This weekend I went camping for a trail race. Trail racing I had never done, camping, as you know is one of my favorite things in the world. I have been stepping into new things lately, setting my soul on fire with meeting new people, experiencing new experiences and getting to tell old stories for the first time again. Sometimes I feel like my older stories are my best stories, which is probably why I am in the process of editing them into a book.
Spending time in the great outdoors, setting up a tent, starting a campfire, playing Uno and giggling until the stars come out, these are some moments I cherish.
However, in a different direction. I'm not necessarily known for fashion, nor can I be bothered with all the makeup trends, and let's be honest, I probably hang on to some eye shadows way longer than their preferred expiration dates, even their expiration’s, expiration dates and I likely wait a day too long between shampoos. But, I feel my best when my clothes aren't making me uncomfortably suck in my stomach or when a strapless bra isn't cutting off my circulation in order to hold the girls up. I feel my best when my hair is natural and even a little messy. I feel confident when I'm laughing and knowing what I'm doing and not knowing what I’m doing but willing to try and do the things that are different from my norm and my every day. I feel beautiful when I'm in my element: when I'm making others laugh, when I'm bonding and when I’m starting new beginnings.
Except I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin when I'm not well rested and I know the dark circles under my eyes are deepening and my face is swollen from the exhaustion. I know this is what I look like and I avoid the mirrors so that I can continue to sit blissfully unaware in my element and enjoy all the things that make me smile and bring sparkles to my eyes.
But this weekend, as I was laughing and giggling and filling my confidence bucket, I turned on my phone to watch a video on MarcoPolo app. When the video was over, the app camera immediately turned to me and then I saw myself. It was quick, it was unavoidable, and just like that, all I could see was the dark colored eyes, swollen cheeks, and pale skin looking back at me; looking back at everyone else. It gutted me. I didn't let on to the fact that deep down I didn't want to be physically seen. I wanted to be seen emotionally, mentally, with the humor and laughter and all the qualities I bring to the table with or without my fine tuned concealer that was left at home. But every few hours, when I would yawn or pause or accidentally turn on my front facing camera, I was reminded of what was being seen, or rather, I saw the version I tell myself is the worst physical version I can be.
As the weekend was winding down and we were packing up, I noticed how many times I found myself looking down and away from the people who I had been enjoying every moment with for the past 72 hours. I looked away in the mornings when I first woke up and before the sun was fully shining. I looked down as the sun was going down and my body started to feel the exhaustion creeping in.
And then I heard myself say to someone as we were laughing at something I did, "You aren't seeing me at my prettiest or my most photogenic, but you are seeing me at my happiest." And then I thought, what a cruel thing to say, Hadley. How can my happiest not beauty? It is going to take a minute to fully come to this realization, but what I'm working on discovering now, is the link to my confidence in my element, fully expressing, fully living, fully loving, with gut wrenching belly laughs and yet to be explored adventures, when I'm loving the moment I am in; I don't need concealer to hide the dark circles under my eyes, because the sparkles that are shining through the whites of my eyeballs are where the beauty really shines through. It truly is how I see others, but for a very long time, not as I have seen myself.
So I can be the meanest to myself, and you'll never know the things I'm saying, because I make jokes out of the insecurity and I avoid the front facing camera and I laugh so loudly it drowns out the cruelty of the words that can be screaming in my head. And I know I’m not the only one who says cruel things to themselves under a muffled whisper or condescending, but timely self deprecating joke. It turns out, my self confidence related to my unconcealed eyes and pale skin on my face, is by far the weakest link I have to achieving self acceptance. So I plan to work on saying nicer things, being more gentle and self loving. Want to join me In that quest? There’s power in numbers!