Archive for self confidence

Mothers are literally superheroes:
Or mothers have a lot of power and should use it for good

My first job out of high school was in a day care facility. I was working 40 hours a week taking care of children, most of whom were under five years old. On my first day I worked with tiny babies that I was almost too nervous to hold, freaking out when I couldn’t get them to stop crying. On my second day I was put in charge of a class of 10 three-year-olds, and when I went home, I apologized to my mom for everything that I’d done when I was three.

So please understand that when I say, Moms are amazing, and I honestly have no clue how they do it, it’s about a thousand percent sincere.

The thing about mothers, and parents in general, is that they’re responsible for an entire other little person.  It’s their job to make sure that their child is happy and healthy and well adjusted, which is  probably both terrifying and overwhelming. While some of the expectations of motherhood are unreasonable and wrapped up in sexism and heterosexism (such as having to stay at home, be married to a man, or be married at all), there are plenty of good reasons that mothers are seen as these paragons of wisdom and as warm, caring, and nurturing beings.

It’s because children need that kind of care.

So when a protagonist on a television show goes to her mother for advice because things are at their worst, we understand our young hero’s need for that unique, motherly guidance, advice that will help her make the best decision and remind her of the unconditional love that a mom can offer.

Lorelai Gilmore with the only advice that you'll ever need

Lorelai Gilmore with the only advice that you’ll ever need.

However, the way kids rely on moms means the messages we get from them are going to shape us, for better or for worse. No parent and child relationship is perfect, but since such a powerful (and often long-term) relationship carries so much weight, it’s important to do whatever we can to communicate the right message.

Your mom can be your biggest ally or your biggest source of insecurity.

I’m not the first person to say this, but sometimes if you have a lot of positive interaction with your mother but also hear maybe one or two negative comments from her—whether it’s on your appearance, your work, or your opinion—the negative comments are going to be the ones that stick. I mean, I adore my mother, and we’ve been close my entire life. I can’t begin to count the number of times that she’s been incredibly kind and loving and understanding, but that’s not always what’s going to stick with me after I see her.

Sometimes these messages are really subtle, and as a result, half the time I’m wondering if I’m reading too much into them. But when I come home from college to visit and my mom asks me about whether I’m going to the gym and eating right (in between actual questions about school), I get incredibly self-conscious, especially when I know that I’ve gained weight. Even if I haven’t been paying attention to my weight (the most truly blissful times in my life), questions like that make sure that it’s on my mind again.

I’ve had friends with similar experiences, including moms who ask if they’ve lost weight when their moms obviously know they’ve put on a few pounds, or moms who complain one minute that they’re not eating enough while commenting on how tight their clothes are the next minute.

Even growing up with parents who repeatedly new diets meant that, as kids, we learned just how important it is to not be fat, even when doing so requires a lot more trouble than necessary.

A few times, well-meant motherly criticism gone awry is a little more obvious. I’ve never been one for makeup, but when my best friend and I first tried playing around with it, I got really excited about the gold glitter eyeshadow because it was pretty. When my mom saw us messing with it, she told me I looked like a five-dollar whore. Now, I wasn’t as worldly and street smart then as I am today, but the way that she said it was wholly disapproving, even if it was a joke, and even though I didn’t quite understand what it meant, it made me incredibly uncomfortable. I didn’t really touch makeup after that, sticking to the bare minimum for stage makeup in high school and finally trying to figure out makeup for myself in more recent years.

This isn’t to say that moms are like Disney villains who cackle and wring their hands, messing with our ideas about body image rather than locking us away in a tower. But it is important to analyze our beliefs, especially since we will eventually pass them on to our children whether we mean to or not.

My point is that mothers need to be really aware of what they say—especially about bodies—and how they say it, especially to their daughters. We all need to consistently take stock of and interrogate our thoughts and beliefs to make sure that our influence is positive, and this is particularly true when it comes to mothers. One of the greatest relationships that any child, especially a young girl, can have is with her mother, and by focusing on building each other up (and maybe subtly deconstructing sexist and exclusively skinny-focused messages in our culture), we can create positive relationships and stronger people.

lorelai-rory-mother-daughter-gilmore-girls-6515

—Molly C.

