Recently I posted a video of Alexandra kissing me. It was so cute. But it was hard for me to post it because of my chin. I have a hate-hate relationship with my chin. I had to physically restrain my fingers from creeping up the keyboard to type an insult about my chin in that post. The other day, my husband posted a photo of me on Facebook in a less than flattering dress. A friend commented, "So cute!" I wanted to scream in capital letters, "Oh my gosh, that's the least flattering picture that's ever been taken of my tummy!" But I thought that might be undignified.
I'm not the only one who twitches to insult myself. It's the favored past-time of many a woman. Why do we do it? It's self defense. Quite poor self defense, but self-defense nonetheless. I perceive that there is a weapon out there - my wonky chin or my pudgy tummy - and I need to take it out of the hands of those who might turn it against me. So in a preemptive strike, I declare to the world, "Look, I have an ugly chin and I know it!" Thus giving myself the upper hand, through my self-inflicted wound.
But the truth is I'm not only injuring myself, I'm also injuring others.
When my words to others are seasoned with self insults, I'm sowing seeds of criticism. I'm reinforcing the message that my looks are important enough to call myself names I'd never call others. I'm not spreading what's lovely, but what's ugly.
The other day I was talking to a beautiful woman. I mentioned that she had a beautiful smile and she immediately hid her teeth and mentioned how yellowed they were and how much she needed to have them whitened. My first thought was, "Oh crap, if she thinks her teeth look bad, what must she think of mine?!" (Remember my pot smoker tooth.) I proceeded to play the game and insulted my own teeth as well.
I don't recount the story to call out this woman (or to insult my teeth). It's simply such a perfect example of how easy it is to play this game. Someone compliments us, we deflect it with a self-insult, and the other woman joins in the game with her own insult. Rather than encouraging an atmosphere of acceptance and grace, we perpetuate a culture of self-criticism and even disgust.
The truth is that when we insult ourselves, we are inviting other women into our game. We're not just hurting ourselves through our pseudo self-defense, we're hurting others.
Now that I have a daughter, I feel even more strongly on this issue. My goal is for Alexandra to never once hear her mother insult herself. I want Allie to grow up with a mother who models acceptance and grace, not scrutiny and criticism. So join me in a crusade against self-insults!