Balanced Beauty

DSC02281 (2)Yes, I have a six pack. I also have stretch marks.

Yes, I smile when I look in the mirror. I also smile when the wind is blowing against my face and the sun is shining.Working in the fitness industry I find it very important to have a balanced perspective on beauty. It is so easy to be influenced by others’ perception of beauty – be it from family,friends, or the media.

Raising my son at the gym since birth, I always felt proud of the “healthy” environment I provided him. At age six, one of the male trainers jokingly told him he jumped like a girl.He quickly came back with, I don’t get it. The trainer hemmed and hawed trying to explain the joke and my son continued: My mom’s calves are bigger than yours. What’s wrong with jumping like a girl? Everyone laughed and we quickly turned the joke into a calf contest, which I won. The real victory, though, was my son’s wit and confidence.

By the time my son was ten, I realized his perception of the world was influenced by his environment (the gym) – this small Chicago microcosm of societal beauty defined by the most fashionable and fit, with a sprinkle of plastic surgery. Now he asked me, Mom when are you getting breast implants? He observed many women at the gym going from “no boobs” to BIG boobs. Boob jobs in our world were as common as dental visits and vacations.

I was shocked… I’m NOT getting a boob job, it’s not my thing. I like to run and dance – I’m more of an athlete-dancer not a bikini model.

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Already feeling l said wayyy too much (and completely freaked out by this conversation with my ten-year-old son), I wondered how time passed so quickly. How did he go from my mom’s calves are bigger than yours to hey mom when are you getting a boob job? What would his perception of women and beauty be in another five years? Would he expect women to be the media’s definition of beautiful-flawless-and-ageless and get surgery if a body part wasn’t up to par? Was I doing my job as a parent to encourage self-esteem and confidence?

I thought back to when I was five and ten and fifteen and how my parents had such a balanced view of beauty. I pulled from my parents’ example to determine how I would parent my son to find his own healthy self-confidence. Fast forward and my son is now16. These are the rules we live by.

Balanced beauty is healthy and feels good.

There is nothing wrong with feeling beautiful or admiring beauty. Accept what you were born with and do your best to accentuate what you have – shake what yo mama gave ya!

We are souls living in a body.

My parents encouraged us to define ourselves based on what made us laugh and smile and what we worked hard for. If strangers commented on “how beautiful” us kids were,my father would say thank you and then throw in a non-appearance based achievement. Rebekah is also good at gymnastics.

Be a flower in a bouquet.

A single flower is beautiful, but in a bouquet of flowers each flower compliments the other and they are beautiful TOGETHER. There is never a reason to be jealous of another person’s beauty. Appreciate others and also yourself, like a bouquet of flowers.

Meanies are ugly.

I never once in my life heard my parents criticize anyone’s appearance, yet I heard many other adults saying mean things about other people’s appearance. This always baffled me. The most beautiful person saying mean things about anotherperson’s appearance becomes very ugly.

Unconditional love is totally better than beauty queen (or king) titles.

During my teen years I went through puberty and gained 30 pounds, which came along with stretch marks and hormonal acne. I couldn’t bear to look in the mirror. Dressing rooms were equivalent to torture chambers.  My poor mother endured many tantrums with me crying how fat and ugly I was and how she didn’t understand because she was so thin and pretty. My parents constantly told me how strong I was athletically, how I had muscle not just fat, and took me to the doctor for acne creams. My father got me books on nutrition and took me on jogs.The unconditional love I was given by my parents, plus constant care and attention, was the most important gift and guide in shaping my values on beauty in a world where it can sometimes be out of balance. Surely my son will be okay if I can pass on even half of what my parents taught me.

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