In A World Of Before And After Photos, I Struggle To Feel Good Enough

by Lauren Carawan
Tatyana Dzemileva / Shutterstock

There is something that has been weighing heavy on my heart. I know in putting this out there, it’s going to cause some controversy. Just know that it’s not my intention to criticize. I want to lift us up. So hear me out, okay?

We are good enough!

Over the last few years, we’ve empowered ourselves. We’ve taken a stand against body-shaming on social media. We now tell moms to get in the picture. We’ve shared selfies for the #NoMakeupMovement.

And yet my news feed is filled with posts from friends who work in direct sales telling me how I can trim fat off of my body or diminish the wrinkles on my face, and I am left wondering, “Am I good enough?”

I love these friends, truly, and I know that none of what they post is meant to make me feel less-than. As someone who did direct sales for four years, I get it. It gave me the opportunity to work from home in the early years of raising my daughters. And while the income was a boost for my family, I was lucky to be able to step away when it became too much for me to manage along with being a full-time stay-at-home mom. For some of my friends, direct sales is a necessary means to support their families, and I’m thrilled they found an unexpected career path that allows them to set goals, work within a supportive community, and have the flexibility to stay at home with their children.

I’m not even questioning the value of what my friends are selling or judging the people who are customers. I respect the desire to pursue self-improvement. If you find something that makes you feel better about yourself, I say, go for it. You do you! It’s clear that sometimes these posts and products give people a push in the right direction.

But it would be dishonest to say I’m okay with all of it, because there are women who struggle with the messages imparted by these posts. Women who are battling eating disorders, struggling with body image issues, holding themselves up to impossible ideals. I struggle sometimes. I fought hard to overcome body image issues when I was a teenager and recognize my personal worth as more than the size of my waist.

I still feel the pressure to continually look younger and fitter, and these posts in my news feed aren’t doing me any favors. I already work out regularly, but I do it for the natural high it gives me, the personal satisfaction of having done it, and the health benefits. Sure, I like looking cute in a dress, but with three daughters at home, I don’t have the mental energy to obsess over it.

And I don’t want my girls to see me worrying about such things. I do want them to see me exercise. I want to model self-care and healthy habits for them. But I don’t want them to see their bodies as something they must “fix” and “trim” and “smooth” as they age. I want fitness to be a healthy part of life, not a means to achieving a certain “look.”

The same goes for my face, y’all. I’m aging. Some of us do it more gracefully than others. No matter who you are, though, it can be hard to look in the mirror and see some extra lines that you could have sworn were not there yesterday. And yes, I realize there are super-effective regimens out there that will decrease the appearance of these lines but dammit — I don’t want to do it! I don’t want to wash my face twice a day. (Go ahead, shake your head in disgust. Never have, never will.) What’s more, I don’t want to focus on turning back the hand of time. Each year that I age represents another year I’ve been fortunate to live on this Earth, to mother my children, to cherish my husband and friends and family. I’m not trying to sound poetic — I’m just being real.

Recently, I started a dialogue with my oldest daughter. Her obsession with princesses was unrelenting, and it finally dawned on me that I was responsible for this. I gave her the tools: the dolls, the movies, the dress-up sets. But now I have to do damage control. I’m talking to her about true beauty. She knows that it comes from the inside. That you can’t put a pretty dress on the witch in Snow White and suddenly make her beautiful. That kindness should be the measure of someone’s worth. But it’s a hard sell when all of her role models have been ageless beauties.

This is on me, though. As her mother, I have to set a strong example if she’s going to believe that beauty is more than flawless skin and youthfulness. I want her to see a mom who ages gracefully. I’m certainly not opposed to a little moisturizer or makeup if it makes me feel good. But it helps me to remember my husband fell in love with a girl on the beach, sans makeup. When I asked him to buy me perfume last Christmas, he told me it would be a bottle of sunscreen because that’s what he loves. He loves the memory of us on that beach. He loves me unfiltered. And I do too. So, I’ll pass on your wrinkle cream, thank you very much.

As for my friends who are ruling their businesses, I am so happy they have found purpose and success. I know that some of these products have made women feel better about themselves, and I celebrate that with them.

And those of you who feel the anxiety and self-doubt creeping in when you see the before and after photos of pounds lost, lashes lengthened, faces “improved” — I want to hold your hand and remind you that you are good enough, just the way you are.

And if you are comfortable with where you are, I say cheers to you. So am I.