How to Find Your Beauty

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.

self-portrait2

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.

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We went to a winter carnival a couple of months ago and I had to feed Ethan before we left. A selfie while nursing? Why not.
self-portrait4

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.

self-portrait3

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.

self-portrait1

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?

 


 

Comments

  1. The past year or so, I’ve been taking self-portraits without a smidgen of makeup and posting it online in some form or manner.

    I guess that means I’m comfortable with how I look. I don’t think I’m particularly beautiful by traditional standards (especially when I don’t smile), and my body is nowhere near where it used to be, but I’m comfortable with it because I’ve decided that society’s definition of beauty is just that. I’ve always danced to my own beat, so I’m taking that approach with beauty. I like myself enough now.

    (Also, being zit-less after so many years of bad skin, is a big reason why I don’t mind makeup-less photos anymore. )

    As for the Dove campaign itself, I get where your thinking comes from because I worked in marketing too, I’ve made commercials, I’ve written copy for them, I’ve marketed them. So I totally get your questioning of it.

    But that’s the beauty (see what I did there) of this ad: contrived or not, the message gets through. It hit home for many, and it’s got people talking.

    By they way, I like that last photo of you.

    • Totally agree on the effectiveness of the ad. It’s the silliest thing to get annoyed about, but it’s bugging me that this one is so obviously (at least to me) contrived. I shall try to let that go, but I did want to think about what it is for me that makes me question my own idea of beauty. And your self-portraits are one of the things that inspired this.

  2. My cousin posted that video on Facebook yesterday and I went to check it out. I was almost in tears by the end. It opened my eyes to my perceptions of my self-image. It showed me that I should be grateful when I receive compliments from others. I definitely have days when I feel not so beautiful, but on those days I try to look inward to my inner beauty to boost my confidence.

    For the most part though, I’ve arrived at a good place in terms of my acceptance of my body and my looks; I think this comes with my age (mid-30′s) and I hope (and truly believe) that this acceptance will only grow stronger as I mature in age and wisdom. :)

    Great post, Robin!

    • I think that’s the great thing about it. Their format didn’t really work for me, but it did make me think about my self-image as well, and I think that’s a good thing.

  3. I love that you did this. you are stunning and more women need to see how gorgeous they are – just because they are.

  4. But I think you are beautiful in all the pictures. I don’t know what you’re talking about when you criticize yourself (and yet I criticize myself). I need to do this. I need to start taking more self-portraits.

  5. I am all for self love and finding your own beauty, but the results would have been a little more interesting had the artist not been in on the gig. I usually love the Dove ads and I actually use a lot of Dove products, but this one didn’t resonate with me. I do, however, think you are beautiful with or without make-up.

  6. I commented on your Facebook post, but I’ll repeat, I don’t think he let his bias get in the way because of the type of artist he is and the fact that he has been trained to set that bias aside. Did they edit the heck out of it to get their message across? Of course they did, but the message still holds truth.

    But about your post, this is what struck me the most, “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 think that is exactly the point. The fact that women have “come to terms” with the way they look, doesn’t necessarily make the way they see themselves as true. That is an opinion that is most definitely formed with bias, and I have to wonder, what would be the impact for you if you saw the portrait as someone else described you.

    • You know, you’re right. I don’t think I do see myself the way others do. I mean, I don’t think anyone does, and I think it’s almost impossible, but I don’t think I’ll ever truly embrace the things other people think are beautiful. I’m not as critical of myself (anymore) as some people are, at least from what I gather after hearing comments about this campaign. But I do think things like this prompt some great reflections about our self-image.

  7. Awesome post! I love the video! It has impact and for today’s women (who are generally very self critical) is perfect! I love Jennifer’s comments (above), she has hit the nail on the head. IMHO

    Your eyes are stunning, would kill for those lashes!

    I too HATE my photo, my husband had a long chat with me ref our son and what photos I would leave behind for him once I was gone, there were very few… I now tolerate the pictures of me and some I even like now…

    Thanks for sharing!

    Laurie @ Vin’yet Etc.

    • Thanks Laurie! And that’s a good point about photos of you that your son would see. It’s one of the reasons I want to have more of me.

  8. I liked the video a lot yesterday, when I watched it. I actually wanted to be one of the people, I think it would SO cool to see the differences in the sketches!

    I didn’t wonder about the things you said, I guess that shows some of my naivety about videos like that, etc. But no matter, you are right, the message is a good one and I believe we do see ourselves much differently than others do. Makes me think of Kiran’s post recently too…

    I like your self portraits. You are beautiful. There are certainly things about the selfies I have been taking that I do not like, in some cases, but this is me, NOW so might as well document it.

