As a teenager, when I looked in the mirror all I saw was my imperfections. My big, ski-jump nose, my ruddy-red cheeks, my straight-stick body, my glasses – big and thick and bug-like. I didn’t look anything like what “beautiful” was. So I believed, “I am ugly”. This was the story I told myself, I told it so convincingly others believed it too. As a result I had a rough entry into adulthood.
I accepted this story as truth, it wasn’t something I could change; it was just something I had to live with. I didn’t think this story was doing any damage until my first daughter came along.
She came swirling in with her fluffy pink princess skirt and tiara singing, “I a beautiful princess. A beautiful, beautiful princess.”
I looked at my daughter’s sweet young face, her bright eyes, her pink cheeks and smiled, “You are a beautiful princess.”
“You a beautiful princess too, Mommy.”
“No, I’m not.” The response came automatically and without thought.
“You not a beautiful princess?”
I could see the look of confusion on her face. How could I explain to her that my nose is the wrong shape and size for that, my complexion was splotchy, my chest too small, my waist too large, my feet, my hands, my hair… I was not a beautiful princess and I never have been.
“No,” I finally said, “I’m not a beautiful princess – but I am a beautiful princess’s mommy.”
“You not a beautiful princess?” The disappointment pulled her eyes down.
“No, I’m not.” It was just a statement of fact.
She looked back up at me, threw her tiara to the ground, and declared, “I not beautiful princess!”
“Yes, you are sweetheart.”
“No, I a mommy like you.” Then she stomped out of the room.
There are moments that change you. This was one of those moments for me. I realized the story I told myself was not good enough for my daughter—or for me. I wanted her to have a different, better life than I had experienced.
I began the long hard work of changing my story; of searching for and believing in my own unique beauty. When I could see beauty in my reflection – others could too. My looks hadn’t changed; my ability to see had; “I am beautiful.”
I learned a lot about the kind of beauty that doesn’t fade with time, real beauty. I wanted my daughter to believe in that kind of beauty.
Knowing how powerful stories are I searched for better stories to tell my own daughter about real beauty, when I couldn’t find them, I created them. My first book, The Ravenous Gown: And 14 More Tales about Real Beauty is a collection of new fairy tales where beauty is bigger than a reflection, where wisdom makes girls extraordinary, and where curses are broken from the strength and character of unlikely heroines.
My daughter is sixteen now, and we are both living happily, for we both choose to tell ourselves this story: I am happy with who I am today and I am happy with who I will be tomorrow.