In late March my husband and I spent our first anniversary in Punta Cana with a group of friends. We swam, ate, drank, laughed and basked in the sun. It was a total escape from responsibilities and felt deeply restorative. This kind of luxury is still new to me, I grew up poor, we got by, but we certainly didn't go on vacations. The first time I left the country was last March when my husband and I eloped in Mexico. So being in paradise feels like such a gift, one that I don't take for granted.
One of our mornings, James and I were sitting in a cabana at the beach, enjoying the moment. The white sand, crystal blue ocean, and warm breeze teasing our slightly sun burned skin kept me so present to the moment. Then I saw something that has stuck with me, even after these weeks. There were beach beds for rent close by and a group of girls had started setting up. There were four of them and each one was more perfect than the last. Long, flowy, meticulously styled hair, toned and tanned tall bodies with impossibly perky breasts. Immaculately dressed and styled. They caught my eye, as they would anyone that passed. I am not threatened by beautiful women. I have spent so many years coming to a place of deep love and acceptance for my body, which allows me to celebrate feminine beauty in all in forms. But there was just something about this group that felt off.
They started unpacking their bags, which contained multiple accessories, outfits, and props. Soon they began snapping picture of each other, but not in a 'let's take pics of our friends' kind of way, it was a photo shoot without a photographer or a real camera. They started changing bathing suits, adding accessories. It clicked, they were "Instagramers" self-made models, with potentially huge following, selling this "idea" of perfection with the illusion of ease. (I later confirmed this thought when I saw their tags to the resort we were at) According to them, they were just hanging at the beach with girlfriends enjoying the sun and the sea. But the real problem is, that wasn't true. The thing about an advertisement is that we know we are being sold to. As a young girl I would pick up a magazine and gaze at the beautiful pictures of beautiful women and wish I could look like they did. But on some level, we all knew that it was a photoshoot, it wasn't real. But this, this was being sold as reality, which makes it even more dangerous for all of us comparing our lives to these images.
I was surprised at the surge of emotions I felt laying on the beach that day. The torrent of conflicting thoughts spun around in my head. I knew some small part of me envied her, because society has taught me that well. Her perfect body, flawless skin, silky hair in casual waves were the ideals of beauty. I knew I hated her a little, for selling lies, for passing something deeply planned and calculated as a casual day at the beach. And I knew I pitied her because she's missing all of this trying to get the perfect shot. The phone clicks again and again, "no not that one, try again, more like this, I want to LOOK like I'm having the best time". I wanted to shake her and say look around, at this beautiful beach, this beautiful day, this beautiful life. YOUR ONE LIFE. She is just as much a pawn in this game, whether she knows it or not. And I wonder if her 400,000 followers are not enough to make her feel whole.
How is it possible that we got here? That our worth is so wrapped up in other people's perceptions of us that we sell lies as reality. I want to be perfectly transparent here. I do not have a problem with makeup, fashion, perfect hair, Instagram filters, and manicuring yourself to look a certain way. I absolutely love getting dressed up, wearing makeup, and flattering clothes. Many of you know I love to rock a red lip for absolutely no reason at all. It is fun and can be such a wonderful expression of your spirit. The ONLY thing I have a problem with, is selling that as effortless reality, when it is not.
In the weeks that have followed, I have felt even more empowered and committed to my message of authenticity. I'm raising a daughter and a son in this sometimes fucked up world, with these absolutely impossible standards of life. So I have to be strong, not just for me, but for them. I want things to be different. I want more of us to feel whole all on our own. I talk about authenticity so much because it is the antidote for these illusions. Be you. Unapologetically. Be brave enough to love yourself exactly as you are. And please, LIVE YOUR LIFE. This is it. The collection of small moments and big moments. The way we choose to speak to one another, the way we speak to ourselves, how we choose to fill our time, this is it. I urge you not to miss it.
Read. Relate. Repeat.
My hope is through my words, through my own experiences, you will relate to some piece of my story. Some desire that I've shared or insecurity I've admitted to will also belong to you. My words are my truth, but they may also be yours.