Friday, March 15, 2013

Questions of the Heart; Answers of Real Women Edition 1

I’m so excited about this post!  I’ve been excited about it all week.  Last week I shared some questions that have been on my heart thanks to the #EncourageBeauty campaign.  I answered one of the five already and will continue to work through them the rest of this month. 

As I contemplated my own responses, I wondered what other women might say.  Then it hit me, what if I ask other women I know for their responses?  I can pass on the #EncourageBeauty campaign, share how real women see beauty, show these women how beautiful I think they are, and learn from these women I admire.

Without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to my good friend Monica for the first edition.

Monica and I met our freshman year in college.  We actually lived in the same city, but had to go to college to meet.  I’m so blessed that we did.  We are, to quote our dear Anne of Green Gables, “kindred spirits”.  Despite our physical appearances being opposite, we share many common interests and laugh terribly hard at the same jokes.  We even have a drink named after us!  Okay, we named our favorite hot beverage after ourselves.  StinaJeanneMonicaMarys will catch on one of these days, just wait and see.

Since college she and her husband moved to Pennsylvania, started a family (baby number two is coming any moment now) and purchased a lovely house.  I miss her a great deal, but I am thankful for the visits, phone calls, and emails that we’ve been able to share.   I am so grateful to have too many wonderful memories with this girl to count.


Questions of the Heart; Answers of Real Women

by Monica

What makes a beautiful woman?

Unlike what popular culture likes to shove down our throats, beauty is not determined solely by our physical appearance. Rather, true beauty is the outward radiation of the soul. A woman who is gentle, kind, encouraging, and generous but wearing yoga pants and a ponytail is truly beautiful; NOT the chiseled, model-thin woman wearing fashionable Prada boots and a low-cut sweater with perfectly applied hair and makeup.

What makes you feel beautiful?

I feel the most beautiful when I am enjoying time with my husband. He is always so complimentary, even when I am wearing an old sweatshirt from high school that sports a series of burn marks on the front from the time I spilled sulfuric acid on myself during Organic Chemistry lab (I really should throw that away!). He makes me feel confident, relaxed, appreciated and feminine because I know that, at least in his eyes, I truly am his ideal woman/partner/spouse. How’s that for a confidence booster?!

What has had the greatest impact on how you view yourself and encouraged you to be yourself?

I was not always the most confident person – especially when it came to my appearance and personality. When I was in grade school, I was heavily picked on by a small group of girls. They made me feel so insecure and insignificant that my self-confidence plummeted to a point where I had a difficult time having close friends because I could not believe that anyone would actually want to associate with me. I gradually began to get over this but was still reluctant to reveal too much of myself to anyone. I tried to cover up facets of my true personality with an overabundance of jokes, antics, and generally goofy behavior. I figured that most people would appreciate a class clown and the comedy routine I had developed for myself might cover up other, more boring facets of my personality. It was not until I attended college and became close with a wonderful group of people that included my future husband that I truly began to be more confident in whom I was as an individual. This included feeling truly feminine and beautiful for the first time since I first discovered those sixth grade girls mocking my looks. My confidence has only grown since them and I am no longer afraid to be myself. Getting married was the ultimate turning point because now I have someone by my side for the rest of my life who will always encourage and support me.

What is your beauty go-to for the days when you feel anything but beautiful?

After giving birth to my son, it took a few months to adjust to his feeding and sleeping schedule. He was incredibly fussy and seemed to require constant feeding/bouncing/rocking/monitoring. There were days where I felt I could not put him down to take a shower and fix my hair. I remember my husband coming home from work only to find a sobbing mess-of-a-wife. It was definitely hard to feel beautiful during those days. However, I learned that I had to make time for myself a priority – even if this meant something as simple as taking a 10-minute shower, blow drying my hair, applying a bit of makeup, and then heading to the grocery store sans the child for 20 minutes of peace and quiet. My husband has been awesome at recognizing that I need that time and has noted that I usually return to our home looking and feeling more energized, happy, and simply human. Having these little moments to myself helps me realize that my identity is not solely wrapped up in my children and household.

What would you like to share with other women to encourage them to recognize their value and to be beautiful?

I believe that women should encourage one another instead of being judgmental and catty. There already exists so much scrutiny about the ideal feminine appearance. We cannot pick up a magazine or a book that does not in some way discuss diets, plastic surgery, weight loss, hair styles, fat-shredding workouts, makeovers, etc. Women should unite together to encourage one another rather than aid in this culture mentality to tear down every single girl who does not fit the “ideal” size 0. I try to make it a habit not to ever judge another woman that I see out and about. I also try to sincerely compliment my friends/sisters/etc. whenever possible. We can never underestimate the impact of our words and saying something as seemingly trivial as “I absolutely love that outfit you put together” may do wonders for that individual’s self-image.

Thank you, Monica, for being my friend through all the ups and downs.  You are beautiful!

You can follow Monica at A Beautiful Mess where she posts about her culinary endeavors and life(she’s come a long way from our microwaving-old-peeps-to-see-if-they’ll-hatch-out-of-plastic-Easter-egg days...they don't).

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