When did we stop being us?

I love this picture of Andy.  To me it’s just adorable, but it’s also very real—a kid just being a kid, being her true Self.

Andy and I were talking about how we’re just starting to feel like ourselves again, those Selves that we were when we were five or so… after all these years of trying to be whatever it was we thought we were supposed to be, compensating for whatever we thought was wrong with us and not good enough about us.  She’s fifty-one and I’ll be fifty this year, and so it seems that moving fully off the radar of what our society is interested in is rather freeing.

Sadly, Andy tells me that soon after this picture, as she became closer to eight, she started to think she was ugly.  She wanted to have straight blonde hair and blue eyes—she wanted to be a different person.  She came to hate her curly hair, her tallness and particularly her shyness.  Andy thinks that her self-esteem dropped away because her mom was displeased with her, with her shyness in particular.  That pervasive negative view made her not like herself and eroded her confidence and her joy.

She was musing on how this picture, taken in one of those old photo booths, is a situation where what you look at is yourself.  Thus this is a picture of a little girl cracking herself up, goofing around with her angry face, her sweet face and enjoying her Baskin Robbins milkshake.  This is the way we look at ourselves before we learn to look with judgment, with the critical eye, with the need to look like other people wish we looked.

For me, the silver lining might be best summed up in the Leonard Cohen Lyric from “Chelsea Hotel”—“You told me again you preferred handsome men but for me you would make an exception.”

So, let’s dedicate today to striving to recapture the Selves we were before we were five, and to using those to see the beauty in the natural and unselfconscious being that we can find, if we gaze softly enough, in all our collective children (and in each other and in that wary stranger in the mirror—myself included).

Namaste, Bruce



10 Responses to “When did we stop being us?”

  1. Kristen @ Motherese Says:

    Oh, Andy, my tall, curly-haired sister. I have a strip of photos of myself that looks quite a bit like this. Like you, soon after they were taken, I started to wish I looked different. But now, when I look at the photos, I wish I looked the same: Happy. Radiant. Carefree. Joyful. Isn’t it amazing what a little shift in perspective can give us?

    Thanks, Bruce, for the reminder this morning to reconnect to our childhood selves even as we celebrate the child-like children in our lives.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      The more real, and vulnerable, we are perhaps the more we find our way to that elusive child-mind. It’s amazing to me just how beautiful kids are, all kids. I think they teach us how to see each other, and ourselves in that carefree (and even stormily authentic) way.

  2. Eva Says:

    These photos make me smile!

    It’s so true: we all reach an unpredictable point when we begin to feel insecure, to compare ourselves to others. And it arrives seemingly overnight.

    I’m not sure I can remember what it was like before I was so painfully self-aware. I need to try to remember, try to go back to that magical place. Thank you for pushing me.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      If you find anything that you find unconditionally beautiful, a random kid, a bird making a nest or the shoemaker with his or her worn hands… you are also looking into a mirror that’s something like the one in Harry Potter that shows you your happiest moments—it’s a leap of faith to trust that the pristine child of the past has never left, as we are socialized it’s just we who are taught not to see them (until we learn differently—and that’s one of the reasons I hold artists in terribly high esteem—the best of them see with child-mind).

      Our own creative process is a way of making our way to spirit beauty. It might seem like I “push” but I might also be behind you on the trail and appreciating that you have the courage to keep going.

  3. Darlene Says:

    I love these pix of Andy. I think she is one of the prettiest people I’ve ever met — partially because of the way she looks, but more because of her inner beauty that shines through!

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      I’m with you on that, but I deeply encourage you to see this sentiment as a mirror into yourself as well, this is the key point—we see the beauty in others sometimes more easily than in ourselves, but it’s always there, particularly the beauty of the relationships that mark our expanding and awakening deeper, or collective, Selves. Namaste

  4. joely Says:

    With innocence there is beauty. With experience and exposure there are scars. Maybe if we can love our scars, embrace our exposure, and know that our innocence can not be lost. It is all there, making up our greater self on this changing journey. I love looking at old pictures and thinking of the past. But, I like who i have become. I like those scars, those markings that not everyone has. I like my rough beginning because it made me strong. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder they say. So maybe we need to surround our lives with people who appreciate the beauty we hold. Thank you for a lovely reminder of the innocence we all possess.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      I like the way you think… and your willingness to share. We’re all in this bittersweet world together. I particularly like the play of dark and light… but especially when I’m not drowning in dark at any given moment.

  5. realmom Says:

    Thinking along the same lines the other day. http://wp.me/pL1Zf-3D

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