If I wanted your opinion, I would’ve asked for it: Or, I don’t actually want guys’ opinions and I won’t ever ask for them

I’m not the most confident person in the world, but I know that I’m really good at a few very specific things. I can maintain my absurdly long natural nails, I will never forget how to spell the word “didactic,” and I give fantastic compliments.

I love giving people compliments.

I firmly believe that we don’t tell each other enough how pretty we look or how clever that joke was or how much fun it is to be around someone, and I’m doing everything that I can to change that. My approach often involves finding something positive, latching onto it, and then bringing in a fun adjective or a not necessarily applicable but still adorable noun.

Leslie Knope is a natural

Leslie Knope is a natural at compliments.

I once referred to my pal Rachel as a “versatile butterfly” while talking about a bunch of her impressive accomplishments. Just last Friday I called another pal my “lovely little jellybean.”

It’s actually really fun to give compliments.

Of course, the tone and the setting all play into these interactions and how well they go, but for me the key is to get creative with them, taking people by surprise and making them feel special.

If all else fails and there’s no quirky comparison to be made, find a tiny cute detail and hone in on it. I mean, everyone is excited when you appreciate the skill and perseverance it takes to apply liquid eyeliner. Compliment that shit.

that's some next level kind of makeup

That’s some next level kind of makeup.

Of course, there’s a huge difference between a welcome compliment and an unnecessary comment. Yes, guys, I’m looking at you.

I don’t know who teaches men how to interact with women, but whoever they are, they need to stop immediately.

Women deal with a lot of nonsense every single day: not only do we face the same pressures that come up in life regardless of gender (keeping up with school or work, taking care of yourself, finding the time to spend with your cat), but we also have to deal with all of our gender baggage.

Our weight and appearance are WAY more scrutinized than men’s, and most often we’re scrutinized by men. We have to literally fight to be heard (in the past and in the present), and even though—news flash—not all women are interested in men, we’re all expected to constantly cater to the male gaze. Even women that are attracted to men don’t feel interested in every single man they see, but the pressure is still on.

So while we’re trying to navigate all of this nonsense, you approving of us? It’s not helpful.

Now, I’m not saying that men can’t compliment women. If you can manage to approach a woman in a nonthreatening, friendly manner, and pay her a genuine compliment that doesn’t make her feel uncomfortable, props to you.

However, there are very few times that this happens and that saddens me.

A lot of times dudes come off as really creepy or inappropriate or suggestive or condescending or some other thing that makes it harder for women to feel like their commentary is uplifting or constructive in any way.

I mean, why does it matter what the guys in One Direction look for in a girl? They’re just five pretty young dudes, and I don’t remember hearing about what qualifies them to talk about what’s desirable and what’s not in women.

While I love them (yes, including ex-member Zayn), I don’t think they’re in any position to talk about women’s qualities, physical or otherwise. Zayn fans were super excited when his magazine interviews started coming out at the end of last year and early this year, but when we saw what he had to say about what he likes in women in his Billboard article, it became less fun.

Honestly, Zayn: the part about liking “fuller women” wasn’t bad, but saying that you only like “girls that are a bit chunky in certain areas—the nice areas” [emphasis mine], that’s where you messed up, son. And then this bit?

“I enjoy an intellectual conversation as well, where someone can construct a sentence beyond what hair and makeup they’re wearing, and talk about something political or about the world. I like an opinion.”

That’s an interesting comment coming from a guy who’s dating a Victoria’s Secret model. (No offense to Gigi, I’m sure she’s a wonderful gal.)

And men obviously have a lot to learn about the complexity of makeup and hair if the “men doing makeup” videos are any indication. In fact, hairdressers and makeup artists go through longer periods of training than police officers, and I’m sure they have opinions, but go on and assume that typically feminine interests aren’t relevant or interesting, Z. I hope you know better one day.

Well, some men get it. Thanks Willam!

Well, some men get it. Thanks Willam!

What it boils down to is that men often feel entitled to women’s attention: see catcalling as an easy example. On the road from my college campus to the Catholic chapel nearby, there are a few Greek houses that are snugly nestled next to each other. I can’t tell you how many times my friends have complained about men yelling nasty things while they’re walking to church.

