Scars to Your Beautiful: We Are All Beautiful in Our Own Way

I have been hearing “Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara a lot when I’m in my car. And once I hear it, it keeps repeating in my head over and over and over all day long. I’ve been wanting to blog about this but the election side-tracked this until now.  I decided tonight that I had to blog about something positive and meaningful, what with all of the negativity and disappointment arising from the election results.

For the first time, I watched the video with the lyrics so I could get my arms around the words. And then I watched the official video that stars a diverse group of individuals of all different ages, both women and men, some with visible (a man with a disfigured ear, a woman with an abdominal scar) and some with invisible scars (depression?). There’s a girl with alopecia (the disease that prevents hair growth), a woman with cancer, a transgender model, and even the singer JoJo. And many more.

The first part of the song before the chorus comes in is all about society’s perception of beauty–face and body beautiful enough to be sculpted–that causes body image issues. Society, after all, over emphasizes the thin beauties that grace the covers of magazines to the point that individuals are blind to any other beauty that lies within an individual. This societal obsession of outward beauty causes deep pain and body image issues that can manifest as eating disorders, depression, cutting, etc.  These issues are not visible to the observer, but they are there.  A new mother having difficulty returning to her pre-pregnancy weight and figure (celebrities who brag about their quick returns to pre-pregnancy looks don’t help at all) may suffer body image issues that can lead to postpartum depression. Please click here and here for previous posts about this.

What Alessia wants to remind us all is that you don’t have to be beautiful on the outside to be beautiful.  You can have a beautiful, loving and generous heart which will glow from inside out, and the impression that gives people is more meaningful, more memorable, and more beautiful than the person whose beauty is only skin deep.

The chorus of the song repeats several times throughout the song (and this is the part that keeps repeating in my head over and over again…perhaps my mind is telling me something, I don’t know) reminding us that we’re beautiful just the way we are and we shouldn’t have to change anything. The world should change the way we see beauty in people.

You should know you’re beautiful just the way you are
And you don’t have to change a thing
The world could change its heart
No scars to your beautiful, we’re stars and we’re beautiful

Alessia so sagely writes at the end of her video:

Often times, the world both directly and indirectly
tells us that we shouldn’t be happy with ourselves
if we don’t fit certain beauty standards.
Scars to your beautiful is a reminder that beauty isn’t only
one look, shape, size, or colour. It isn’t even always tangible.
It comes in an endless amount of forms
and we need to recognize that.”

Thank you, Alessia, for sharing your talent of music writing, your amazing voice, this video, the message contained in the words of this song and video, and your reminder that we are all beautiful in our own way(s).

But I will go beyond Alessia’s lyrics and say that just because someone is beautiful on the outside does not mean they are beautiful inside. Sometimes the darkness within–hate, jealousy, prejudice, etc.–breaks through that outward beauty and cancels it out, preventing others from seeing the beauty that is only skin deep.

Watch this video. Listen to the music. Never mind any negative thoughts that your mind may be telling you. Never mind any negative thoughts that others may be telling you. Forget the bullies on social media.  Forget the haters.

You are beautiful, and don’t you forget that.

An Update to My February 29, 2012 Post

Just a brief check-in today. This was another very stressful week at work, though I did have a chance to take today off for my quarterly haircut and highlights.  I finally felt brave enough to ask my hairdresser to cut my hair to chin length…something I haven’t done since nearly 2 decades ago!  I feel like a new person!  It feels great! 🙂

However, I still have a couple personal matters that are causing me quite a bit of anxiety.  I am doing the best I can to keep the anxiety under control.  I am going to see my GI doctor on Monday to see what is causing all my esophageal discomfort.  Praying it’s nothing serious.  Still have very painful tendinitis in my right elbow, which my chiro refers quite logically to an occupational injury (i.e., computer overuse).

I have a few more posts lined up for the coming week.  The purpose of my brief check-in today is to point out that I added 2 photos to my post “Disturbing Teenage Trend….Hey, Stranger, Do You Think I’m Ugly or Pretty?”

An Update to My Last Post….

