Seeing Yourself as a Little Girl
Have you looked at yourself as a little girl recently? On my Facebook feed, a memory popped up of some pictures that I posted of myself when I was a little girl. In the description, I wrote that my older son wanted to see childhood pictures of me so I shared a couple on Facebook.
I hadn’t seen these pictures of me since I went on this journey to reconnect with myself and figure out who I was last year. When I saw them unexpectedly on my feed today, the picture gave me joy and I looked at that little girl version of me and told her, “you are beautiful, little girl.” And then I wondered how I used to feel about seeing this picture before my journey. I always knew I was beautiful when I was a little girl. People used to tell me all the time. Then I became a teenager and I grappled with how I saw myself. And grappled with it some more as a woman. I struggled with worthiness and it only got worse as I became older, as I experienced life and pain. And I remember looking at these pictures and thinking, I used to be such a beautiful little girl. I distinctly remember the clarifier “used to be” and I would feel a disconnect from who I was then to who I am now.
What does it mean to be “beautiful?” Is it about what we look like? As a photographer, I’ve had many women share with me how they feel about their picture and I can tell you it has nothing to do with what a woman looks like. It has nothing to do with how pretty she is, how skinny she is, how tall she is, or any of the other things we use to gauge beauty in our society. I’ve had these same women, who ‘fit’ into the mold of society’s beauty standards, tell me they don’t like themselves in pictures. It is not about how we look. It is about how we feel about ourselves.
I talk a lot about “emotional armor” and how we all wear it. Mine was prickly and sharp and thick. I used it to keep people from really knowing who I was, always pursuing perfection so that I would never be judged. I never took any chances so that I couldn’t be rejected. But with the armor I put on to keep myself feeling safe, I moved farther and farther away from myself too. I moved farther away from my feelings because I didn’t want to feel. I just wanted to be in a neutral state of numbness. It felt better to feel nothing than to deal with the pain of not enough-ness. I felt ugly. But the armor eventually got too heavy so I took it off. I made a choice. I don’t want to put that armor back on. I want to be translucent. And while I have my ups and downs and struggle with days, sometimes weeks, when I’m not my best self, I don’t beat myself up about it…at least for not too long. I know who I am.
So I look at the picture that popped up unexpectedly on my Facebook feed and I tell her, “you are beautiful, little girl” and I feel connected to her. I am still her. She is still there. That unapologetic, little girl who had the entire world at her feet. Before the ugly voices in her head started telling her she was not enough. The girl who knew she was beautiful. She felt beautiful. I feel that way now too because I know I am beautiful and I’m not afraid to tell you. Do you know why? Because I believe we are all. We just have to see it.