Saturday, June 2, 2012

Arielle's Word of the Day #2: INVISIBLE

With a bit of a pit in my stomach, I'm going to talk about this. It's so odd! It's been a long, long, long time since I've been a wee bit nervous about writing something! When I was younger, when I was struggling with an eating disorder, I wanted to be invisible. Amazing, isn't it? But I really did. I hated that the focus was always put on my appearance. I hated that my accomplishments or intellect were second best to what people saw when they looked at my face or body. I hated that my talents were seen as "extra," as though I was somehow already set for life because of the way I looked.

At the risk of sounding obnoxious, I write about this today. I feel safe assuming that all my regular readers know the kind of woman I am well enough to recognize that I'm not a conceited, self-absorbed person. I really don't talk about this appearance stuff, because it's very easy for people who don't know me to take it the wrong way - to somehow think I am full of myself. For an instant, I even get nervous, because I am reminded of being bullied in middle school by other girls, for no other reason than my appearance. I also worry that I can hear the thoughts of a few out there who can't believe I would even write about this, when some people "would kill to have the problem of being beautiful" (someone else's words, not mine). Over the years, I have actually received messages and comments from viewers on YouTube who wrote that they couldn't possibly listen to what I say in my videos because it's ridiculous given that I am pretty, and that someone who looks like me couldn't possibly have had problems like they have.

Now, of course, the absolute plethora of positive comments and messages outweigh all those, and I like to think that what I say is important and my true self shows through in what I do. Still... I hope no one thinks that I'm saying being cursed with beauty is the same as being abused or anything equally as atrocious.

All I can say is that, believable or not, beauty was an issue for me. And I write about it because I'm not ashamed. And I hate that girls often feel they have to berate themselves, simply because if they didn't argue with people who called them pretty and great and awesome, other people would call them conceited. Growing up, it irked me that I would be "shown" to people for the purpose of hearing them remark upon my appearance. I wanted to scream, "But I just wrote a story!" or "I got straight As!"

I want to be known for being kind, not pretty. I want to be thought of as smart, not sexy. And if you're calling me beautiful, I want it to be because my essence within is shining out of me and you're seeing the whole package. Beauty is great - who doesn't like to be told they look beautiful? - but I wanted to be MORE than JUST that. And I felt like no one could see it, because few cared to look past the surface.

Part of my eating disorder was about becoming invisible, uglier, less. So people would have to see the me that was inside. So if they wanted to know me, it wasn't because of how I looked, but because of how I WAS. I also wanted to be liked instead of talked about with malice, before people even got to know me and find that I was a studious little bookworm with a love for helping others. Instead of embracing my whole self, I tried to break myself down because I was afraid. It took me a while to realize that the perceptions and words of others were not the final say. I had the final say. And I was more than just a pretty face.

And I figured out that people will always have something to say. They'll want to tell me I'm too much. Or tell me I'm not enough. They'll want to hate me. Or they'll want to be-friend me. And maybe they'll think I'm just a pretty face... but I can make the decision to open my mouth and use my voice. And if they want to listen, that is THEIR decision and is out of my control. What I needed to do was just find a way to be confident in the woman I wanted to be. Be confident that the vast majority of people would see my heart, not just my face. And they have.

In college,  in 2005, I wrote a poem I called "So Damn Beautiful Rant." I not only typed it, but I also spoke it into a recorder and played it back for myself when I took long walks. I listened to the sound of my own voice... my own voice saying my own words...letting it all seep in.

So Damn Beautiful Rant

I’m so damn beautiful
That I think I’m ugly.
That said, the spirit of me
Is hard to contain.
Girl, you’ll be a woman soon.
Woman, you’ll be a girl again.
Remember to reinforce me,
Jealousy is natural,
I have done nothing wrong.
I declare my sentiments:
I’m so damn beautiful
That I think I’m wrong.
Multigenerational packs of women
Stare at me because I’m me.
They don’t know I’m beautiful.
They don’t know I’m ugly.
They ratify against me,
Volunteer to fix me,
Wish they were like me.
I lament the prevalence of me,
Wish I was smaller,
Less less less,
Hidden away from everyone.
I’m so damn beautiful
That I think I’m crazy.
I lament the lack of me,
Wish I was bolder,
More more more,
Ubiquitous and flashy.
I’m so damn beautiful
That I think I’m ugly.
I buy right into the eyes
That search me out
And strive to dissipate
My sense of humor.
The tip of the iceberg:
I’m so damn beautiful
That I think I’m not me.
 © ALB 2005

Beauty is such a weird thing. We make it this powerful concept that stresses us all out. From a young age, I was STRESSED OUT. My solution: be invisible. 

Invisible? Me? No way. Not anymore.


Angela said...

Our society is so focused on appearance, as if that is all that matters about a person. I can understand your need to want to escape from that kind of attention. I always felt like I had to be that much better at everything else just to prove that I was more than just a pretty face. It is a lot of pressure, and for me becoming weak and emaciated was a way of getting out of all of that. I thought I was expected to be perfect, but being sick took me out of that game, which was a relief in a way. Thank you for being brave enough to write about this. We are all so much more than what we appear to be on the outside.

Ella said...

This is a really interesting point of view! I have never thought about that kind of "beautifulness"- I mean to be more than a "nice puppet" :-)
Thank you for sharing us this thoughts and feelings!

Jenn said...

this touched me. your words and your truth are so powerful. thanks for sharing this ; )

Kaz said...

I see you, and I love it. :)

Arielle Bair (Becker) said...

Thank you all for your comments today. I'm glad you understand what was meant by this post and can appreciate it for what it is.

Kristianna said...

I can imagine how hard it must have been to write this. I often try to work through this issue too; it's so hard and confusing. Way to go! (And thanks.)

PurpleDreamer said...

This does not sound obnoxious at all Arielle. It's inspiring, actually, to hear how you overcame the perpetual invisibility cloak that still covers me, and many, as we wage private battles to be comfortable in our skin. You also touched upon something pretty big - that idea of being conceited. It seems that there is a fine line of bolstering self-esteem and being self-centered? Dunno. I do know that I love what you wrote, and am glad you took the risk and shared it!

Jacquelineand.... said...

Hope it isn't inappropriate for me to comment here; just wanted to share a quote from my granny that was eye-opening for me despite it's simplicity.

"Pretty is how you look, beautiful is who you are."

There have been similar issues in my life, albeit for different reasons. You couldn't ever be obnoxious or full of yourself Arielle and I both applaud and appreciate your honesty.

Arielle Bair (Becker) said...

Thank you, Kristianna & Purple Dreamer. I'm really glad you found the post honest and open as it was meant to be. Thanks so much.

Jacqueline - of course I don't mind you commenting here! Flattered you are reading. :)

Joy said...

love this post. you are beautiful on the inside. :o)