Evicting The Mean Girls from My Head

Laughter, love, and self-acceptance.


I posted photos of myself in a bathing suit on my blog the other day. Silly photos. Photos of me cutting it up with my kids at the beach.

I just wanted to share a story about how making my kids laugh is one of my favorite things.

What happened instead was barroom brawl in my head.

In my family, I’m the photographer, so there are hardly ever any pictures of me. But that day, my Step-Dad saw us having fun in the water and picked up the camera I had left sitting on my beach chair.

I am so grateful for those photos. They perfectly illustrate the story of how I put an extra bathing suit on my head to crack up my kids.


All I could think as I was inserting those pictures into my blog post was not “Wow, look how much fun we had together this summer,” or “That was a great day,” or “Damn, my kids are awesome!” but rather “OMG, is that what I really look like?” and “Are those my ARMS? They look like legs!” and “I’m turning into my mother,” and “This is stupid. Nobody is going to think this is funny. They’ll be gawking at how ugly I am and making fun of me.”

My fingers tensed on the mouse as it hovered over the “Move to Trash” button.

“You should really join a gym,” my inner critic sneered.

“You’ve totally let yourself go,” one of her nasty friends jabbed.

“No wonder that bathing suit (the one on your body, not the one on your head) was on clearance at Lands’ End EIGHT FRICKING YEARS AGO…hideous,” another blow, but this time bringing my lame fashion sense into question.

And then…

…someone else joined the Mean Girl Party in my head.

“Don’t listen to them. It’s a good story. It doesn’t matter what you look like. Remember what your mom always said: ‘Pretty is as pretty does.'”

Oooh, I like her. She’s smart. I want her to come to more of my parties.

I sat a little taller. Nobody tells me what to do in my own head, beeyotches.

“Maybe I can crop that pic differently or hide my arms with PicMonkey,” I started to negotiate with myself.

Smart girl quickly interrupted, “You could do that, but it’s a lie. When you were out there having fun with your kids, were you worried about how you looked?”

“No. I was having fun.”

“Then tell the truth. Tell your truth.”

“But…” I waffled. “Well…maybe I’ll just end with a one-liner about my jiggly arms. If I make fun of myself first, nobody else can.”

Smart girl just looked at me in disbelief, shaking her head. “Why are you so afraid?”

“People can be so mean,” I whispered.

Just then, the Grace of God sashayed into the party, looking all confident and at ease like she always does. She doesn’t wear big chunky jewelry around her neck to distract people from looking at her chin hair. She oozes cool and self-acceptance and love. She has red hair and freckles.

“Hey Honey. The answer is simple. If that was your daughter berating herself about her body, what would you tell her?” she asked.

Fingers still poised to execute, my mouse jerked to the right. I took a deep breath, exhaled the words “You are beautiful,” and clicked “Publish.”


Leslie Marinelli is a writer, wife, mother of three, amateur homemaker, and transplanted Pittsburgher in the suburbs of Atlanta. She blogs at The Bearded Iris: A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All and is the Editor-in-Chief and a weekly columnist at In The Powder Room, a global online community for women. Leslie is a BlogHer Voice of the Year, a Babble Top 100 Mom Blogger (2011), and a Circle of Moms Top 25 Funny Mom. She also Tweets like she parents: loudly and with a lot of apologies.



107 thoughts on “Evicting The Mean Girls from My Head”

  1. Leslie – this made me cry. Big, fat tears. I hate to see myself in pictures, because that is not how I see myself in my head. In my head, I’m still thin and cute. In pictures, I see someone I don’t recognize. So, I stay out of pictures if I can help it. Family gatherings, my daughter’s graduation, parties, etc… no pictures of me. And I was there, enjoying those days with my friends and family, but when my kids look back at the pictures of those days, I won’t be there. They won’t see the pride on my face when they walked the stage to receive their diploma, or holding their baby cousins at birthday parties, or bringing out the birthday cake I spent hours on for their celebration. And that makes me sad. From now on, I promise to stop hating the me I see in the pictures, because that’s the Mom they love in real life.

