The Battle

Since being pregnant/having a baby/becoming a mom, I feel like I am gradually gaining a new perspective or maybe losing an old perspective on a life long battle that I know I won't be able to end, but hope to gradually diminish. Throughout my life I acknowledge the fact that my outward appearance has always been a high priority, and I realize that I tend to care too much about others perceptions. It's somewhat embarrassing to admit the level of maintenance I've brought myself to require in the past, but I feel it's a necessary step in my desire to fight the ongoing battle. I would say my ultimate down fall came at a time I now consider to be self absorbed and unreasonably vain. A time consisting of tanning a couple times a week, getting my nails done, and changing my hair at least once a month.

While pregnant I had every intention of practicing healthy eating habits and exercising regularly. Very quickly I realized that I would not be able to maintain my self control and did not feel I fit the mold of a "cute pregnant" woman. Throughout my 9 month journey my focus became a lot less myself and a lot more my future baby. I wasn't as concerned about the clothes I was wearing, my hair, or even my make-up. I think it's a beautiful thing that we mothers sacrifice our time and efforts that could be spent otherwise to care for our children. I recently observed one of my friends who is 5 months pregnant, and although her appearance and shape had noticeably started to change, she looked so beautiful to me, because she looked like a mother.

Now that my pregnancy experience is over, it's still hard to find the time to get back into shape, and return to my pre-pregnancy self all together-and that's ok. It all takes time and I'd really like to get away from the "Heidi Klum" expectation of 3 months till it's back to rock hard abs on the runway. I'm a real mom, and I'm comfortable with where my priorities currently lie.
There is such an unspoken expectation of the consistent "over" effort and obsession with looking good. This is not a healthy combination partnered with the already constant feelings of wanting and trying to be the perfect mom, daughter, sister, friend etc.

I know women who are always put together from head to toe with the perfect accessories down to the purse and matching eye shadow. I also know women who don't care much about their appearance and may be considered "under kept". When I think about the women I really respect and admire- I don't think it has anything to do with either scenario. It's the women in my life who are good mothers, good friends, hard workers, and those who give of themselves to make the world a better place. It's the women who are humble yet have a subtle confidence about who they are and who they want to become. I believe we all have our own insecurities, but wouldn't we all be a little less insecure if we came to face the notion that we are all insecure?(I know it's a bit redundant, but it had to be said) Here are some of the things I've learned about myself when it comes to the current subject I am addressing.

Having pale skin is not a crime and is less expensive, less artificial, and better for my over all health than other alternatives.

Freckles are my heritage and they mean a lot to me. I no longer consider them to be skin imperfections or a pigmentation problem.

Make-Up is for enhancing natural beauty. Eye liner addiction is no longer necessary.

Once in a while your skin needs a break from all that "stuff" and it can actually feel quite liberating to go out in public all naturale. After all- that's how my Heavenly Father made me.

My husband doesn't care if I didn't have a chance to "get ready" some days, and oddly tends to find me more attractive in sweats with no make-up than when I'm all dolled up.

Who you are and how you carry yourself is a higher level of determining beauty. (Have you ever noticed how getting to know someone better can make them more or less physically attractive?)

A few examples of why the world's view of beauty is skewed:

I recently found out that Megan Fox- who is supposedly one of the most beautiful women in the world- had a ton of surgery done before she became really well known. She's had a nose job, cheek implants, lip injections, breast augmentation, and other lifts. Was it really for the better? You judge for yourself.

My cousin had this video on her blog which I think is another strong example.

But it doesn't end at outward appearance. This poem helps illustrate my point.

Look at me, look at me, look at me now!
You could do what I do
If you only knew how.

I study the scriptures one hour each day;
I bake,
I upholster,
I scrub,
and I pray.

I always keep all the commandments completely;
I speak to my little ones gently and sweetly.

I help in their classrooms!
I sew all they wear!
I drive them to practice!
I cut all their hair!

I memorize names of the General Authorities;
I focus on things to be done by priorities.

I play the piano!
I bless with my talents!
My toilets all sparkle!
My checkbooks all balance!

Each week every child gets a one-on-one date;
I attend all my meetings (on time! Never late!)

I’m taking a class on the teachings of Paul,
But that is not all! Oh, no. That is not all …

I track my bad habits ‘til each is abolished;
Our t-shirts are ironed!
My toenails are polished!

Our family home evenings are always delightful;
The lessons I give are both fun and insightful.

I do genealogy faithfully, too.
It’s easy to do all the things that I do!

I rise each day early, refreshed and awake;
I know all the names of each youth in my stake!
I read to my children!
I help all my neighbors!
I bless the community, too, with my labors.

I exercise and I cook menus gourmet;
My visiting teaching is done the first day!

(I also go do it for someone who missed hers.
It’s the least I can do for my cherished ward sisters.)

I chart resolutions and check off each goal;
I seek each “lost lamb” on my Primary roll.

I can home-grown produce each summer and fall.
But that is not all! Oh, no. That is not all …

I write in my journal!
I sing in the choir!
Each day, I write “thank you’s” to those I admire.

