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.