    Thanks for your perspective on this, I really enjoyed reading it (hope that doesn’t sound too cheesy! ha!)

    xo

    • Thanks Elaine. :) Your self-portraits have been incredible to see. I love the photography, but somehow you seem to be capturing who you really are in those pictures. I think they’re beautiful in so many ways.

  9. Want some cynicism? I get the message, and I do think it’s important, in its own way. But I don’t want my sweet girl to worry so much about struggling to find her beauty. I want it to be less of an issue… I want her to focus on her other features. And yes, maybe I’m cranky, and yes, beauty DOES matter whether I want it to or not, and yes, I am pricking the uplifting balloon message. But sometimes I do that :)

  10. I love your perspective, and I love these pictures. Because you really can see YOU, how you are on an ordinary day, the real you. And you are beautiful. I think I’ve come to terms with how I look, too….partly because I’ve been working on my health/weight/strength and partly because I’ve found a style that I’m comfortable with, finally. I’m not sure how I would describe myself to someone, but I’m sure that it would be a lot more positive than it was several years ago.

    • Same here. I think finding a style you’re comfortable with is a huge part of it. And running has been great for that with me as well.

      I love your pictures of yourself. No matter what the scene (even after a race), you always seem to emanate joy. It’s lovely to see.

  11. Bravo to you! I really appreciate you sharing your opinion (& “selfies” – especially knowing how you don’t like photos of yourself) & encouraging dialogue about our conceptions of beauty. I really likes the idea behind the Dove video, but felt the execution was too slick & too contrived. Thanks for getting the conversation started.

    • Thanks, Kim! That’s how I felt – I’m not knocking their message at all, but the approach didn’t work for me. I’m glad it did for others though.

  12. I love that you are doing this, and I love the pink sunglasses too! you’re incredibly beautiful, inside and out.

    • Thanks, Kristin! I dig the pink sunglasses. My husband was very against them and I finally told him that his job was to comment on the shape to make sure they don’t make me look too much like a bug (which most glasses do). He doesn’t get to comment on colour. ;)

  13. You already know I love you. What’s funny is that I didn’t know you wrote and posted this prior to my own post in defense OF the video. So yeah, interesting takes and all. ;)

    I’m one who never wears make-up. Almost ever. Truly. And have worked in Communications. So we’re like twins. (I kid, but you feel me!)

    I agree with Allison that it is stirring things up. And that’s what it’s meant to do, IMO. But I also whole-heartedly agree w. what Jennifer said. She said a lot of what I felt for sure. I think we’re essentially on the same page, you and I, we’re just in different chapters. But what women aren’t, I guess? We’re all at some stage in our lives, through this issue, past it, in it, whatever it is and however we look at it all, and we’re still us. Still friends who support and love and care for one another. Who find each other beautiful even when we might not ourselves, and listen and agree and disagree and / or agree TO disagree. Because we’re us. And we rock. <3 you!

    • I love that, Andrea. I think it’s great to see people applauding this video because, like others said, it’s creating conversation and I think that’s great.

      And I’d be happy to have you as a twin. :) xx

  14. Truthfully, when I watched the video I liked it. I liked the message it conveyed. I was completely naive and didn’t think about it the way that you did, but I haven’t been behind the scenes on things like that either. I do think it would be interesting to see how someone else would describe me vs. how I would describe my own self (mostly flaws and dislikes coming from my end!).

    • And I love that so many people saw it and liked it and then thought about how they see themselves. I think that’s a really good thing. My issues with the video don’t really change the value of that message.

  15. In all honesty, i don’t think that dove is going to do a damn thing in the way that women think. The media is powerful and counter acts with a fierce force by keep shoving beautiful skinny perfectly crafted people in our face. And we run with it always.
    That last line sounded like a period commercial.
    You are beautiful my friend.

    • Coming from one of the most beautiful chicks I know. ;)

      I wish I could say I think this type of video will change things, but yeah. I agree with you – probably not.

  16. You are beautiful. Always. And you being yourself is the most beautiful thing of all.

    Also, how in the heck did you manage to take pictures while doing all those normal life things? You have talent.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robin, I am just passing by. Just to let you know, in my opinion you look the most beautiful in the last photo – the natural one. I think we always look beautiful when we are natural, who we are.

  18. There are days when I look at myself and roll my eyes. There are other days when I look at myslef and think, damn you’re hot. And then there are between days when I neither love or dislike my appearance. I remember being called conceited in high school. I would LOVE my girls to be conceited, love themselves, be able to describe themselves as the beauties they are because they’ve been told and taught to examine and see, not simply accept their appearance. Also, the nursing pic is my favorite.