Two years ago I never would have posted a self-portrait here. A year ago I never would have posted a picture of me without makeup. Heck, a month ago I probably wouldn’t have. But today I’m going to change that.
I’m not sure what’s changed, exactly, but it has something to do with spending less time caring and spending more time finding my own beauty.
Dove is encouraging women to find their beauty with their latest video, which has been shared often on Facebook and elsewhere.
The women I’ve seen share this are all different ages with all different kinds of faces. Their sentiments in sharing the link have included things like made me teary, made me stop, made me think. They’ve said we don’t see our own beauty and I need to take this message to heart.
My first thought was different.
The Dove video is clearly professionally produced and edited. It appears—and I’m assuming here—that the artist in the video was in on the concept. Maybe my impression of it was different because I had seen this video talked up before I watched it. Or maybe it’s because I’ve produced video and I know how much goes into scripting the message and editing the content to fit. But upon watching the video the first thing I thought about was the approach Dove took to make their point.
Did Dove focus on the women’s negative descriptions of themselves while highlighting the strangers’ positive descriptions of the women they described? Yes. Did the artist’s work involve bias (intended or not) that resulted in the women’s portraits seeming less attractive when the women described themselves and more attractive when others did? I don’t know. Probably.
Does any of that change the message? No.
Dove is doing a great things with this campaign and others they offered before it. They’re challenging our notions of beauty and asking us to think about how we see ourselves. And, perhaps more importantly, they’re making us talk about it.
Maybe the other reason this video didn’t hit me as hard as it appears to have hit others is that I don’t have a tendency to berate myself for not being beautiful enough.
To be clear, I don’t think I’m especially beautiful. I like my eyes (sometimes). I like my hair, but only when I’m having a good hair day. I hate my chin and my nose and the extra weight that likes to gather around my midsection. The thing that’s different, I think, is that I’ve somehow mostly come to terms with how I look.
I do, however, struggle with photos of me. I hate them with a red-hot passion that I can barely begin to describe. I see pictures of myself and focus on the features I hate and how not photogenic I am and I want to hide under the covers on my bed and never come out.
So I’ve been doing something about that.
For the last few months I’ve been taking self-portraits. Random shots at random times – sometimes when I like how I look and sometimes just to take some shots to see if I can tolerate any of them. Mostly I can’t and I spend a lot of time deleting.
But I’m going to challenge my own perception of what’s beautiful enough and share some of those photos here.
This is one of the first ones I took and the only one here that’s been edited. I took it on a casual, hoodie sort of day but didn’t like how washed-out I looked so I added an effect to jazz it up a little. I like how my eyes look but I think the rest is sort of freaky.
This picture is from a series I took while playing with Ethan on the floor one day. Most of them were horrific (gravity will do that to you) but I kept this one because it was representative of our playtime that day.
This is a recent one I shared on Instagram. I think most sunglasses look ridiculous on me (and my husband will agree) but I wanted a picture of me with my little owl that day.
And, finally, this one.
I posted my thoughts about the Dove campaign and the potential of the artist’s bias on my Facebook page. Does questioning that make me horribly cynical, I asked? Yes, said one person who responded, and then posted what I thought was an unnecessarily snarky comment about putting the shadow of doubt on a beautiful concept.
But like I said, I’m not questioning the message. It’s media. It’s a large corporation. I work in communications, so my brain just went to wondering about their methods. So what?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t look for our own beauty. All I’m saying is that this particular video didn’t challenge me the way it challenges others.
That last photo is my challenge. My moment of truth. I took it at 5 p.m. today, right after reading that comment on my Facebook post. I’m wearing no makeup. I hadn’t had a shower and my hair was sticking out at all angles this morning so I threw a hat on my head before taking Connor to a class. There is nothing contrived about that photo – it wasn’t planned, it wasn’t edited, and it’s not how I look when I feel beautiful.
It’s just me as I looked today. I looked like this while I played with my kids, while I cleaned the kitchen, while I took my passport application in. I looked like this while I sat in Starbucks this morning with Ethan while we waited to pick Connor up.
It’s just me.
And I’m choosing to find beauty in that.
How do you find your beauty?