I can remember the exact moment as a child that I felt as though I had to live up to the unattainable beauty standards placed on us as women in this country. It was in second grade and I had a haircut mishap like no other. T-Boz was my idol at the time and in my mind, all that was keeping me from getting on the 1994 Waterfalls tour bus was my straggly long hair. So, in an attempt to make all my childhood dreams come true, I had my aunt give me the infamous bob. Let’s just say I ended up looking more like Kevin Arnold from The Wonder Years than my childhood hero. In that moment, when I held the mirror to my face, I knew what would come of my new hair style. The next day as I arrived at school one of my friends started pointing and laughing; telling everyone I was a boy. He even went as far as to tell our substitute teacher I wasn’t a girl. My seven-year-old soul was crushed to the core.
At 11 I took the opposite approach. Now and Then had become my all-time favorite movie and boy was I happy when I found out that puberty was fast approaching, I could simply tape my boobs down just like the best character of all time, Roberta (anyone who argues this fact, is plain wrong). But, not every little girl saw this film and wanted to be the fearless tomboy who didn’t care what others thought of her. Many probably fell in love with the idea of Teeny, the girl whose blonde hair and bright blue eyes were purposely portrayed as the beautiful character. The girl who stuffed her bra, wore lipstick at 12, and had all the neighborhood boys swooning was the one who stole the spotlight. Even at 11, I knew I didn’t want to be that girl, but how can you avoid the dangerous pressures set forth by society to be exactly that?
Luckily, as years went by, I continued to find that deeper purpose, which to this day has helped strengthen the person I am. Even as a child, focusing on being present and mindful in life assisted me in knowing that the superficial world in which we live should not be the basis of our own personal happiness. However, I am not saying that I have not fell victim to the evil traps of the media time and time again. In fact, my reasons for outlining these times specifically in this blog is because I know that it helps me to hear how this has affected other women. Nevertheless, after a long day of perfectly positioned, flawlessly airbrushed, spotlessly edited Instagram scrolling, I am simply stating that one must find a way to center themselves back to reality. Find your purpose for happiness beyond the surface.
But how? How do we find ways in which we don’t have to feel pressured to look a certain way, to say things to about our significant others via Facebook about how wonderful they are, to 'check-in' every place you go, so that your friends think you live some lavish lifestyle? I can’t say that I have all the answers to this. Even in my 30’s and especially after starting Kind Cotton, I have become more consumed with our business' image; with my image that I put out to our followers. If the picture isn’t perfect, my smile is crooked, my caption isn’t written just right, I feel defeated. Never in a million years, when I came up with the idea to start Kind Cotton did I think my main hurdle would be getting out of my own head. In fact, just last weekend, I woke up on my birthday to balloons, left by my incredible husband, on our dining room table. I was so excited. I had been so happy to take on this new year and eager to see what the next 12 months had in store for us. The balloons signified something special. They were the start of a beautiful chapter. They were the symbol of me being comfortable in my own skin. This is what I thought, until I had the idea to take a picture and have a birthday sale via social media. I stood there, balloons in hand, crying because I didn’t like any of the photos. They weren’t what I was envisioning when I think of the perfect picture. YOU GUYS, I cried over a picture! In that moment, I wanted to channel my inner 11-year-old self to say, stop comparing yourself and start loving yourself.
The next day, I chatted with a friend and she said something so profound, it inspired me to write this. Shane mentioned she had recently participated in a TED talk (short powerful talks held on various topics) focusing on your 'why'. And just like that I realized what matters. The perfect image is not what Kind Cotton is about. Our 'why' is to develop a reading program that children love going to each month. Our 'why' is about putting books in the hands of children and sparking their interest and engagement in reading. Our 'why' is to be a company we can be proud of. A company that stands up for what they believe in regardless of what everyone may think. So, next time you think you aren’t living up to the perfect image of yourself, put your phone down and focus on what matters, or else you may end up losing yourself. And if you do lose yourself, because trust me you will, remember to focus on your why.