Just a brief check-in today, as I’m very, very tired. This week has been a stressful one at work.  I’ve also had a couple other personal matters that are causing me quite a bit of anxiety.  I am doing the best I can to keep the anxiety under control. On top of that, I’ve had post-mono and strep (I don’t remember if I mentioned I had them simultaneously since the first week of December) esophagus condition that seems to be lingering forever.  Feels like some sort of inflammation from the back of my throat down to my chest.  I’m on medication for that.  Then, over the weekend, my slowly deteriorating right elbow suddenly became 10x more painful than before, such that I had to see my chiro for the past couple of nights.  He informed me that I had tendonitis.  I love this chiro because the back/neck/arm numbness issues I used to have were successfully treated by him.  For my elbow, he used accupressure, electromuscular stimulation, and heating pad.  Got a couple more visits to go.  So far, so good.  I feel so much better now than a few days ago, that’s for sure!

Anyway, I will have a couple of posts up within the week.  The purpose of my brief check-in today is to point out that I added 2 drawings to my last post.  Please check them out!

Disturbing Teenage Trend….Hey, Stranger, Do You Think I’m Ugly or Pretty?

A Huffington Post article today written by Joyce McFadden and titled “Body Image: How Women Contribute to Girls Asking YouTube if They’re Ugly” grabbed my attention and finally convinced me I had to get my thoughts out, thoughts that have been brewing since the first article I saw the other day on Facebook posted by Mediabistro, written by Megan O’Neill and titled “Disturbing YouTube Trend: Teens Ask the World ‘Am I Ugly or Pretty?”

The latter article pointed out–what really goes without saying–that teens posting videos of themselves seeking stranger input on their appearance is just asking for malice, trouble, to be put down farther than before they posted the darn videos.  The Internet is laced with trolls who have nothing better to do than say the most vile things…things that you would never be able to get away with in person.  Trolls are cowards who have deep-rooted issues.  They need counseling…and badly.  Because the average person will not have the desire to say the kinds of vile things trolls say.  While there may be some nice people trying to convince these teens that they are beautiful just the way they are and at the end of the day it’s not necessarily about physical beauty but inward beauty (teens aren’t so concerned about that as getting approval about their appearance), this innocent–and desperate–plea is surely going to invite the worst comments imaginable from people.  There are all kinds out there.  We should know that by now.

I understand what these teens are going through.  They need validation, approval. Their self confidence is challenged by the physical changes they find themselves undergoing. They can’t go to their parents, relatives, or friends for objectivity; they need it from someone who doesn’t know them and can be truly objective…but they are seeking this objectivity from the completely wrong place.  I would call this misguided due to desperation of not knowing where else to turn.  It’s a shame they don’t for whatever reason feel comfortable with talking to someone like a counselor, good friend or loved one.

Here are some of the FB comments–from supposedly adults (I say supposedly when in actuality they could be teens posting with a fake profile, or they could actually be adults in which case I say they have absolutely no excuse to talk this way….they probably have children who are bullies as well)– posted in response to the Mediabistro article:

People who ask such questions get what they deserve.
If you have to ask… you’re probably hideous.
She should ask – “Am I stupid?”

My reaction?

[Insert 2 of the commenters’ names], that’s not very understanding of teens who have self esteem issues, now is it….What I want to know is where are the parents in all these examples? If they’re that hands-off and ignorant that their children are doing this, that’s indicative of a more seriously sad trend.

I sure as heck wouldn’t want these commenters as parents, and if they have children, they’re probably some of the ones posting these videos.  These comments actually sound just as bad as if they were coming from teens who don’t know better.  If they’re parents or grown-ups, they should be ashamed. If they’re teens, they need to grow up. Either way, these comments are completely lacking in empathy, callous (putting it nicely), and obviously said without any concern at all about these poor teenagers.  Therein lies the problem with videos like these seeking public opinion.  Sure, strangers don’t know you.  And they sure as heck don’t give a crap about you.

Anyway, unable to get objectivity from loved ones, they go to the only other place that many of these teens seek solace from….the Internet.  After all, we are in the age of social media.  But they don’t know the good places to turn to…Twitter folks who are there to exchange tweets with anyone needing support and encouragement, as well as websites like To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA). There are online resources that deal with self esteem, like Kidshealth.org.