What is the point of this interaction? If dudes start yelling sexual things at random women on the street, it’s not like they’re trying to form a meaningful connection; it’s about power and opportunity.

And if a guy tried to actually approach a woman after yelling “nice ass!” or “I’d fuck you, baby!” I can almost guarantee that it would never work. That’s a surefire way to make a gal turn on her heel and sprint away from you.

Some guys see these comments as compliments. For women—who face the realities of sexual violence, rape culture, and victim blaming far too often—these comments are borderline violent.

Because of these kinds of things, even an innocent comment like “that’s a nice dress” or “you look cute today” from a guy I don’t know well is enough to set me on edge.

So how do we deal with this?

We talk about it. If it goes unspoken, it’s way too easy to brush things like this under the rug and pretend that everything’s fine.

Also, dudes? Stop saying nasty things to women. It’s not cool and it’s not funny. There’s literally nothing good that can come from that experience. Just stop.

A way to get better at talking to women is to listen to how we speak to each other. Sometimes familiarity and friendship can make things that gals say to each other a little strange, but y’all should pay attention to what makes them smile, what they respond to positively.

leslie knope muskox

Ann Perkins and Leslie Knope have a beautiful friendship where they lift each other up with their words and their actions. They listen to each other. They know when not to push.

They also know that women don’t owe men anything. No matter what. Not even if a man has bought a woman a drink or taken her on dates or complimented her or acted as a friend or a shoulder to cry on. (I’m looking at you crybabies who are complaining about the friend zone.)

Women might be expected to cater to men, but we don’t actually owe you anything. So here’s a radical idea: treat us like equals, like human beings with thoughts and feelings and unique interests.

Bottom line… dudes, y’all ought to talk less and listen more. And ladies? Stay beautiful, you charming cherubs.

leslie knope rainbow infused unicord

—Molly Couch

Let’s Talk about our Skinny Friends
In which I bite my tongue and make an exercise in empathy.

Okay, this blog post is about your skinny friend.

Because we all have that skinny friend.

You know the one. The one that’s size 00, but still complains about her weight.

Like when she says, “God, I feel fat today.”

Liz-lemon-eye-roll

In other news, I can do gifs now.

 

Meanwhile, you’re over here, nine sizes bigger than her, wondering what exactly she’s trying to say? What’s the big idea? If she’s fat, then what are you?

Even worse is when, in the great tradition of the humblebrag, she tries to act like she’s sad. About being skinny.

Case in point, a friend of mine is like, teeny tiny. A little bitty woman. And the other day she grabbed her trim little hips and said, “Ugh, I’m such a twig!”

And it’s like, okay, honey, can we stop all this compliment fishing and just accept that you match society’s current standards of beauty and I don’t? Can we just admit that, like honest adults?

But you know I would be KILLIN' it in 1630.

But you know I would be KILLIN’ it in 1630.

 

I think we all secretly hate our skinny friends a little bit.

But, yes, okay, much as I am loathe to make this point, maybe we should give them a break.

Because—and I’m no skinny expert—but I don’t necessarily think that our skinny friends are lying about hating their bodies.

I know what you’re thinking. “Woah woah woah, hold up there, Rachel. I’m a little sick of sympathizing with skinny ladies. They get all the representation and all the cute clothes, and while skinny shaming is sort of a thing, let’s not pretend it’s on even close to the same level as fat shaming.”

To which I say, yes. I agree with you completely. It is so goshdarn hard to work up sympathy for a skinny girl when you’ve spent your whole life being told that her body is the ideal.

But let’s hold off a little bit. Because the fashion industry has this great thing going right now where it does its darnedest to make women feel bad about themselves (even though it doesn’t need to). And what that means is that, right now, every woman can find a reason to dislike the way she looks.

She has acne! Her hair isn’t fluffy enough! Her hair is too fluffy! She’s too fat! She’s too thin! She’s too whatever.

And nobody is juuuust right.

And nobody is juuuust right.

 

See, we’re projecting. I want to be skinny, so everybody wants to be skinny, right? So if a woman with a thin figure starts complaining about said figure, then she has to be faking or fishing for compliments or something. It’s not like she could legitimately wish she looked different, because no skinny person feels that way, right?