  2. Oh my… I read this originally weeks ago when you posted the swimming suit set up on your own blog and I loved it. But with you adding the internal dialogue… damn, girl! So, so good to hear other people’s internal conversations to realize that we are not alone in our crazy, goofy thoughts. And then reading the comments… wowza! Way to rock it, girl!

  3. Brave. Honest. Loved your post. So spot on that we have this internal struggle on a daily – if not hourly basis. Good for you not to listen to the mean girls! New follower. Can’t wait to read more!

  4. Well, your inner goddess (50 Shades, anyone?) is awesome. Such an important message, especially when the media out there are STILL perpetuating some kind of silly body ideal for women.

  5. That was great. A writer’s transparency combined with truth touches the reader. My issue is not only body image — but what age is doing to it. Those are the photos I am afraid to post. Those that show what age has done to my face…my legs. That’s for the dose of courage to stop censoring. Now if I can change my thoughts. That would really be progress.

  6. What a powerful message. It brought tears to my eyes. I have the same party-goers in my head. Glad you didn’t delete. That is a beautiful picture of you and your daughter having fun.

  7. This is wonderful and amazing. Even as an adult I have ‘that’ voice in my head too – I’m working on making sure to shh it when I can and try to smoosh it so it doesn’t make it’s way into my three girls (or my boy’s) head. Thank you for writing this.

  8. Pingback: Sharing Truths
  9. I am so stealing this gag to do to my kids when Summer rolls around in Australia 🙂 Your post made me giggle, laugh, guffaw, then cry. You are funny, gorgeous and beautiful. So glad I found you.

    I just ran the City TO Surf yesterday and all I could think when I posted the pictures was “Gah! Look at my muffin-top!” instead of “Go, girl! You just ran 12km in just over an hour!”

    I talk a good talk…just not so good at acting on it….

    xoxo and a gorgeous week to you!

  10. Leslie, I am so proud of you; I’m kinda proud of me, too. I hadn’t worn a swimsuit for years. (I am nearing the big six- oh.) When our step-granddaughter joined the family at age 7 (5 years ago) I told myself “Screw it”!! I have bought a new swimsuit each year since. Doing fun things with her is more important than worrying about what other people think about how I look.

  11. Omgosh your arms look fine. Consider yourself slapped! Love you and very happy for all the recognition you are receiving.

  12. I do this to myself all the time. I can’t look at a photo of myself without pointing out my flabby mummy tummy or my sticks for arms. Im so pleased Im not alone in thrse doubts.

  13. Took my kids to the playground today and my husband was playing around with a new camera. I’m usually the one behind the lens, and I like it that way. When I was going through the pics tonight, there were some great one of my kids on the swings. Unfortunately, they were being pushed by ME. I thought “now I know why I’m always the one taking the pics”. I told my husband to delete the pics with me in them. After reading this, I changed my mind. Solidarity sister 🙂

  14. Your mean beotches are crazy too, ’cause your arms DO NOT look fat- at all.– and you have a big beautiful white gorgeously toothed smile. OMG!!! and you are making your children laugh… is there anything more beautiful? xo

    1. Ha! Well yes, anyone who would be that mean must surely be crazy, right? It’s all about perspective though. I need to just stop comparing my 42 year old postpartum body to my 16 year old body! THAT’S crazy.

  15. The only things I noticed in your photo were your amazing smile and the absolute joy radiating from your daughter’s face. You are doing something right as a mother if you can make your child that happy, even for a moment. That’s what makes you beautiful.

  16. Love This! And, you look fantastic – haven’t changed since high school. But, I seriously doubt that anyone could see beyond the incredible smiles on your kiddos’ – and your – faces. I could just hear the hysterical laughs that went with the smiles. A priceless moment and a memory your kids will fondly recall for a lifetime.

  17. I’m really glad you ignored the mean girls and published. Why do we beat ourselves up like this? I’ll join everyone here who says you look beautiful. And I’ll also be upset if you do get any backlash from this…but haters gonna hate, if only for the sake of hating.

  18. You are not alone. We are all working on being confident in ourselves and telling the Mean Girls in our heads to STFU and GTFO.

  19. I remember getting beach pictures back and thinking OMG, but at the time, I was too busy to even look in the mirror to see that my bikini was ill-suited to my postpartum body. I’d rather be the person who forgets to look in the mirror than the person who could pull off a bikini from my honeymoon.