If these teens are anything like I was when I was a teenager, they probably don’t have many friends.  I wonder whether I’d be on Facebook if there was such a thing back when I was growing up. Nah, don’t think so. I was way too shy for any of that.  Even if these teens were to reach out via Facebook to their “friends” (some teenagers these days have 500-1000 FB “friends” due to peer pressure to impress each other on who has more friends or for the semblance of popularity, but at the end of the day, there are only a handful of true friends)–what do you think some of these teen FB “friends” would say in answer to a question like this that appears in their feed: “Hey, just wondering….do you think I’m ugly?”  I have no doubt some would try to be funny by saying something stupid and hurtful.  Anyway, who’d want their peers in school to know that they’re asking these questions in the first place?  This is why I limit my friends on Facebook to a small circle of people….people I know I can trust. The saying “It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality, that matters” is highly relevant here.

I know you’ve probably heard this from other friends and loved ones and out there on the Internet and in books (but surely not the highly unhelpful beauty magazines that focus on none other than physical appearance), but I am going to say it anyway….beauty is not merely about physical appearance.  Beautiful physical appearances are made ugly by personalities that are mean, selfish, contemptuous, disdainful, condescending, hateful, and greedy.  I don’t know about you, but I believe in karma.  I believe that these negative attributes in the long run will come round and bite you in the a$$.

Don’t grow up giving a crap about what other people think about you and your appearance.  Ever hear the story of the Ugly Duckling?  Well, the duckling wasn’t ugly, just in its juvenile form.  But when it went and became a swan?

It was like, wow!  All the other creatures around it didn’t think it had it in him to become so beautiful.  Just like that ugly duckling, your beauty will also shine through when it is nice and ready.  When you find yourself–just like I found myself and started to love myself and know what I enjoy doing and have a better sense of the direction my life is taking–your beauty will shine through for all to see.  You need to graduate through various stages in life first.  Let yourself bud and mature. As teens, you are only just beginning your life’s journey.

As a teenager, I was quite the ugly duckling. It didn’t

help that I couldn’t afford to wear anything but the 5 or so sets of clothes I remember having to cycle through on a weekly basis, dreading to wear them around the attractive, preppy kids who had all the beautiful fair isle sweaters and the popular kids who wore trendy stuff.  I was skinny, unhappy/anxious looking, withdrawn, lacking in self esteem…just downright miserable all around. It took me until my mid 30s to find the road that was meant for me to travel–i.e., find the right guy to marry, move to a wonderful town, start a family, become a blogger and author with a mission (not forgetting to enjoy myself in the process), etc.

Now, as a parent, I am going to do my darndest to ensure that–knowing the inherent dangers of Internet use, the challenges faced by teenagers seeking to be accepted by their peers, the angst teenagers experience as they find themselves and deal with their changing physical/emotional selves a la puberty–my daughter’s Internet usage is monitored, she has a balance of activities she enjoys and studies, and I am ever mindful of her self esteem and overall mental health.  I will do the best I can to be nurturing, to parent in moderation (no extreme parenting), and to make sure her school life is a positive experience.  I am going to try to make sure she does NOT follow in my footsteps!

You may wonder how all this has anything to do with postpartum depression (PPD).  It’s important to remember that many cases of depression surface during the teenage years and follow you throughout life.  One of the primary risk factors of PPD is a history of depression. I delve into relevant statistics and risk factors in my book. And you may be interested in checking out my prior posts relating to teenage years:

  1. Nature Versus Nurture in Relation to PPD
  2. PMS versus PMDD
  3. Bullying and Suicide…Teen Angst and Depression
  4. The Mental Cost Behind a Nomadic Childhood Experience
  5. Depression and Teen Suicides…It Will Get Better
  6. You are Perfect to Me, Says the Parent to the Child

Let me end this post with a very insightful passage from Joyce McFadden’s article:

We focus on beauty at the expense of all of the other things we could be encouraging and celebrating. Our girls are having trouble finding their own value because we ourselves struggle with the same. In her beautifully moving article, “Smaller Than Before,” Dr. Jessica Zucker (who trained under Carol Gilligan at Harvard and specializes in mothers, daughters and body image) shows us just how much we limit our appreciation of ourselves and each other with our narrow appraisals of what’s important.

Don’t let what society believes is important make you lose sight of what’s really important here:  YOU.