And while I know how annoying it is, I’m starting to wonder what exactly is so wrong with fishing for compliments. If you want a confidence boost, then why does society dictate that you take this annoying side route of insulting yourself first?

I don’t think we compliment each other enough. For instance, the other day a friend and I were discussing another girl we knew, and all we were really saying was stuff like, “Gosh, she’s so pretty, and she’s so nice, and she knows how to do a really good winged eyeliner and like, wow, that takes a steady hand woman. Good job.”

Teach me your ways.

Teach me your ways.

 

And I started to wonder, why were we saying this stuff behind her back? Why not tell her to her (immaculate) face?

If you think that your dear friend, whom you love, is fishing for compliments, then just compliment her. Don’t lie to her or anything, but in a society that spends so much time putting ladies down, what’s so wrong with wanting someone to tell you they like what you’re doing? Skinny or fat, everybody could use a little verbal pick-me-up sometimes.

So, okay, my point is that there’s nothing wrong with feeling bad about yourself, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel good about yourself. We need to stop resenting other women for having the same hang-ups and worries about their bodies that we have. It’s downright hypocritical.

So before I sign off, you’re all beautiful, I love you, I’m proud of you, and you really rocked that outfit you wore yesterday.

—Rachel

Why are Bagels so Great?
In which I ponder how freaking good food is.

bagels

Lately I’ve been thinking about bagels.

Namely, I’ve been thinking about how freaking incredible bagels are.

They’re like, so good, guys. You can get them sweet, like blueberry, or savory, like asiago cheese. Even the plainest of bagels is a breakfast fit for a king.

And the true miracle of bagels is that they’re pretty much just boiled bread. That’s the basic process of making a bagel. I mean, I’m not a bagel chef; probably there’s a little more involved. But to my understanding the basic formula for a bagel is: bread + boiled water = bagel

Let’s, for a moment, ponder the intricate miracles of life, and appreciate how we live in a world in which the scientific process of boiling bread (which sounds super gross, let’s be honest) makes something as miraculous and great and beautiful as a bagel.

And don’t even get me started on cream cheese.

I’m talking about this because of that Kate Moss quote, “nothing tastes as great as skinny feels.” Now, I’m not intimately familiar with how “skinny feels,” but boiled bread HAS to taste better than “skinny feels.”

The issue I’m getting at here is that there are a whole host of reasons that I’m body positive and opposed to dieting. Dieting is unhealthy, to the point that being skinny has become an end-all indicator for health. I once, direct quote, heard a girl in one of my classes say, “Well, my doctor says I’m practically diabetic, but I’m still skinny, so…” No. Skinniness is not all that it takes to be healthy. Conversely, fatness is not an automatic indicator of unhealthiness.

Not to mention all of the gender issues at play here. Guys are allowed to be fat without going on dangerous crash diets, but ladies aren’t. I’m not saying that men don’t have body image issues as well.

 

 Don’t worry dudes, I feel for ya.

Don’t worry dudes, I feel for ya.

 

But the disproportionate number of women suffering from eating disorders speaks to the pressure put on young ladies to be skinny above all else.

And dieting is such a weird rejection of the fleshy fun parts of the feminine form. It’s taking a woman with life and culture and thoughts and a body, and it’s reducing her to a number.

And I swear to God, the next person who tries to lecture me about the “cleanse” that they’re doing is gonna get their face cleansed.

 

Haha. Facial cleanser. I'm hilarious.

Haha. Facial cleanser. I’m hilarious.

 

And even though there are all of these great reasons (and zillions more) to be against dieting and stuff, the one that I keep coming back to is the simple fact that food tastes so good.

Freaking bagels, for instance. Why are they so good? There’s something so intensely satisfying about them; a morning with a bagel fees like more of a morning somehow, you know?

And I feel this way about most food. People talk a lot about food in terms of family and culture. Like, my Grandmother makes a pecan pie that is freaking amazing, guys. But food, for me, goes maybe even deeper than that.

