Monday, May 13, 2013

in the eyes of the beholder

Beauty is by nature objective.  And like the old 1970's song says, everyone is beautiful in their own way.  Yet rarely do I ever appreciate my own beauty in the present tense.  Instead I tend to see it most in images from the past.  Whenever I see photos of myself  I think wow, I didn’t realize how nice I looked then.  The mirror of today often tells me a much different story than the lens of yesterday. 

When I created this blog and began posting outfit pix here it was an attempt at self-acceptance.  I was trying to appreciate my inherent beauty...a beauty I believe everyone possesses.  While society often has unrealistic ideals for what is considered attractive, I’m not interested in that.  As a nearly 50 year old woman those impossible standards left me in the dust years ago.  I’m talking about the kind of beauty that is personal.  The kind where you are pleased with the image in the mirror because you look your best and it represents who you are as a whole, real person -- not some narrowed view based on arbitrarily defined criteria meant for a ridiculously select few. 

But lately beautiful is a bit far from how I feel.  When I look in the mirror today I see a woman radically altered.  From a 40+ pound weight gain due to ongoing cancer meds, to a head of hair grown back after chemo that doesn’t feel like my own, not to mention the accelerated progression of aging as a result of treatment -- all have left me feeling a little less than pretty at the moment.  I confess, I’ve been avoiding the mirror, let alone the lens. 
I remember feeling this way before.  Sandwiched between my late twenties and thirties I began a weight gain spiral that eventually resulted in "significant obesity."  I disliked my reflection in the mirror then, too.  I don’t even have any pictures of myself from that period, but other people have one or two.  I saw them not long ago and you know what?  Once again, in the rearview mirror of history I could see myself as attractive...I could find plenty to recognize as beautiful.  What a shame I didn’t see it back then.  I would have gained so much from even a little bit more self-esteem. 

Maybe part of how we judge our own appearance should also be relative to our experience, to what is going on in our lives.  For me that means focusing on how I feel, on making  positive strides every day to regain my health.  I want to reclaim wellness post-cancer.  Meanwhile I will try harder to embrace the body I am in right now because it sure has been through a lot and served me pretty well in the process, all things considered. 

So I took these pictures. I posed on my back deck for the first time in years.  I may not immediately love what I see.  It may be obvious how cancer has changed me, and unwanted change is never easy.  But now I will always have these images to look at and remember I was beautiful...I was beautiful today.


Sheila said...

I think you look beautiful! I love the purple dress, your fabulous legs, and the texture of your 'new' hair is cool.

Kayleigh said...

Thanks so much Sheila!

I swear, this purple dress is practically's fit me in a wide range of sizes and I can practically wear it year round. Gotta love that :)

Jean (notsupermum) said...

You ARE a beautiful woman. I love this post, has really made me think xx

The Small Fabric Of My Life said...

Kayliegh, when I saw those pictures I thought they were snaps of you when you were in your 20s. You look so young and lovely. Absolutely lovely.

Kayleigh said...

Jean -- Aw, thanks very much :D I'm so thrilled you liked the post.

Jane -- Gosh, that just made my day! Thank you :)

Unknown said...

OMG I am SO thrilled you're posting outfit pics again! I really hope you'll post more -- you look just beautiful!

I totally get what you're saying about appreciating how you look now, instead of trying to go back to how you were in the past. I've been kind of dealing with the same issue: haven't been able to lose the weight I gained during pregnancy and it's really frustrating. It's more than just wanting to look the way I did, because I'm diabetic and any kind of weight gain can affect that. But it's so hard to let go of the desire to return to what you looked like before. But I think that recording how I look now is really helpful to overcome that mindset.

I'm looking forward to more photos of you! You have a great sense of style and I'm always so inspired by how you dress!

Kayleigh said...

Hi Anusha -- thanx so much!

You know, I was thinking that you looked like you lost all the baby weight really quick, so that just shows you how the mirror (and scale) sometimes aren't the most accurate gage of how we look to others. You always look lovely :)

But you are right, it is more than about appearance, first and foremost it IS about our health...and that's what I'm trying to focus on, with varying success, lol. I also totally agree, recording how we look can help overcome negative self image issues -- you know, I never would have guessed that until I started doing it.

Thanks again!