Five Pretty Pictures

There’s this thing going around Facebook lately, (as things tend to go around Facebook). Women, mostly mothers, have been posting “Five Pictures that Make Me Feel Beautiful” and tagging their friends to do the same. I truly enjoy seeing these gorgeous photos of my mama friends, especially those who so often hang back a little in everyday life, and I love that they are standing up and saying, “Yes, I’m beautiful! Truly, they are beautiful women, every one of them. And so I write this post with some hesitation, hoping none of them will take this as personal criticism.

But I’m tired of our culture’s endless quest for physical beauty.

And I want to hide a little each time I see a Five Pretty Pictures post.

First of all, I’m borderline terrified someone will tag me, and then I’ll have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find five decent photos of myself, and then…

What if I’m really not that pretty in any of them?

(True story: My Facebook author profile photo horrifies my mother, who mistakenly thinks I’m more photogenic than that. It’s funny, yes, but I’d rather not go there again so soon. And I jest not, good photos of me are scarce, as I’m usually behind the lens.)

I can’t help but feel that on some level, trends like Five Pretty Pictures feed into women’s too commonly held fears of not being enough. (My train of thought described above is a prime example). And here’s where it gets tricky, because I think what bothers me about these Five Pretty Pictures is that, gorgeous and life-affirming as they are, they fail us. By virtue of being mere two-dimensional images, they will never fully capture the essence of women whose beauty runs so much deeper than pixels on a screen. We need to let ourselves judge our beauty by something more than physical appearance.

In contrast, and as a preemptive strike should any of you smart alecs decide to tag me to post Five Pretty Pictures, here are five things that make me feel beautiful…

1. When my husband decides its time for a family movie night, when he doesn’t mind that the laundry isn’t folded, when he says how glad he is that we don’t live in white-picket-fence suburbia… because in all these things he shows me that he is content with me and with the family and home we have created together.

2. When my children work together, whether they are playing Jeopardy at the breakfast table or building forts in the backyard, these moments of creative cooperation show me that I’m doing something right in the sometimes craziness that is their upbringing.

3. On a related note, when my children make right choices – from speaking honestly to holding doors open to befriending neighbors – again, I don’t care about stretch marks, extra pounds, fashion, makeup, hair… Beauty overwhelms me.

4. “They looks just like you…” Sometimes I see it myself, sometimes I don’t, but whenever anyone tells me my children look like me, I’m speechless because I can’t believe my appearance is being likened to the most beautiful people I know.

5. When I write something that resonates with another human being, when the words come out just right so that my reader says, “Ah, that…” and proceeds to tell me just what I had hoped they would find in my words… and sometimes even more than I had intended.

In the end, our beauty isn’t found in how our hair falls or how wide our smiles are, but in how we live among our families, friends, and neighbors near and far. It’s also found, just maybe, in the beauty we allow to touch our hearts, allowing us to forget about our own physical bodies and revel in the pure, spiritual beauty of life and love. When I reflect on all the Five Pretty Picture posts I’ve seen this week, I note a commonality among the pictures, as well as between the pictures and what I am fumbling to say. Mamas, so many of your photos include husbands, children, friends, and I hope you’re smiling so confidently because you know the source of your beauty isn’t the face you made for the camera, but the vibrant love you share with the people beside you. And I guess that’s my point – that genuine, lasting beauty doesn’t happen in front of a mirror to be captured by a camera, but in moments of fellowship with one another. That kind of beauty is harder to capture in the bustle of daily life, but it’s the kind of beauty that matters. Mamas, your pretty pixelated faces are glorious, but don’t be fooled… What really shines is your love, and it’s as beautiful today as it was on your wedding day, on your baby’s birthday, on your vacation to Destination Awesome…

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