If I’m sick, then a bread bowl full of chicken noodle soup from Panera is a religious experience. I feel a deep personal connection with every person that delivers my Jimmy John’s sandwich. Every time I eat McDonald’s feels like a tiny victory for my eight-year-old self (who was trapped with an awful mother who wanted her to be healthy for some reason). Calories are some intense carriers of emotion. I know “comfort food” is a clichéd phrase, but it’s so accurate. The right food can turn a day around.

One of my clearest memories is from the time I was around ten or eleven years old. My mom and I had gotten lost on the way to a softball game. We were a half-hour late, and I was really upset. I was crying. I was afraid that I would be kicked off the team, or all the other girls would hate me, or like, the world would explode or something.

And my mom stopped at a gas station to ask for directions, and she bought me a donut and a chocolate milk because I was crying like an idiot and she needed something to stuff in my mouth.

I wish I could express how transformative that donut was. I don’t even like donuts that much, but somehow at that moment it was the exact mixture of sugar and dough and icing that my tiny dejected ten-year-old body needed.

Everything was fine after I ate that donut. The world calmed. We never found the field, but it was all good, because I’d had a donut and a carton of chocolate milk, and they had healed my broken heart.

 

I’m a simple girl.

I’m a simple girl.

 

And I think that dieting denies all of that in a really concerning way. Weight is not simple, and food is not simple. Acting like food is just a matter of calories is a denial of how intricately it’s tied to our hearts (and, yes, our arteries). Even ignoring all the other really important reasons that it’s bad, I think one of the worst things dieting tries to do is rob people of these simple pleasures and comforts.

 

-Rachel Sudbeck

Puberty is a Rip-Off
In which I fish for compliments and ponder the struggles of being short.

So here’s a question for you…

At what age, exactly, did you first realize that you weren’t going to be beautiful?

Like, maybe you were okay looking, but when did you realize that you were never gonna be heart-stoppingly life-destroyingly gorgeous?

For me, it was a very specific moment. I was at the orthodontist in eighth grade, and he was looking at an x-ray of my hand to determine how much longer it would be until I could get jaw surgery.

“Well, you see,” he said to my mother, “there’s no real space left between the bones of her hand, so she’s pretty much done growing.”

And that was the moment when I realized that this was where I peaked.

See, I’m a pretty short person, and I don’t mean the tiny, fae-like sort of short. I’m more like the…stubby, hobbit kind of short. I’ve been short since day one. I was a short baby probably. I started out short, and whenever I grew, the other kids grew proportionately, so it’s just been a lifetime of shortness.

This has only been exacerbated by my twin brother, who is a giant. He has always been a giant. He is, currently, over a foot taller than me. They literally thought he was going to eat me in the womb. It’s probably the biggest injustice of my life.

And the real issue is that, when you’re a short kid and your behemoth of a brother is making fun of your shortness, adults always say the same thing: “She’ll grow.”

They talk about how they were short as a kid, or they throw around fancy words like “growth spurt” and “growing pains,” and it all adds up to that fact that I entered into puberty with certain expectations. There I was—little fifth grade worm Rachel—waiting to enter a pubescent chrysalis stage and bust out of it as sexy grown-up butterfly Rachel.

Now, I knew that there would be a given amount of acne, and I understood the whole business with a period, but those were all pitched to me as being mere steps in the process to becoming Adult! Rachel.

So in my imagination, puberty was a lot more transformative than it actually turned out to be. It would straighten my nose, fluff my boobs, plump my lips, and make me taller. And by the end I would be a contestant on America’s Next Top Model, because that’s what adulthood is, right?

Now imagine all of those expectations, all of those hopes and dreams, and they’re all smushed by some orthodontist telling you that your height had peaked at five-foot-two.

Okay, five foot one.

People act as if puberty is very cut and dry, start to finish. There’s kid you, there’s teenage you, and there’s adult you. So I hope I wasn’t the only one to have the shock of a lifetime when I realized one day that, hey, adult me is already here, and she still has acne!

I hope I wasn’t the only one to have the disappointing thought that this is as good as it gets.

Please don’t misunderstand. I get by. I have no real issues with how I look. I actually think I’m pretty goshdarn cute. It’s just that I was all set to become a ten, and instead I settled into, like, a six and a half (in the right light). You know, all right, but nothing really special.

