Am I Saying That I Am Not Enough?

When my children walk into the bathroom and watch me going through the feminine rituals of shaving and makeup, I wonder if I’ve let them down. If my conforming to these cultural ideals makes me a cog in the wheel of less than and not enough.

Every time I suck in.

Every time I look for extra lift or pull or push.

Every time I pluck and wax and shave and color and lighten and darken and change.

Am I giving messages that I cannot take back? Am I saying that the one person, who is everything to them, is not actually enough?

My son still wanders naked through the house.

My daughter still says boob like it’s pointing out an ear or a nose.

But one day these will take on so much more meaning.

One day, my daughter will ask to shave her legs, and I will acquiesce.

One day, my son will ask for weights, and I will hand them over.

I will worry. Whenever they don’t eat enough. Whenever they eat too much. Whenever they look in the mirror and sigh the sigh that I know so well.

The sigh that screams: I’m not enough. I’m not enough. I’m not enough.

I don’t know how far I need to go to awaken that other voice inside them. The voice beyond the our sex and gender and culture.

The voice that whispers: Take a chance. Go and be radical. Go and be beautiful.

Go. And be yourself.

A modified version of this post originally appeared on Crunchy Betty to support the Blogger Body Calendar project.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

18 thoughts to “Am I Saying That I Am Not Enough?”

  1. Do you know, I never thought of it like this. Truly. I always thought of these things as rituals that make me feel better, that I enjoy caring for myself in a way that feels right. Until this very moment I never considered shaving my legs, or waxing my brows to be a sign that I’m not enough, just like the thought never occurred to me when my mother did the same. So now this is food for thought, really I need to think about it.

  2. I’ve had it happen. My older child worries that he is not muscular enough or that he does not weigh enough. My younger child thinks he is too big. Try as I might to change the way I care for myself, discuss health-related topics (the word fat has been banished in my house, now if I complain, I complain about how exercising makes me feel “blech”– and it’s the truth– changing the way I discuss my health and weight has changed the way I think about it), and describe others, they still pick it up– and it bothers me. Granted, I have boys, but it’s still there– and I never really expected that.

  3. I think these thoughts every time I put makeup on to ‘look pretty’ when we go out….which is rare, but still….. I’ve hopefully instilled into my 3 girls that beauty is on the inside: how we treat people and how we live our lives.

  4. I think this is one of my greatest worries as a mom – especially with my daughter. I’m never happy with my looks…I want her to see her beauty no matter what.

    I want to instill in them how to be healthy and beautiful, but for the right reasons and I want to do it in a balanced way so we don’t go too far in the other direction.

    It’s a tough line to walk.

  5. I think it is important to convey the social (and health) implications of being well-groomed, fit and healthy. In the real world, these are standards that apply – and for which they will be judged – even if you wish they weren’t. I always see my number one parenting job is teaching my kids how to be successful in the real world. I think if they feel your love and your confidence that they are enough, they will internalize that as their own and it will help them make those decisions to be radical, or not, fully understanding the consequences of those actions. This post makes me think of that Pink song “F*ing Perfect”.

    1. I wonder as well. I don’t have children yet, but I watch my nieces, and I watch myself. I also sometimes sit back and watch the women that I work with – women who talk almost daily about weight and will power. I’ve always been bothered by the expectation that women have no body hair. It doesn’t bother my husband if my legs are unshaven, but I would never be courageous enough to go out in public and make a statement.

  6. There are times when doubt fills up our mind. It is true and this can somehow create an impact within ourselves. But reading this post, i am very much inspired to think positive always and to believe in myself no matter what happens. Thanks for sharing this one. This is indeed inspiring.

  7. What a great post, I worry about this too, especially with my daughter. I want to raise her with confidence in herself because I know what girls can do.

  8. and what IS enough? what am i chasing every day, every week, every month, every year of my life that I can’t seem to grasp? What and when is it enough?

    just when i have decided that i am beautiful and it’s because my son sees me that way? I end up in front of my closet or a mirror and I know I don’t really believe that.

    When you find the answer? Help a sista out, will ya?

  9. my sentiments exactly…
    I know there will be time when they will say different thing, ac differently…it’s fear that envelops me at times when I think of this…but I can not do we get old, they too, grow older and it’s only our part to hone them in the best possible ways…

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