    1. So true – I always feel the best about myself when I’m not looking! Less looking, more doing. That sounds like a recipe for good mental health right there! Thanks for being here Alex. XO!

  20. You are awesome, and have always been awesome (as the Bearded Iris or Leslie). Mean people are mean because they are insecure with themselves. The best way to combat that is to act confident. Once you act confident, you start to feel confident. Then the mean people lose their power. I have to remind myself to be confident and not make fun of myself (out loud) more often. 🙂 I am grateful you hit Publish. It was such an awesome story and pictorial!!!

  21. Leslie you look awesome! 20 years from now you’ll find these pictures in a scrapbook and you’ll totally agree with me. You’ll also long for having that beach time with your kids 😉

    1. Thank you David. That’s so true…I look back on pictures of myself 25 years ago and think, “Damn, I wish I knew how good I looked back then…I never would have dated that Steve dude!” Alas, this appears to be a pattern. I appreciate your comment. Here’s to more fun times and memories, and less inner-criticism.

  22. I love this post. Amazing. I too have few pics of myself on my blog or even on my computer, because aside from taking most of the pics, the ones I do have I hate. My face is too round, my chins too numerous, and my husband loves the candid “I’m inadvertently making a poop face” shot. Which is probably just my normal face. So fun.

    All I see in this photo is you have a wicked good time. I actually admire your unabashed ability to let go and “play” with your kids.

  23. This is such a comfort because I do the same thing (probably most of us do). I am tempted to whiten my teeth, darken my tan, erase a few wrinkles, the list goes on and on (and I mean in the photo, is that any better? not sure), but I fight against it as well and choose instead to show the truth. Your paradigm shift is fabulous – what would you be thinking if this was your dear friend voicing these concerns? You’d be thinking she’s beautiful and crazy for doubting it. Great reminder.

    1. Wow – thanks Terry. I’m with you! I think if more of us could stop photoshopping our teeth and wrinkles, we could start a revolution and give more women the confidence to do the same. It’s tough to put ourselves out there though, particularly when we have fewer and fewer “natural” role models in the media and even in our communities.

    1. Same here. I’m still bracing myself for the potential backlash of this post, but I rolled the dice and figured the risk of the vulnerability was worth the potential reward of serving others. So far so good!

  24. your post made me cry! you really are beautiful ~ never question it!
    thanks for saying what we all feel!

    1. Well, that depends…did you pin it to your “OMG, I hope I never look like THIS” board or to your “Good Parenting” board. I need more info before I can give you my blessing. 😉

  25. HATE those mean girls, and you are so RIGHT you are beautiful.. and look at how much LOVE is in that photo! I, too, am always the photo taker, and learned to love those photos full of joy.

  26. Love that! Let’s duct-tape the inner mean girls together and push them into a closet!

    Seriously — well said. Good for you. And the picture is awesome, too.

  27. I’m balling my eyes out right now. I just realized that I have millions of the “skinny me” pictures with my 2 older kids laughing and having fun and capturing moments, but my youngest child is always alone in the pics, so I can snap them, safely hid behind the camera. Because I don’t want “this me” captured and public. I have robbed my son of being able to look back at the mom he knows laughing and sharing one day when he is older. I need to move past my own vanity and give this old wrinkled, slightly hunched over, wobbly, and heavier Mom he loves the permission to be in pictures with him, in the moment forever captured for him one day. Thank you. I had no idea this day would turn out like this as I was making shopping lists and exchanging funny texts with my daughter, when this slid across the wall and I accidentally clicked. Thank you for giving me permission to give my son this gift.

    1. Well, personally, I don’t really believe in accidental clicks. If this post caught your eye for some reason, it was probably what you needed to read today. Now wipe off that mascara and strike a pose, Mama! Your son is going to treasure those photos of his gorgeous young mother someday when he’s changing your diaper. 😉

    2. Crying with you. Solicitor that just rang my doorbell didn’t know what to do. Now time to get click some photos.

  28. Love this post! You are beautiful anyway, but that gorgeous smile makes you exquisite. Maybe we can ban together and banish those mean girls forever!

