True beauty isn’t created with an airbrush

Open letter to young ladies: I remember thinking I was the ugliest girl ever to be born. I didn’t talk to my mother about it because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. After all, she was the one who brought me into this world. We didn’t talk about this until I was married with children of my own. Yes, I found a man who wanted to marry me even if I was the ugliest girl who ever was born.

When my mother was growing up – fourth of five children, two girls, three boys – everyone commented about how beautiful her sister, Grace, was and what a shame it was that she wasn’t as pretty as Grace. So, she grew up thinking she was the ugliest girl who ever had been born … until one day when a man called out to her when she was downtown. He thought he was talking to Grace! Well, if he couldn’t tell the two sisters apart, my mother decided, she couldn’t be very ugly! When people see photographs of my mother (who died in 2011) they remark about what a beautiful woman she was. And when they say to me, “As long as you are alive your mother will never be dead,” I guess I’m not the ugliest girl who was ever born, either.

And neither are you.

What makes a person beautiful goes much deeper than what you see on the surface. I know plain-faced women and women who are not considered “pretty” until you factor in their good hearts, their kindness and compassion. When they smile with their eyes you know they are sincere, genuine, the real deal. The inner beauty, not the surface façade, is what draws me to make them my friends. They gaily laugh at themselves, their lives, and keep on keeping on, no matter what. Their images are not air-brushed to cover flaws and deceive you to believe that they are perfect.

Nobody is perfect. You aren’t. Neither am I. Neither is anyone else. “Beauty” is fleeting. Happiness, being content with who you are, is lasting. When you take the hand of a toddler to guide him to safe play and he smiles up at you he sees the kind heart inside of you and responds to it. When you visit a home-bound elderly person and she smiles warmly, reflecting your smile, she is seeing the true beauty coming from inside of you, genuine and sincere.

You don’t have to be a Barbie doll, a Miss Universe. You don’t have to obsess about weight. You will be happier if you become your personal best, your genuine self. Let people accept you or not. You just go on being you. Don’t change who you are for anyone because if they are genuine and sincere, worth your time, they will love you for who you already are, not what they want to change you to be.

Spend less time with television and other media. An article at the U.S. National Library of Medicine (National Institutes of Health), “The impact of the media on eating disorders in children and adolescents,” (2003) advises that “The factor exerting the strongest pressure to be thin was the media.”

The researchers also said, “The key indicators of disordered eating were found to be significantly more prevalent following prolonged television exposure.” They say weight loss often is about modeling themselves after television characters.

“The literature confirms that children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to messages and images conveyed through the mass media. Many children and adolescents cannot discriminate between what they see and what is real,” says the NIH.

The NIH continued, “The exact cause of eating disorders is not fully understood, but research suggests a combination of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological and social factors can raise a person’s risk.”

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.

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