How My Daughter Teaches Me to Stop Subconsciously Insulting Myself

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side by side pictures of near-identical two year old girls, one on the left in black and white: the one on the right's mother
Two of a kind, thirty one years apart.

I saw an image of my daughter yesterday and for a split second thought it was a picture of me.

She was making a video call to her dad’s cell phone from her grandparents’ house, and the video blipped and froze up just as he handed the phone to me, and for a moment I wondered where he had gotten that picture. But then the connection reasserted itself and one of her evil grins spread over her face and it was again clear who I was looking at.

She has always looked like me, her brother like their dad, as anyone who knew either of us as children is quick to point out. For a long time I would name various relatives I could see in her, without realizing she looked like them because she looked like me. It took a lot of “look at the little Amy!”s from everyone from close relatives to near strangers before I could see it.

What it really makes clear to me is that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

I have struggled with self-esteem issues all my life, so when I see myself in a mirror or a photograph, I’m used to, on average days, thinking there’s something off about me, some weirdness about my looks. On bad days, I’m just plain ugly.

But I’m madly in love with my children. They are the most beautiful people in the world.

I have to face the incongruity in that. If my daughter is one of the most beautiful people in the world, and if my daughter looks exactly like me, how on earth can I be ugly?

We are very different in personality, and I suppose that shows in our faces. Aside from looks, we share klutziness (she makes me look like a ballerina in comparison there, to be honest) and wild imaginations, but she, in direct contrast to me, is hyperverbal, energetic, mischievous, socially-oriented and stylish. She radiates personality. Frankly, I’ve been radiating “ignore me, I’m not really here, leave me be” since middle school. I mean, that’s charisma—in Dungeons and Dragons, your Charisma score refers to both physical and social attractiveness. We may look alike, but she is far more charismatic than me. So maybe that shows, and maybe that means she can be objectively beautiful while I am objectively unattractive.

But even I can see that’s ridiculous. I cultivated that closed-off, antisocial lack-of-charisma because I felt ugly and unloveable. It didn’t come first. The self-loathing had always been irrational.

It’s hard work getting over deep-seeded self-esteem problems. But I have a constant reminder in my life, keeping me from heading too far down the spiral of self-loathing. The most beautiful girl in the world looks exactly like me. So maybe I’m not so bad after all.

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