This is my beautiful Norah. She is my first kid and my only daughter.
Not to be all “mom” or whatever, but I think she’s gorgeous.
This is my beautiful sister. I am older by two years. She is prettier by two million light years.
Do you see the resemblance between these two lovelies?
I do. Every day.
Not only are these two ladies alike in temperament (spunky, charismatic, kind, intelligent, creative, funny, people-loving, extrovert socialites), they are alike in appearance as well.
Wide set eyes. Dark lashes. Pug noses, long legs, broad shoulders.
AND THE LIPS.
Honestly, I don’t know where they came from.
It wasn’t from our mother. As kids, we could always tell how pissed off our mom was by how thin her lips got. If you could still see the fleshy pink part of her lip, you were okay. When all you saw was mouth-part-of-face-WITHOUT-lip, “RUN.” Steer clear. “No lips” meant “SUPER ANGRY,” and it was a good time to make yourself scarce.
Growing up, my sister would complain about her lips. “UGH they’re so big, I have monkey lips. I look like I got my mouth stuck in a vacuum hose.” She would put on lipstick and say “TOO MUCH,” then scrub it off violently and throw the baby wipe at me.
I never thought of it that way.
I was so jealous of her lips, because (as luck and fate would have it) my lips look like my mom’s.
Thin. Stern. Hard. Normal.
(I am 100% positive that the other, not-serious, random lip posing pictures are my way of bringing humor to an otherwise really, really uncomfortable experience. The bottom left picture was super hard to take. I did it anyways.)
For most of my life, my lips didn’t bother me. I didn’t notice. I didn’t care. Lips were just lips. They kissed and puckered, grinned and grimaced, and they provided something for me to absentmindedly chew on when I concentrated or got nervous.
Then I got married, and one comment from my (now ex-) husband made me think differently.
Him: “You have really thin lips. And the space between your nose and upper lip is really, really long. Your sister’s lips are way fuller, aren’t they?”
Me: “…..oh. Um… yes?”
Then to myself, “FUCK YOU, BUDDY. FUCK. EVERYONE.”
In my defense, I was already struggling with some pretty serious body image and disordered eating issues, and our marriage was not doing so great. I overreacted. His comments weren’t judgmental, really, just factual. They were TRUTH.
What he said bothered me, and it really stuck.
From the day of that comment onward, I have really never liked my lips.
When I had Norah, my dissatisfaction with my mouth was reinforced. With her little face, I came to understand the appeal of full, plump lips. Her little mouth was like a tiny peach, and I wanted to kiss it all. the. time. I STILL want to kiss it all the time. She sits at the table, reading or working, and she purses her lips out like tiny little fruits. I WANT TO EAT THEM. To squeeze her and kiss them.
(She’s nine, now, so I don’t get to do it anymore. When she was little, I did it a lot.)
When I look in the mirror at my face, my mouth is my least favorite part.
I have considered collagen injections. I know I could plump up what time has eroded from my face and put back some of the fullness that they used to have, plus a little extra.
I have considered surgery. I thought “What would my face look like with fuller lips,” and I looked at some before and after pictures. I could totally do it, but when it goes wrong OH HOLY COW DOES IT GO HORRIBLY WRONG. The bad results are just so bad, I kind of got freaked out.
Everyone has a few parts of their body that hold the most shame and discontent. I have them. You have them. For me those body parts include the fatty part of my stomach, the place where my butt hits my thighs, and my lips.
What I’ve come to realize, though, especially through The Body Image Project and especially from this post about my lips, is that most of the shame and discontent we hold for ourselves comes not from realistic, literal, actual, faulty shortcoming,
but from comparison.
COMPARISON is what wrecks us. Comparison is what turns my lips from “just lips” into “thin lips.” “Thin,” just like any adjective in the English language, is a descriptor based on comparison and perspective.
A 100 pound woman is big when compared to first graders.
A 2oo pound woman is small when 6’6″ tall and Amazonian or Samoan.
A man of average intelligence is brilliant when compared to children or the mentally challenged.
An alabaster skin woman (like myself) is considered “tan” by an albino. (I was actually complimented on my color by an albino friend the other day.)
A 38 year old woman of three kids is old and heavy when compared to her 19 year old counterpart,
and that same woman is young and sprightly when compared to her 93 year old grandmother.
It’s all a matter of perspective. Every description and opinion that we have of ourselves is a matter of perspective, and every expectation we have of ourselves to be “more this” or “less of that” is based on our observation of those around us, and what we perceive to be “right.”
What we perceive to be “enough.”
I would put it to you, and I put it to myself, that “enough” is what exists BEFORE the comparison. We are wonderfully made with intention and by genetic design, and we are enough just as we are. No matter what anyone else looks like, no matter what anyone else tells you, we are enough.
No change necessary.
After this is all said and done, I know that I will still struggle with the appearance of my mouth for a while. I have disliked it for a long time for a lot of reasons, and as I write this I realize that the dislike I hold for my mouth is a projection of some other, more deep-seated disappointment. For a very, very long time I connected the loss of my marriage to my physical appearance, and although I now know that’s not a logical connection, it still exists. The comment he made about my mouth, it still hurts.
It still scares me.
I was nervous to write this post. I realized as I took the pictures to post here, I still felt fear with regard to my mouth. I didn’t want to take them. A voice in my head was yelling, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING, YOU CAN’T DO THAT, YOU CAN’T HIDE IF YOU DO THAT, JUST HIDE, IF YOU BRING ATTENTION TO IT THEY’LL SEE HOW UGLY AND THIN AND GROSS YOUR MOUTH IS, DON’T DO IT.” I am afraid of The Mr. reading this. I am afraid of my kids (someday) reading this.
I am afraid that every person I have ever known that has ever called me “pretty” will send me emails to redact their previous compliments, and tell me “yeah, you’re right, your mouth is so gross it ruins your face.”
I know that won’t happen, but still.
Voicing our opinions of ourselves is a very clarifying thing. Taking pictures of what makes us afraid is a very clarifying thing. Most of the time, the fearful, hateful words we hear in our head lose validity when we say them out loud, and not-photoshopped pictures don’t lie.
Raw, unedited words and raw, unedited pictures have a way of filtering out bullshit.
The Body Image Project is meant to do just that.
Thanks for being a part of it.
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Push On, my friend!