My sons were all Eagles when they were fourteen!
My kids get straight A’s!
And their bedrooms are clean!

I have a home business to help make some money;
I always look beautifully groomed for my honey.

I go to the temple at least once a week;
I change the car’s tires!
I fix the sink’s leak!

I grind my own wheat and I bake all our bread;
I have all our meals planned out six months ahead.

I make sure I rotate our two-years’ supply;
My shopping for Christmas is done by July!

These things are not hard;
It’s good if you do them;
You can if you try!
Just set goals and pursue them!

It’s easy to do all the things that I do!
If you plan and work smart, you can do them all, too!

It’s easy!” she said …

… and then she dropped dead.

By “Dr. Sue” aka Vickie Gunther
With a little help from the blogging world, there's even more to want to live up to or compare yourself to. Like being an amazing photographer and only posting photos that are at a professional level. Crafting and making practically everything yourself, and the list goes on.

I have set a few goals for myself to help me work towards winning the battle and to have good feelings about who I am and what I want to become.
I will stop screening pictures of myself and not be afraid to post or display a less than perfect picture of myself if it portrays an important memory
I will stop apologizing to every unexpected visitor that my house is a mess. I know I will get to it within a reasonable time frame.
I will "blog stock" with an open mind and recognize that we all have different strengths and talents, and I will appreciate instead of compare.
I will try to make my goals to build my spirituality, serve others, and be a good mother and wife, come before any other desire
This doesn't mean I'm going to "let myself go". It doesn't mean I won't enjoy fashion or getting dressed up, or that I won't try my darnedest to lose the baby weight as quick as possible.I think there's good that comes from pride in your appearance and expressing yourself. Everything in moderation. I'm just hoping to help myself, and maybe a few others from feeling bad about not reaching perfection on many levels.
We're all going to get older. When I'm "mature" in age, I want to be beautiful like these women.

"I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world." -Mother Teresa
"Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." -Marjorie Pay Hinckley


Jenni M. said...

I love this soapbox that you are on! i think every woman should read it!

Mykell said...

Well put!! I think mom's, especially stay at home mom's, are judged too harshly. When I look in the mirror and dont like what I see I have to step back and remind myself that it is ok if I didnt get to shower today or if I look like I just got out of bed. My Heavenly Father loves me the way that I am and I have 4 kids for crying out loud I barely have time to breathe!!! According to worldly views of beauty I would be considered homely or plain but that is ok that has no weight on my eternal value and what I have is worth so much more then any kind of plastic surgery or alterations I could do to myself. I try not to let myself go but it is hard to remember to take care of me sometimes. So I know some women in the ward get together and have Girls Night Out or a spa night at least once a month. We have tried to be creative and do things cheaply so we can all be included. But I love what you said and I agree 100% alot of us have that ongoing battle in our heads too and in all honesty you just have to let it go and remember who you are!!

Mykell said...

Plus my grandma died from skin cancer so I am proud to be pale and freckles are just stinkin cute wear them proudly!!

Austin and Stacie said...

Attention all new mommies: Read Sarah's post to feel 100% better. Thanks, Sar--just what I needed today. :)

Shay said...

it's amazing what motherhood does for perception & priorities.

Amy said...

What a beautiful post, Sarah... very well said. I think all women look great with no make-up... like you said, that's how we were made! Motherhood changes you... there is no way any of us could continue being the same exact person before having a child. Its a good change, that makes you appreciate so much more in life. Thanks Sarah!

{ Marianne } said...

Loved reading you post Sarah. You have a wonderful outlook. One that I can definitely learn from.

To answer your question about enlarging pics:
When you are creating your post click the edit html tab and adjust the width and height by 50% and change the s400 to s1600. This has to be done for each picture. Let me know if that doesn't work.

Bridget and Chase Parry said...

holly crap we are soooo much alike... why dont we do more together. i need to come visit you. i laugh because everything you said i feel the same way.... i may just have to do a little post of my own... but how you worded everything was so great. i loved it. that video too. well you are beautiful and i guess that is complimenting myself in a way since everyone says we look similar... so never say your ugly... lol!

Heather said...

Amen- and thanks Sarah!

Cherise said...

Sarah, thanks for posting this! I especially needed a pick-me-up with this pregnancy... I've just gotten so big, so fast and not in the "right" places... I have to constantly remind myself that I am doing it for these babies health and I shouldn't worry about my appearance so much. Thanks for putting it so well!

Whitchurch Family said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post! Very well put and to the point for all of us women and I admire the honesty! It was a good reminder and I am sure I will catch myself reading it from time to time ;)

meredith* said...

I LOVE THIS! I feel this way so often. I found you on Mormon mommy blogs and I love your blog. so much. it's cute and so like what I'm into. :)

meredith* said...

thanks for helping me with the labels!! it worked, now i feel dumb for not seeing the very clear little "label" box in the corner. darn. also, i like this post. i feel like this alll the time. go REAL mamas!