And that could have been the sad end to my puberty tale except that there’s a little secret nobody tells you in middle school—

It’s hard work to be pretty.

Being pretty takes time and determination and make-up and spanx. It requires a whole lot of effort. Pretty girls don’t just wake up that way. Well, okay, maybe some lucky jerks do, but most people don’t just wake up one day and find out they’ve become gorgeous (barring plastic surgery). Pretty is something you have to cultivate. Famous people and super models look that way partially because of fortunate genetics, but also because someone is paid a lot of money to spend two hours putting make-up on them.

And the thing is, you can approach this in a few ways:

  1. You can say, “screw it. Screw everything. Screw Tyra Banks and her stupid tv show.”
  2. You can say, “I have control over how I look, and I am able to make myself prettier if I want to.”
  3. Or you can embrace a cautious mix of numbers 1 and 2.

Now, I’m never gonna be on America’s Next Top Model. (Their minimum height requirement is 5’7, the fascists.) But I also sure as hell don’t look the same as I did at age thirteen. Even if I haven’t grown in height, I’ve learned about make-up, I’ve figured out how to dress myself better (thirteen-year-old Rachel really liked cargo pants) and I’ve taken plenty of bombin’ selfies. Turns out it is possible to take the bum deal that puberty gave you and make your own gorgeous out of it. And whether that means t-shirts and yoga pants or sundresses and sandals, we’re allowed to change ourselves into any version we like.

And, just a heads up, at six-foot-three my brother is well within the requirements of America’s Next Top Model, so that’s something for him to start working towards.

 

Rachel Sudbeck

 

The imperfect figure: accepting our bodies

body-types-shapes

We are all born to look a certain way. It’s not until we are exposed to beauty expectations that we start to have issues with the parts we have.

Have you ever looked in the mirror and decided there was something about yourself that you didn’t like? I can answer be honest and say that, yes, I have had that experience.

The women in my family—including my mother, my grandmother, and me—have all been “blessed with” a not-so-prominent backside. I’m talking about our butts. This fact was so well known that for a while I was called “little butt.” To me, the name was always a joke until one day I looked at it in the mirror and was like, “Wow, they weren’t kidding!”

I’m sure that each and every person alive—man or woman—has looked in the mirror to observe a part of their bodies at least once. But what tells us something is wrong with the way we look? Is it the magazines that retouch every photo we see? Take Kim Kardashian, for instance: she’s well known for her booty, so why is it that her photo was still fixed to make her bust, waist, and hips look smaller?

Kim Kardashian

Kim shared this photo with fans and even admitted to having cellulite and not being bothered by it:

“So what? I have a little cellulite.”

This makes me wonder why is it that we label people or point out what’s different about their bodies. Small, skinny, thin, big, wide, fat, average: the names are endless and pointless.

Comfortable is a word that should be used more often, followed by happy.

When I look at myself in the mirror now, I say that my size isn’t small or skinny or thin or average. It’s just my size. And unless I decide to have surgery or retouch every photo I’m, in I’ll always look like this… until I grow old of course. Even then I’m going to accept my wrinkles like I’ve had them my entire life because they won’t be going anywhere.

When it comes to self-acceptance, there isn’t a limit on how much we can achieve. Simply put, we all need to love our bodies and everything that comes with them.

Brittany Eldridge

In Defense of the Selfie

The Mona Lisa gets the duck face treatment

The Mona Lisa gets the duck face treatment

 

A month ago, my dad and I were vacationing in Toronto, Canada. After a thrilling minute-long elevator ride, we were finally at our next destination: the “lookout” level of the CN Tower, 1,136 feet above the ground.

The views were spectacular.

There were so many things to look at—the Art Gallery, the lake, the hotel where we were staying. I pulled out my camera and snapped picture after picture of the view. After I had almost completely exhausted my memory card, I started looking around inside.

Normal tourist activities were going on. Families were crowded around the windows. Some people were buying overpriced snacks. And, of course, countless numbers of people were taking selfies. It was a bit overwhelming to see so many people simultaneously engage in this activity. Backs leaned against glass, arms raised to get the perfect angle.