    1. Aw hell yeah! Ban together, banish our inner meanies! Love it. And my mother thanks you for the smile compliment. She spent a lot of money on my braces back in the day.

  29. Yay!! Good for you! I love this post. I feel great about myself every day, and then I see a picture and it knocks me over. Is that REALLY what I go around looking like every day? OMG. It takes a few days to pick myself up and go back to looking out from myself rather than critically back at myself.

    I don’t want my daughter to know anything about my inner mean girl.

    I weigh less today at 33 than I did the day I graduated high school and I can still look at a photo of myself and pick apart every single flaw. We all judge our own bodies in ways that we wouldn’t even think about when looking at others. It’s so awful and so pointless. You hit the nail on the head with the remark about what you would say if your own daughter was tearing herself apart like that. I would be devastated to think of my girls hating themselves that way. We all just have to stop the insanity. What is a perfect body anyway? What kind of a life would be live if we all had “perfect bodies”. It really wouldn’t make us any happier. Let’s all kick the mean girls out of our heads!

    1. Amen! If ANYONE talked to my daughter the way I talk to myself, I would slap them sideways. We really need to take a stand against those mean girls in our heads and start being kinder to ourselves.

  31. My first thought was how I wish I had photographs of the times my girls and I had this much fun together. Now they are grown, I am old, and none of us have wonderful moments like this recorded for my grandchildren to see. Cherish this and know that you are beautiful! This picture will (and probably already is) PRICELESS!:)

  32. I have mean girls too, but when I read your post, all I could think of was being jealous of you making your kiddos laugh that hard. I need to be more spontaneous and create those memories. I think you look beautiful because of the joy on your face and your daughters face. (BTW, she looks just like you! So if you think she is pretty, well, you are too). You both look so happy, how could you think you look terrible?

    1. I do love making them laugh, that’s for sure. And thank you for the kind words, Mary. We call her my “Mini-Me,” because we are so alike in many ways. I am hopeful that someday I’ll be able to see myself the way I see my daughter. Writing a post like this is a step in the right direction! 🙂

  33. Good for you! When I saw the original post I was thinking how gorgeous your daughter is and how she takes after you! Also, the swim suit you are wearing looks fabulous (love that raspberry color) and if my legs looked like your arms I would probably be a starving model. You look amazing!

  34. The first things I noticed were your smile, and the joy on your daughters face as she laughs with her Mom. Well done. Laughter and love are all that matter.
    You are beautiful.

  35. Love, double love and triple love this! Screw those mean girls! You rock, mama, and you are beautiful inside and out. Your daughter is lucky to have such an awesome role model.

    P.S. My Nana used to say that same line — “Pretty is as pretty does” — to me when I was a girl, and now I say it to my own daughter.

    1. Aw, thanks Kathleen. Yeah, screw those mean girls!!! I just love that “pretty is as pretty does” saying…it really just sums it all up, doesn’t it? Your Nana is a wise woman indeed!

  36. When I read your post, I looked at your pictures with envy. First, I thought, “what great arms!” Then, I thought about how incredible it was for you to be able to get this moment on “film.” Everyone should get such joy out of spending time with their children and you captured that so perfectly in your pictures. I also thought, “I hope my kids think I am that hilarious!”

    More importantly, the look in your daughters eyes shows how much she loves you and looks up to you. In that moment right there, she idolizes you and I know that she doesn’t see you they way you describe yourself and you would never want her to say these things about herself.

    1. You know, isn’t it funny how it’s all relative? There is no one absolute definition of “great arms.” I’m with you though – that look on my daughter’s face was the selling point for me too. I will always treasure being able to make her laugh that hard. Thanks for being here and for the lovely comment.

  37. Oh my goodness I was just getting ready to write a blog post about the same thing happening to me based on some photos taken of me doing yoga. It can be a daily struggle to keep those “mean girls” at bay. Honestly, though, the only thing I thought about when I looked at your pictures is how much fun you were having with your family, and that whoever took the pictures is a great photographer. Love your blog!

  38. Those photos are so awesome. And you look great. Down with inner mean girls! Mamas with confidence and a healthy body image are the very best influence on daughters. Your kids are lucky. I love it!

Comments are closed.