Päivi was the first of the five women I was meant to photograph for the my collaboration with the Finnish women’s magazine Me Naiset. (To read the introduction to this series click here)
We met on a cloudy Friday morning in front of the main railway station in Helsinki. As we began walking towards our photo location, the clouds decided to provide us with some light rain. Despite the weather, the mood was light and happy, though perhaps a tad nervous but that’s all part of the process ;).
From the first moment on, it was easy to be with Päivi. She met me with a big smile and friendly words. You’d never guess this out-going woman would have a negative self-image.
Always the stepsister, never Cinderella
Päivi is the youngest of a large group of siblings and has always looked up to her big sisters’ beauty, never quite able to reach it. She’s formed a very strong identity as the ugly stepsister in the Cinderella story – as if beauty was always something unattainable to her, spending her life watching on the sidelines as others succeeded.
This impression has always followed Päivi: she wasn’t dealt the “beauty cards” and because of that she’s not that special, and this is simply her “role” in this society. As she’s grown older, the meaning of this “role” has diminished as she’s had her own family and career. By the age of 59, Päivi has simply given up on the pursuit of beauty and come to terms with the fact that it isn’t in the cards for her.
In fact, in Päivi’s world, people are divided into “beautiful” and “ugly” (she’s always belonged to the latter). For her, belonging in the “ugly” group has meant that she can fail, she can be imperfect and human, she can make mistakes and even be a little dumb because the “ugly” are forgiven these things much easier than the “beautiful”. On the other hand, the “beautiful” receive more compassion and they’re more easily considered better people than the “ugly”.
Päivi – and her own beauty
When asked, Päivi says she likes her smile, liveliness and brightness. These are the very things you noticed about her right away and these are precisely the things we need to pay attention to – the aspects of ourselves we really like. Why do we always want something we don’t have? Why do we wish we were something we’re not?
For instance, have you ever admired someone’s clothing only to try them on and realized oh dear goodness gracious they do not fit at all?! I’m sure you have as have I! But in here lies the true beauty of our individualism. We are all different, we all have different bodies and personalities, and this is what our clothing reflects.
We should focus on who we are and what fits us – not trying to be something or someone else, because we’ll always lose that game. Always.
Besides, how much fun would it be if we all looked exactly the same?
Don’t judge a book by its cover
Photographing Päivi was fun and natural, you’d never know by just looking at her how much it meant for her to be photographed. And this is something important to remember – it’s not always about how we feel about something but that we do it anyway. Because if we let our fears and insecurities guide us, we’d never do anything. None of us would ever do anything because we all experience fear.
Just recently I had a chat with a colleague about our misguided ideas of the bravery of others and the cowardice of ourselves. We always think that others can but for an unknown reason we can’t. Always someone else is capable, someone else has more to give, just not us.
Even though the truth is that the difference between us and others is solely in what we decide to do. People don’t succeed or get to do amazing things in their lives just out of pure luck. People succeed and move forward because they work for it. Just as we can work for what we want.
A Finnish rapper, Elastinen, raps in his song Eteen ja Ylös about this:
if it was easy, everyone’d be doing it
That’s about as true as it gets. If we want a better self-esteem, we need to work for it. We’ve all got learned patterns that we have to fight hard to get rid of. But the gift of life is that we can make a new decision every day, every moment to change ourselves and through that the course of our lives. Every decision we make forms us and our lives. There’s a lot of power in it!
We have a lot of power in ourselves!
That is all I have for you fine folks on this cloudy Sunday evening. So tell me, what steps are you going to take this spring? How are you going to treat yourself better? What are your best qualities? How can you enforce them?
Until next time lovelies,