Picture Perfect

The first image I saw today was a photo of Katy Perry, sitting on the edge of an unmade bed in her bra and panties. Millions of people will see this photo, since it graces the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. What people won’t see is the “before” image of Katy, which wasn’t “perfect enough,” so it went through the Photoshop editing process. The changes are so subtle that I wondered if I’d ever see an untouched photo of a woman in print again.

I realize that people in the beauty and entertainment industries feel a greater pressure to look “perfect” than those of us who live outside the public eye. However, many men and women create unrealistic standards for themselves and retouched photos are repeatedly blamed for inspiring impossible expectations. I’ve often told my daughter how beautiful she is, because it’s the truth, despite any self-criticism she may inflict upon herself. We’ve spoken more than once about the standard headlines that appear on the covers of “women’s” magazines. These include some variation of the following: “Get Your Body Bikini-Ready!” – “The Fool-Proof No-Carbs Diet!” – “Your Perfect Hairstyle” and “Flawless Make-Up, Day to Night!”

As far as my own body goes, I’ve one of those folks whose metabolism makes gaining weight difficult. I also have a low cholesterol level. I can eat the foods I enjoy and not worry about my weight. In fact, there have been times when I’d have welcomed some extra pounds. One of these instances occurred last year, when cancer and its treatment caused my weight to dip to an all-time low. Over the last few months, I’ve been eating three square meals a day and snacking in between, in an effort to reach a healthy weight. During a recently check-up, I was thrilled to learn that I’d reached my goal and then some. That evening, while preparing for a visit home to see family and friends, a new reality set in. With the exception of the sweats I usually wear, none of my pants fit! It took some extra time, but I finally gathered enough clothing for my two week vacation.

While staying at my mother’s home, she encouraged me to buy new clothes and generously gave me some money towards a shopping spree. I drove to the local Marshall’s and dove in. After settling into a fitting room, I was pulling on a pair of jeans when something new happened. I faced myself in the mirror and noticed that I had a belly! Actually, two bellies; one from my C-section and one from too many ice cream sandwiches. Suddenly, there I was, sucking my abdomen in and frowning as I noticed the bulge that stubbornly stayed above my waistband. I was confused and disgusted and heard my inner voice scolding me. And then I was yanked into a new reality: I was guilty of judging myself by the very standards I thought I was immune to. It was quite a moment, and not a very proud one.

I’ve had some time to think about that day and I’ve come to some conclusions. There may always be times when I compare myself to other women, be it someone I know or an image in a magazine. What’s important to me is to separate the expectations I’ve been fed by the media from those that I’ve set for myself. I want to celebrate my body, thanking it for serving me well during my lifetime, especially during the last few challenging years. I want to honor my body by providing it with healthy food and regular exercise. And I want to love my body, no matter what shape it takes, because right this minute, it’s perfect!

Katy Perry Rolling Stone

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