Images are powerful, aren’t they?...worth “a thousand words,” according to a popular song. They are so powerful that we guard our children from viewing “disturbing” images and keep the “motivational” images of thin women in bathing suits in our dressing rooms and bathroom mirrors. They are hard to erase from our memories.
So now I ask a question of you, maybe one that will conjure up strong emotions, good or bad… “How do you see yourself?” Do you see yourself as you really are, as others see you? Do you know who you really are? These can be hard questions to answer. Of course, if we weigh 150 lbs. at 5’, we’re not skinny, but are we fat? There’s the truth that we must face, and then there are also lies that we tell ourselves.
Self-image is the way that you view yourself, your personality, your character traits, your uniqueness and value. Body-image is the way that you see your body and often think that others see your body. And many of us often confuse the two, seeing our bodies as ourselves, while they are only a part of the whole. It is okay to want something better for yourself, but it is the obsession with this betterment that causes problems. You are not your body; rather, your body is a part of you. A healthy body image starts with the love of oneself, then moves to a love of one’s body, just as it is, seeing the beauty already there, appreciating its beauty as it changes. Yet, many of us have a love/hate relationship, if any love at all, with our own bodies.
So where does this hatred originate? First, it starts with ideas of what is “supposed” to be. We feed our minds with images of “perfect” women, who, in reality, are nothing of the like. We need a wake-up call: 1) The models in the magazines are photo-shopped, their skin looking smooth and without blemishes, not a grey hair in sight, no “pudges” or bulges, no frizzy or lifeless hair, no scars or wrinkles, and you definitely won’t find any cellulite there! 2) The actresses get a lot more “help” than you even have money to think about! There is a lot of surgery going on there, nips and tucks, suction and implants, endless hours with a personal trainer, make-up artists and hair stylists, and the list goes on! And let me just say that I do not for one minute believe that these ladies lack discipline or self-control. They are under tremendous pressure to look a certain way, an unimaginable stress that I would not want to undergo, myself. And as we’ve seen, many of them crack under the pressure and end up living a life of regrets and misery for the decisions they’ve made. Yet, while there are plenty of happy stars, the expectation for us to look the same way or have the same lifestyle, even, is simply unreasonable.
It’s the comparison and expectation to look a certain way that causes these image issues. And we’re not just comparing ourselves to these “perfect” images that we’re exposed to daily but also comparing ourselves to each other. We’re buying our daughters Barbie dolls and exposing them to the same unrealistic images in movies and TV shows, even cartoons. We even compare them to each other, compare our sisters, mothers, aunts, and friends to each other. [If this has never happened to you, consider yourself fortunate! I have a beautiful twin sister and a beautiful older sister, and I heard it all my life –thank goodness not from my parents! I’m surprised I came out alive!] And then we ask ourselves what went wrong when little Sally is diagnosed with bulimia at age 12 or why our 9 year olds are starting diets!
In my experience, and that of many of my counterparts, we’ve seen the weight just fall off, when the focus is placed on the right thing, after a woman has learned to love herself first, just as she is, seeing herself for all her worth. It’s quite an emotional experience to see yourself as you really are, for the first time; it’s like seeing a different person, like changing your glasses. It truly is an improvement of vision!
So, while posting a perfect picture of another woman around you, you think you are helping yourself to stick to your diet and motivating yourself to work out like a fiend, think again. The mindset here is all wrong. Even if you post a picture of your thinner self, your motivation must be pure. Is it because you liked yourself better that way? Did you feel better that way? Or did you get more compliments and just feel prettier that way? Once you love yourself and know your purpose and value, you will begin to see yourself in a different light, and that will be all the motivation you need to make positive changes. Because if you truly love yourself, you will make decisions that are in your best interest, thus making yourself healthier and happier along the way! May I make a suggestion? Throw out those magazines, end your subscriptions, reduce your TV time, and when exposed to such images, take them with a grain of salt. Give yourself a break, and you will see how this liberation will enable you a life of sincere gratitude and pleasure. By loving yourself first, you begin to see the good and beauty in others as well, appreciating them for who they are and able to be a better lover yourself.