I am not a selfie-hater, but in that moment I was frustrated by what I was seeing. I thought that these people should be enjoying themselves in what I thought was the appropriate way. For a moment my thoughts flew out of my control.  These people (most of them women) were self-absorbed and self-obsessed.

After we were done upstairs, we took the elevator down and started browsing through the gift shop. During that time my frustration had become focused on myself.

Who was I to judge these people? I didn’t know anything about them.

And I had to admit I was being hypocritical, of course. I’ve taken plenty of selfies and somehow have managed to avoid becoming a self-obsessed monster. But the question remained: Why was I so mad at these women?  Why was I judging them so harshly?

I realized that I was buying into a very pervasive attitude. Society has infected me with its fanatical scorn. The selfie is subject to rampant derision and mockery. Women (especially teenage girls) are blasted for self-absorption and lack of perspective when they take a selfie. Duck faces and peace signs have become unspeakable offenses.

Think about it. What kinds of words are used to describe the young women who have the audacity to cultivate and enjoy their own image? They’re desperate, conceited, and proud. They’re narcissistic attention whores, and they are ruining society.

All this is heaped on us for such a small crime – the crime of declaring and celebrating our own existence by striking a quick pose in front of the camera lens. And why?

Because the more pictures we take of ourselves, the more dangerous we are. The more we look at our own image and say Damn, I look good, the closer we get to loving ourselves and forgetting what society has taught us about beauty.

Every day, the media sends out more and more messages with the same idea: if you are a woman, you aren’t good enough.

You need to lose weight.

You need to get rid of your wrinkles.

Cellulite is gross.

You need to wear more makeup.

If you don’t get your skin cleared up, no one will ever love you.

And so on.

And we buy into it! I know I do. I bought into it so much, I started judging other women for daring to push the norms society has put in place for us.

Well, no more.

Between my cell phone and my computer, I probably have over a hundred selfies. Most of them stay private, though I have a handful smattered across Instagram and Facebook. I keep them private not because I’m ashamed of how I look. I keep them private because they’re for me and me alone. They make me feel good about myself. If I’m having a good hair day or my makeup looks great, you bet I’m going to record it. Stuck inside my pocket or purse is my portfolio: the proof I can give myself that I am beautiful.

So keep taking selfies, ladies! And don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re not good enough.

by Lauren Bunch

The Real You Project is now looking for photos and videos

Visibility is a key part of the body-revolution.

Putting yourself out there and claiming that your body type—along with the body types of endless others—is beautiful and should not be ignored. Many body types have been kept out of the media for years, and the best way to change that is to put ourselves into the media.

We here at I Will Not Diet created an online project a while ago called The Real You Project. Before the project, we asked people to submit pictures of themselves that they liked, but also were not filtered or altered in any way.

This year we’re changing that structure of The Real You Project a little bit by adding videos and self-love photos.

The videos The Real You is now featuring are ones in which people discuss their personal stories about how they have learned to love the way they look. The story can be told just by talking to the screen or in a more creative way such as a poem or song. These videos are designed to encourage you to find your voice and share it with us. And then we’ll give you a place to be heard in the hopes that your story will make someone out there feel less alone.

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The self-love photos are simply photos in which the person pictured holds up an index card or whiteboard that explains what they love about their body. This will hopefully become a tool in which readers and patrons can show positivity about themselves and embrace all types of love for their bodies.

Ideally The Real You Project will include as wide a variety of people as possible. Your submission of a photo or video can help make visible the various types of people that exist in this world and allow you all to share your very different stories.

We would like to encourage you to be a part of The Real You Project, and help keep the body-positive revolution strong.

To do so, please email your photo or video to realyouproject@gmail.com.

An ode to the shorties: why children can sometimes make us feel better than anyone else

This week is spring break for many elementary, middle, and high schools around the country.

That means many things for me… I don’t have boot camp (translation: I feel more sluggish and moody than normal—ask my husband if you don’t believe me), I get to have one of my local friend’s teenage daughters visit my college class (woot!), and—most notably—one of my oldest friends is visiting with her whole family including her husband and two young daughters. (You can see all of us in the picture above.)

Since we don’t have kids ourselves, one of the great joys of our lives is spending time with other people’s children.

