How are you?
Apart from being heart-stoppingly beautiful of course...
Me? Yes you. You are beautiful, just as you are, right now. Even and including whatever's stuck between your teeth.
Does "You are beautiful" sound trite or ridiculous? Is it easier to shrug off than accept? Does it quickly trigger self-criticism or urgent teeth-checking...? If so, you're not alone. Seeing our own beauty can be a tough one.
What allows us to see ourselves as beautiful, to claim our own beauty in a diverse world with such limited definitions of what that means?
Often we can see it in other people, but not in ourselves. When we look in the mirror, we overemphasise and criticise the bits we don't like.
...The weird thing is, as I get older - more wrinkly and wobbly - I'm finally starting to see my own beauty. Just as I'm apparently heading further and further away from what our culture tells us is beautiful.
Is that about confidence, or an increasing frustration as we age that allows us to finally question the pressure to be someone other than who we are? Maybe it's simply that our bodies change - while life and loss prompt us to face the limited time we really have here. Magnifying what really matters.
Truth is, right now, we're as youthful and unlined and as close to pert (which, yes, is not very close at all, but still) that we're ever going to be from here on in. I look back on old photos, in times where I thought there was so much wrong with me - and now see so much that was right. I'll probably feel the same way about my beauty right now, ten years from here. So we might as well let go of those magazine-ready perfectly-filtered ideals of beauty, and celebrate where we are right now.
Maybe it helps to see ourselves through the eyes of those that love us.
Like in this photo above, taken by my son a few weeks ago. In this particular moment, I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted after a tough and lonely week and a rough morning. I can see the lines on my forehead, the eyes that haven't had enough sleep, the scrappy post-sea hair having had to fight the kids out of the house so that I could get my morning swim to stay sane... But beyond all of that, I can see something. Something beautiful. I can see love.
And I wonder if maybe seeing our own beauty is actually as simple as seeing the immensity of our love, even on the crappiest of mornings.
Love is underneath it all as we mother, from the worst days to the best. Yet for some reason, we're led to believe that beauty is something else altogether. Something on the surface, rather than something at the heart.
What if love - for someone else, and perhaps even more vitally, for ourselves - is all we need to be beautiful. We already have at least half of that in place, and the more we extend that love to ourselves, the more we can see our own beauty.
If that sounds incomprehensible, maybe I can give an example of this change happening in my own life...
Just over a year and a half ago, I shared my first ever photo of myself in a bikini on social media, and it was utterly terrifying. I felt sick as soon as I pressed send, fought the urge to quickly delete it. But I stuck with it because I felt it was important to explore different versions of beauty and strength, to share body confidence with our children, and with each other. To spread the love.
This month, sharing a photo of my bikini body for International Womans' Day, I barely batted an eyelid. Now, this isn't a 'before and after' photo. My body hasn't changed particularly, it's getting in the sea a lot more, but basically it's just that number of days older.
But blimey, a massive change has taken place in my mind.
And I think that much of it is down to being kinder to myself day by day - and down to you - every single one of you who have liked or commented on vulnerable posts like this, with encouragement to rethink our perceptions of beauty - and with love.
It gives me hope that we can all make this shift together. That you can too, if you want to. That you can see beauty and courage and love in yourself. And believe it when you hear "You are beautiful". As a little extra encouragement, here's my post from earlier this month.
"This is a picture of my body - but this post is about all of our bodies, as women.
About how we are taught to disconnect from them, despise them, to become blind to all the miracles within them, and to spend so much of our precious lives worrying about changing them in order to be of value.
So for International Womens’ Day, I’m sharing my body. Because it is mine to share, and belongs to me alone. I am the one looking after it. I am the one loving it for all that it gives me every single day. We are the only ones who can do that for our bodies.
So today, I want to remind you to love your incredible body too - the best you can, just as it is today. Even if you’re also moving to become healthier, stronger, whatever that means to you right now.
Because time is limited. Life is finite. We only have so much energy, and we’re pulled in so many different directions every day as it is...
