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The brave face of beauty

POSTED: August 7, 2014 5:00 a.m.
Topalov Djura, Šistockphoto.com/Topalov/

We dont need to hide from the camera. We are beautiful just the way we are and our children want us in the picture.

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There is a new, trending challenge on Facebook and Instagram: Women are accepting their beauty.

Maybe you’ve seen it. Maybe you’ve even participated. Women everywhere are posting five pictures of themselves where they feel beautiful, then they tag five other friends and challenge them to do the same.

I’ve been purposefully watching. (Isn’t Facebook all just online people-watching anyway?) As each friend or friend of a friend participates, I’ve been reading between the lines. It’s like a live-action Dove Real Beauty commercial. They share five pictures and I see five pictures, but we don’t see the same thing.

I see beautiful, happy women surrounded by their families. Though they picked these pictures as their “very best,” it’s evident they did this with a struggle, surrounded by disclaimers.

Every post has a qualifier
Woman after woman prefaces her photographs with qualifying statements. Even though lots of these women don’t know each other, their statements are very similar.

“This was sure harder than I thought…”

“I had a hard time finding five pictures of myself I like…”

“It took me a long time to do this...”

It’s as if confidently posting five pictures of ourselves is just not possible.

This is hard to do
Why is this challenge such a challenge for so many women? As I spoke with women about this social-media trend, I realized that many of them took days, or even weeks, to get the courage to follow through and participate after they were tagged.
I asked them why this was so hard for them to do. There were some common themes, namely fear of vanity and low self-esteem.

Sally Rollins, a mom of 4 in Michigan, figured this concept is hard for two reasons:

“First, it’s just kind of hard to look at pictures of yourself and think, ‘wow, I look really good.’ Pictures I struggle with," she said. "And second, I’m always afraid that if I do post a picture of myself that I feel good in, people will assume I’m vain.”
Do we struggle when we look in the mirror too? Or is a mirror easier because the image vanishes as fast as we do? I thought some photographers might know, especially since they see us through a unique lens.

“To me, the beauty comes from the inside, and that is what I try to capture through my lens,” says Dani with Lemon Lily Photography in Brigham City, Utah.

“Although every person is beautiful on the outside regardless of their make, shape or size, I believe that a woman’s confidence must start from within, not from what they see in the mirror.”

Shannon Slayton is a photographer in San Luis Obispo, California, and she explains, “Almost all of the women I photograph either say something like ‘make sure you get my good side’ or ‘can you Photoshop me’ or ‘can I stand in the back?’ It’s really sad because when I see them through my lens I see strong women. I see their beauty when they laugh at a joke or how they smile at their husband.”

Even if Slayton were to allow them to stand in the back, at least they are in the picture.

Way back in time
We are not in enough photographs. Many of these women posting on Facebook preface just how far back in time they had to search — sometimes by choice and sometimes because that is all they could find.

Why are we not in the pictures with our children? Are we just busy behind the lens or are we just behind the lens — on purpose avoiding an image of ourselves that we won’t be able to get out of our heads?

Recently, I read a fantastic blog post that’s gone viral. The author Bridgette White discovered a photo her children took of her on the beach. She nearly deleted it. In anger, she asked her children who took the picture and was in awe to learn that they snapped the photo because of how beautiful they thought she was — even pretty enough for a postcard.

We don’t need to hide from the camera. We are beautiful just the way we are and our children want us in the picture.
My friend and blogger Melissa Bielaczyc lost her stepmom to cancer. Reminiscing her stepmom’s birthday last month, Bielaczyc realized she didn’t have a single picture of the two of them together. Our children absolutely want us in the picture.

Surrounded by family
What is beautiful about having to choose just five images in which we feel beautiful, at least one of them always includes our family. In our conversations, one mom confidently stated, “I feel beautiful when I look at my children.”

Family means so much to us. Especially the experiences we have with our siblings, husband and children.

Major milestones
Consciously or not, most of the pictures being posted signify major triumphs in our lives. It makes sense, since this challenge involves images where we “feel” beautiful, not just “look” beautiful.

We see women in wedding gowns and graduation caps. We see runners completing races and teachers loving children. But my favorite of all, are the pictures of brand new moms who have just conquered childbirth, holding their tiny new miracle close to their heart.

We are strong, beautiful women who do amazing things, and we know it.

Nicole Carpenter is the CEO of MOMentity.com and creator of Define Your Time eCourse. She is a speaker and mentor for mompreneuers. Nicole and her husband are raising four children, 9 years and younger, including twin toddlers. Twitter: @momentity

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