I imagine that if we did have our own kids, we wouldn’t appreciate our nieces and nephews and friends’ kids as much as we do. We’d probably want to get away from all of the shorties and have more adult time. But when you’re childless, being around kids is that much more special.

Probably one of the things I love most about hanging with the little people is that they have no guile about them. Even the teenagers—those strange in-between creatures who are enigmatic and overly frustrating to their parents—are still fairly open and honest with other adults.

Sure, kids can be too honest sometimes—and tell you that you’ve worn that shirt too many times or shake their heads disapprovingly when you try to get one more day out of that ’90s pantsuit.

But they are also just as forthcoming about what they love about the way we look—playing with our curly hair as if it is gold, trying on our strappy sandals from Macy’s like they are Jimmy Choos, and gently touching our costume jewelry as if it came from Harry Winston.

And it’s not just the superficial stuff they love either.

They love us for who we are—they love our womanly curves, every last pound of them—and stare at us with so much genuine appreciation sometimes that it almost makes me want to cry. Because, in their eyes, we aren’t the people who used to be twenty or thirty pounds thinner or the person who didn’t always have smile lines and crow’s feet. We are the people who talk to them for hours about their turtle, the people who swim in the hotel pool with them after bedtime, the people who play tic-tac-toe with them even if we can never beat them at their own game.

We are the people they love just the way we are.

This story is worth more than a thousand words

I went to the funeral of my last living grandparent today—my paternal grandmother, Margaret McCaffrey, who was 96 years old when she died on Sunday.

Oh, I loved this woman dearly. We all did.

And during the funeral, her youngest daughter, my Aunt Janie, lovingly captured why we all adored her: she was a giver. With tears in her eyes, Jane read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree and then told three moving stories about her mother helping those who were less fortunate.

I won’t repeat those stories here because those are Jane’s stories, not mine, but I will tell you that these weren’t stories about simply volunteering at a shelter or giving to charity. These were stories about standing up for people who were different than her at a time when it wasn’t popular to do so.

But I will tell you that these stories fit with what I already knew about my grandmother, which was that she really seemed to appreciate everyone she met. The funny thing is that I didn’t put this together until I heard Jane’s touching speech this morning. I knew she loved and appreciated me and everyone we knew, but Grandma did it so quietly that you almost didn’t notice (unlike Grandpa, who I loved just as much and who was just as giving but who showed his appreciation of others with a volume and humor that sometimes overshadowed hers).

It wasn’t just that Grandma appreciated people for who they were. She also appreciated them in ways others didn’t. She saw the intelligence in the child who struggled in school, the discipline in the adult who hadn’t made it yet, the potential in everyone.

And though I was the awkward sister for many years, Grandma never saw me that way. She saw my beauty before anyone else.

I’ll never forget when I first realized this. It was during the summer of my thirteenth year, between seventh and eighth grade. For some reason I can’t remember, I had decided to visit both sets of my grandparents on my own for a week each. And while I was with my dad’s parents, my grandmother made me pose for a photo one afternoon.

I was wearing a very eighties outfit of short white shorts and a lavender-colored shirt with a matching bandana, and when the photo came back, Grandma went on and on about how beautiful I looked.

“Look at your legs, Molly,” she said. “They are so long and lovely.”

It was true that my legs were long and lovely, but I couldn’t see that because I was too focused on what I saw as my lesser qualities: my shiny forehead, wide nose, and too-short hair.

“And your tiny waist,” Grandma said. Then she turned to me with a sincere smile. “You are such a pretty girl.”

At the time I thought Grandma was either just being nice or starting to show signs of age. After all no one thought I was a pretty girl. My sister was the pretty one. My cousin Amy was pretty. I was the smart one, the thoughtful one. But I was not pretty.

To my great horror, Grandma made copies of the photo and gave them to my parents and other family members. She even had it blown up and framed for me. But I hated that photo because I thought it represented all that was wrong with me and hid it in one of my drawers as soon as I got home, determined that no one would ever see it.

Unfortunately I got my wish. I haven’t seen that photo in years. And now I would do almost anything to find it, to see what Grandma saw years before even I could.

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