of you! :) http://smallhouse-bigpicture.blogspot.com/2012/05/take-that-mr-media-reflections-on-miss.html

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    1. I loved your post! Parenting seems to be as much about learning as it does about teaching, doesn't it?

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  3. Once I told my dad that I didn't like my pictures, and when he asked me why, I replied it was because I have this double chin/no neck thing going on. He asked me if I would consider plastic surgery. I was both appalled and hurt. I know I don't care much for the way I look, but this is still my face, my chin, my neck, my body, me. It's from my mother's side of the family (go, genetics). I'm not going to change it - except my perception of it, and that may take some time.

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    1. I think this is interesting as a way to call people out! I would also be appalled and hurt if someone asked about plastic surgery, but I am curious if that's a perfect way to say, "If you value your body parts as your own and are not going to do anything about changing them, stop complaining and start loving them!"

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  4. Greetings from a fellow feminist, mother of a little girl, and developmental writing instructor who, until recently, hated her chin. I was too amused by the similarities not to comment. My daughter didn't inherit my weak chin, but having her did help me to stop obsessing about it because I knew that she would internalize as normal any self-critical behaviors I displayed.

    And yeah, it is entirely silly to hate one's chin, but knowing that was never enough to stop me from wishing for a visit from the Chin Fairy, though plastic surgery was always too scary to be a real temptation. I'm amazed at how difficult it is to uproot those insecurities borne of not conforming to cultural beauty standards, even for someone like me who's consciously rejected lots of other cultural norms.

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    1. We should start a feminist mothers developmental writing chin-hating support group! That's too funny.

      I, too, am surprised at which cultural beauty standards stick and which ones I can easily reject. They always seem to catch me off-guard, seeping up from my sub-concious and all.

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  5. Oh, this is wonderful! It reminds me in a way of how I reacted when I first started to get little crow's feet around my eyes. I hated them to start with, but then at a family event I couldn't help but notice that they were exactly the same shape as my mother's, and my uncle's, and the ones my granny used to have. I love those people. Having their crow's feet is a beautiful thing that connects us.

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Comments are welcome and encouraged. I appreciate debate and have no problem hearing from people who disagree. This is a space where people can question and discuss. That said, I will delete comments that contain name-calling or bigotry. If it would get you kicked out of a dinner party, don't say it here. Use your manners.