When we put self-criticism and the criticism of others aside, and find compassion instead, we free up space - our lives can encompass so much more.
So today, as always, I’m loving mine the best I can: skin glowing red from a delicious sea swim, standing in the mess of the post school-run bathroom; soft in places, firm in others; both arthritic and strong; changing with the peri-menopause and the second day of my period. There are veins and bruises, deepening wrinkles and gums, cellulite, moles, freckles, scars, eczema, bits that don’t work quite ‘right’, and lots of greying hair...
And my body is beautiful and miraculous.
It takes me wherever I want to to go. It gives me the capacity to hold others, and to feel - everything. It even created other little humans - still can’t get my head round that.
My body allows me to live this life, here, on this earth - just like yours. You too - today, and every day - are a magnificent beautiful woman. In charge of your own body, and how you talk and tend to yourself.
And you are so much more than your body. You are woman, and all the power that contains. Which is why we’re encouraged to waste that power in hating how we look. You are woman. You are powerful. You are beautiful.
And we all deserve to be a woman who is comfortable in her own skin."
You might look at these photos, and read these words, and think - well, it's easy for her. Because you can see some beauty in these pictures. Or you might look at this, and think crumbs, she really needs to stop eating so much cake, and maybe get some botox - some of those messages are really hard to unlearn.
But most of all, I'm hoping you can simply see the beauty of love - for another, and for yourself. And in that love, you can find a reflection of your own beauty. Because maybe, it's simply loving others, and giving yourself the love you need, that makes you beautiful.
Next time you're feeling love for your child (which, statistically speaking, is probably when they're finally asleep...), remember you're at your most beautiful.
May you find comfort and beauty in your own skin,
With love, you beauty.
Pippa and Penny
PS - a date for your diary: join us for our next Mamas' Everyday Retreat #somum party next Wednesday 27 March from 8.30pm to 9.30pm UK time.
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May you see BEAUTY
The sea declares its elemental beauty in every mercurial shift. It is deeply alive to the space and moment it inhabits. In the constant cycle of sea remakes sky remakes sea, each reflects the other's intrinsic completeness: a limitless portrait.
May you appreciate the artistry in everything. May you find beauty in each tender difference. May you see your own beauty reflected in the beauty of others.
Find out more about Sea Soul Blessings.
MONTHLY RETREAT PARTY
Our next monthly #somum Mamas' Retreat Party in Mamas' Everyday Retreat will take place on Wednesday 27 March from 8.30pm to 9.30pm.
Mamas' Everyday Retreat is a safe kind space for mamas to connect and support each other. You can expect much me-time encouragement, compassionate conversation, gentle motivation, and surprise treats.
If you're not already a member, ask to join the group and we'll add you.
Are you looking for a thoughtful and unique present that lasts long after the flowers have wilted and the chocolates have been eaten...
A gift of kindness - of mindfulness, daily encouragement and hope.
For sea lovers everywhere - space to rest and replenish, restored by happy memories, a clear horizon and love.
Sea Soul Blessings are a little box of love and sea magic: a set of cards and a mini book that inspire, encourage and support those you care about. Draw a card whenever you need a little extra sea encouragement and a reminder to tend to your own needs for a change.
Share your love of the sea. Remind your mum how much you love her. Or ask your loved ones to treat you...
The sea is calling...
20 minutes of one to one connection, using the Sea Soul Blessings as guides to reflect and respond to whatever you're facing right now, with self compassion and encouragement to move forward.
Find out more and book a session for yourself or a friend here.
“The reading was so powerful - really spot on for what I am feeling and what I need right now. It was an eye opener for me. Afterwards I felt understood, and heard, with some guidance on how to move on without relying on someone else to do it for me. I would recommend a session to help give clarity and as a gift to yourself in times of feeling overwhelmed or as if there is no time for anything. It’s a small thing, but for me so incredibly insightful.” Swazi
We have bursaries available, so if money is tight, let us know and we'll do our best to help.