Just Look at Yourself

 

I’ve been scanning pictures for a few days again, after taking a few months off. A daunting task, to be sure – there are hundreds and hundreds of prints that need to be identified and filed. It can’t be done all at once – a few days here, a few days there. But it was more than that, this time. More than just the work.

This time I started with pictures from college –  and I was overwhelmed. The years flew by, but I already knew that – that wasn’t it. No, what really made my heart break for my younger self was how much more beautiful I was than I ever believed I was back then. Looking at a photo here, a photo there, we all bemoan the loss of our unlined skin, our shiny (naturally colored) hair, our bright, clear eyes and firm young bodies. But try doing it like this – try spending a couple of days looking at yourself over and over, on a big, clear computer monitor. See the sparkle in your eye, the youth and spirit that went unappreciated at the time. Look for the girl you once believed you were, the girl who was maybe insecure, or self-loathing, possibly hypercritical and most likely terrified. Look closely, and you’ll find she isn’t there. In those pictures of you, of me, of all of us, is the girl the world saw when they looked our way – not who we saw inside of ourselves. Look harder – and still, she won’t be there. She won’t be there because she only existed in your mind – the worst version of you, the one who’s heart got broken, who felt so much.  She was never the whole story, not even close.

college, beautiful, younger self, memories, midlife, empty nest
1981

I want to reach out to that girl – the younger me – I want to tell her to stop, just stop. Stop the self-doubt, stop being fearful and unsure. Let go of all of the bad stuff that’s in your head. See beyond your small universe. It’s wasn’t true that only the tall, blonde skinny girls were the ones the boys liked. Some of them liked you, too. It was ok to say what you thought, act as you wanted, be who you really were. The people that liked you would like you for exactly those things. Be happy, be pretty, be confident and optimistic. Be yourself, your best self.

In other words, be who you are now, now that the lines have appeared, the body is a little droopy, the hair graying under the expertly applied color. Now that you’ve lived a long time and know what beautiful really means, can recognize it in the faces of the people you love, from eight to ninety-eight – can even, sometimes, see it in the reflection in the mirror. Wouldn’t that be such a gift, to be able to go back and tell your younger self how lovely you really were? And you were lovely. I’m sure of it.

So today, if you’re fifty, like I am, or thirty, or sixty-five or I don’t know, a hundred and two – let’s all try to look at ourselves today and say “you are a beautiful woman.” Because twenty-five years from now, you’ll be looking back at pictures of yourself from today, this month, this year, and saying “I was beautiful then.” And you will be right.

Aging, growing older, older self, beautiful, midlife, empty nest
2011

 

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Comments

  1. Claudia says

    Sharon, I have only known you now and think you are so beautiful! Thank you for your thoughts, it is so true how we view ourselves at every age. I want to share this with Alex and Sammy, so that maybe they can both be a little more sure of themselves now. Love you!

  2. says

    Sharon,
    This is truly lovely. It’s taken me to being just shy of 50 to appreciate myself for who I am but I also believe I only am able to now, because of my doubts and insecurities of the past years. And yes, there are probably a few decisions I would have made differently and a little more self esteem would have gone a long way. Then, I wonder…would I be where I am now? Maybe,maybe not. This really touched my heart today – thank you.

  3. says

    Funny, I recently had these same sad thoughts. That girl I see in school pics and family shots was not take-your-breath-away-beautiful, but she was much cuter than I ever remember feeling. She was never and today still is not pleased with the reflection in the mirror, but at least, today she is pleased with the inner beauty she feels and hopes the world sees in her eyes. Eyes that have seen so much in her 62 years and felt so much good and so much bad, yet still smile.
    Wonderful post Sharon. ♥
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  4. says

    You are too close to my heart — I am 49. And I have SO many repetitive dreams of college. Iit’s always fall, or snowing, and I’m still trying to graduate. I’m still in love with my then boyfriend Who I haven’t seen since graduation. How is 50? I have a 7 and 8 year old and a 93 yr old mom, and I also have dreams in which I am in the heat of youth (Look for my K for Kiss post). I have no choice but to be young.
    sandra tyler recently posted..J is for JugglingMy Profile

  5. says

    I was just thinking of the same thing. There really are days when we look at ourselves and wonder where all the years went and when all those laugh lines and wrinkles appeared. But beauty is more than just the physical and yes, you are a beautiful woman, inside out.
    Anne recently posted..One at a timeMy Profile

  6. says

    Look at you, you cutie!
    I know when I see photos that at the time I thought I looked not good, I look now and think not so bad. With digital I immediately delete a bad photo of me and have had stern conversations with family about posting to Facebook with-out checking first, but maybe in another 10 or 20 years I will think these too are not so bad!

  7. says

    Love this message, Sharon. I just had lunch last week with a friend I haven’t seen for years, and was so surprised when she told me she was going to turn 70 in a couple months. “how old are you now?” she asked, and when I said, 55, she sighed, remembering when she was “so young.” We need to love where we are, love our bodies for all they have done for us, and continue to do.
    Barb recently posted..where does the sun set most brightly?My Profile

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