This week, August 2nd-7th, is “Change the way you see, not the way you look” week as instituted by the awesome Caitlin of Healthy Tipping Point.
I’m sure you all know of Caitlin by now but, if not, she’s the author behind Operation Beautiful and her first book is released this month. The emphasis of this week and her ethos is to celebrate beauty in all its shapes and sizes, and strive for self-acceptance and self- love which seems so rare now. Only this morning was I reading about a woman in her late thirties who has spent her adult life punishing her body for how it looks and is in this constant battle of trying to change it. I was shocked and saddened by this.
Anyway during this special week us bloggers and blog readers, should we choose to accept the challenge, are to think and write about body image issues. Wow, what a topic. I really don’t know where to start. Body image is one of my passions; I have so many things I’d love to write about that you may see more than one post on this subject during the week.
Today I’d like to reflect upon my 17 year old self, the self I see too clearly in my 17 year old sister now, when I had such a deep self-hate. I resented my body. Why did it look this way? Why am I so short? Why can’t I be short and skinny? Sometimes it felt like I was the only one who could see my attractive qualities. And why did my friends have to be so much prettier, skinnier, taller, popular etc than me? Why is life so unfair. I would while away hours in my bedroom, reading of ways I could change my body, resolving to start the latest “change the way I look” plan the next day. Every day I would start with the same determination only to find it, and my plan, broken at some point during that same day. Why couldn’t I put any of these strategies into practice? What’s wrong with me???
This circular process had begun when I hit puberty and continued, on and off, into my university days. So, what changed? What did I need to know back then? How did I get to the point of self-acceptance and how can my sister, and plenty of other young girls and women, get there?
Just like self-hatred and dissatisfaction occurs and gains strength over time, so to does the breaking down of such lies and the development of self-acceptance; and, dare I say it, self-love (my fave twins have recently posted on this).
As the title highlights, it involved a slow, and certain change of perspective.
– Instead of looking at other women in terms of how skinny they are, look at their innate beauty; beauty that comes in all different shapes and sizes.
– Do not only appreciate, but celebrate, all the different shapes and sizes that we (men and women) come in. I loved one friend’s volumptuous curves as much as I loved the athleticism of another friend, for example.
– When you’re a teenager, role models are so important. Therefore, it’s important to choose your role models carefully. When I hit puberty I hated my newly acquired curves. Eventually I decided that instead of resenting my natural self, I would look for women who were curvaceous and sexy and beautiful and celebrate them. As I celebrated their beauty I started to like myself more. The standards we place upon others often mirror the standards that we hold ourselves to. Being a big film fan, and easily influenced, I decided to watch films from the 1940s and 1950s where women looked healthier and clothes were made and worn to celebrate their femininity. Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren became the women I looked up to rather than Sarah Michelle Geller or Courtney Cox (showing my age slightly). Whilst these role models aren’t ideal, they served a purpose and were helpful in my journey to accepting the beauty of the feminine.
– Look at how you define yourself. You are more than your appearance, SO much more. Nurture the other parts of your self- your strength, intelligence, compassion etc.
– It’s so hard to love yourself when all around you screams otherwise. If your friends have a deep dissatisfaction with themselves and cultivate a negative self-perception either dump your friends (which may be a bit harsh) or try to make sure that the positive perspectives and influences in your life outweigh the negatives. Stop reading magazines that breed self-dissatisfaction. Surround yourself with positive, strong messages and images of self-love. Try and make the overwhelming force in your life one that celebrates what it is to be human. We are all unique and made perfectly imperfect, we are not meant to be nor will we ever be perfect so let go of this!
Just like a negative self-perspective occurs over time and is multi-faceted, so to is the cultivation of a positive self-perspective. You need to make little steps to self-love and over time things will change. And, before you know it, you will automatically seek out people and things in life that affirm how you think; that affirm that we are all beautiful and who we are is enough and is to be celebrated.
11 years later I love myself. This is not arrogance, which apparently is so distasteful particularly in women. This is self-acceptance. I have fat days, I am nowhere near perfect, I have a load of weaknesses. But, guess what, I am me and I have positive aspects to myself as well. My life is so much more than how I look. I have passions, people that I love being around, activities that I love doing.
So, self-love and developing a positive body image may not be rocket science but it is essential to being your true self. Having a negative body image only robs you of your energy, your productivity, your creativity and, in some cases, your life. Start being mindful, break down that negative wall and begin to build a positive one in its place.
There you go, that’s my piece said for Operation Beautiful! What are you going to do, change, think in order to cultivate some self-love?