Are you guilty of staring in the mirror, looking and not liking what you see? Have you ever wished to LOOK and BE something OTHER THAN YOURSELF?
Not once, but many times in my life.
I know this isn’t the sort of thing one likes to confess openly to the world. We fear what others will say, but I would like to break the silence and talk about a disease that touches many of us at some point in our lives. I am talking about,
OUR DISTORTED BODY IMAGE, OUR LACK OF SELF LOVE AND OUR LACK OF SELF ACCEPTANCE
Have you noticed how kids have all the confidence in the world? Kids are fearless and they have no inhibitions. They have soaring high confidence. It’s no surprise that kids believe they are capable of being any one of their favorite super heroes. Haven’t you? I was often Wonder Woman and at other times I was the Bionic woman and dreamed of saving the world. Nothing was impossible for me.
Somewhere in our childhood we lose sight of our perfection. Someone says something unkind to us in the playground, at school or at home and suddenly we loose our self confidence and we start to judge ourselves by what others think of us.
We are hypnotized by the world around us into thinking that what we are is not enough. Inadvertently, we are taught that more, faster and better is the ticket to happiness. We spend precious time looking over someone else’s fence, comparing how much greener their grass is compared to ours. Sadly, the same person on the other side of the fence that we admire, is also looking at someone else’s grass or even our own thinking and wishing to have what the other person has.
We spend our entire lives wishing that we could be thinner, richer, taller, smarter, curvier, younger, healthier, faster, sportier, better and the list goes on. We focus so much on what we think we lack and on what we would like to become, that we loose appreciation for the gift that we are.
We struggle to conform to what we think society expects of us to be or to look like. When we can’t attain the desired wish, we cope by resorting to destructive behaviors and habits. I have seen many people choose paths leading to bulimia, anorexia, binge eating, obesity, anxiety or depression and many do it unconsciously as self inflicted punishment.
All for what?
For the simple social approval of others?
Instead of seeking our own approval and valuing ourselves from within, we look to others to be the mirror of what we think we need to see and be. In the pursuit of this illusion, we lose the best parts about ourselves.
When I was in my teens, I complained about my physical appearance and wished my body looked like someone else’s. In my 30’s I did the same even though I was in the best shape of my life. It seems to me that no matter what stage I was in, I did not bother to enjoy it or be grateful for what I had.
Now in my late 40’s I look back at pictures of me taken at a time when I did not appreciate myself and I love what I see. I question myself for being so blind and short-sighted, to not have seen then what I see today.
We dedicate so much of our precious time striving for a race of perfection that doesn’t exist. We get caught in an endless running wheel of thinking and doing, believing and living in the same narrative of our past subconscious programming that leads us to a dissatisfied state of being. This painful merry-go-round takes us to the path of unhappiness.
It is what we humans do. We learn to appreciate things once they have passed, once they are gone. We live our lives in the illusion that we need to find joy and satisfaction through external factors, so attaining a certain look and achieving material things becomes the measure of our success.
While many like to blame and attribute much of our self image issues to the media and fashion industries, the responsibility is on us to look inward with gratitude and find the strength to fight back, break the veil of illusion, to love ourselves for who we are and be at peace with the gifts we have.
A quick story,
When my younger daughter, Emma was four years old, she was absolutely smitten with herself. My little girl believed she was the fairest of them all. Emma would spend hours in front of the mirror, in love staring at herself. If there was a mirror anywhere on the streets, mall or restaurants, Emma could be found looking, posing and admiring herself. We were not the only ones who noticed! Everyone did and people would smile at such a sight.
To illustrate the point, in one of our trips, our hotel had a long hallway leading up to the restaurant with mirrors on both sides that extended the entire length of the hallway. Emma naturally, walked with her head sideways looking at her reflection the entire way, paying no attention to what was in front of her. Emma was snapped out of her beauty walk when she bashed into a pillar, hit her head and fell down on the floor. Thankfully Emma did not hurt herself and we all had a good chuckle.
One day, Emma’s beautiful self-love and confidence ended in an instant. Emma was at camp one morning getting ready for her swim lesson in her cute bikini. Out of nowhere a girl told Emma,
“You have a big belly.”
Emma did not want to wear a bikini for the next three years and questioned her outer beauty through a single statement made by a single person. One inappropriate comment was enough to destroy Emma’s confidence. Yes, that is all it takes and perhaps all it took for me or you to feel the same about ourselves.
Needless to say, it took many years of confidence-building to re-establish Emma’s body image and reprogram what Emma thought to be true about herself — that she was and is perfect in every way, belly or no belly, Emma’s real beauty shines from within.
Fortunately, Emma had enough strength within and has outgrown this period of low self esteem, but my point is made. Many people are not as fortunate and end up following a destructive behavioral path or eating disorder. Through learned patterns of behavior, beliefs and experiences, we all adopt filters that make us question whether we are pretty, smart or good enough.
The good news is that you can change this. There is another way of conquering over our programming and finally healing ourselves from this disease that keeps us from truly shinning our God given splendor.
Practise loving yourself. Give yourself the permission to be you, without excuses. Give yourself permission to live your dreams and to forgive yourself for the mistakes of the past. Give yourself the permission to start over and to be more selfish to take care of yourself first. These are acts of self love and it is surely a positive way to start.
When you have a moment, check out the movie, I Feel Pretty (2018). Renee, played by Amy Schumer realizes that being and feeling beautiful is an inside job. She learns that being thin or beautiful is not a guarantee to be loved or accepted by others. In fact the only thing that matters is what we believe to be true about ourselves. Real beauty from within is contagious and admirable.
Renee discovers that even girls she thought were perfect, struggle with issues of self esteem and rejection. In the end Renee has an aha moment when she understands that what we think of ourselves is far more powerful than what others think of us. Renee experienced firsthand that when you have the confidence to show up as yourself, as real as possible and when you dare to be YOU, anything is possible.
My spiritual teacher Sabrina often says that until we learn to love ourselves, we are not capable of loving anyone else.
I hope that what I have shared today will make you reflect on your journey. I gift you what has taken me decades to realize and appreciate. I am now mindful of my inner beauty and grateful for this body that hosts my precious soul. I am kinder to myself than in my years past. I am now in the habit of looking in the mirror and telling my reflection that we are beautiful and that today we are in the best shape of our lives.
My wish for you is that you learn to love yourself. Let’s be strong enough to not let the judgement of others destroy our child-like confidence. I echo my daughter Emma’s example who had the courage and wisdom to understand that her value is not conditional on how others see her, but in how SHE SEES HERSELF! Only you can tell yourself what your worth is and only you need to believe it.
Stop trying to be someone else. Don’t strive for perfection to be liked or accepted. I’ve learned that it is your imperfections and quirks that draws people in. In spite of the general belief, people don’t relate to perfection, they relate to authenticity so don’t be afraid to be real, open and vulnerable.
The things you think you need to change are the very things that others may admire in you. It took me years to realize that all that starving and obsessive chasing for perfection to impress others did not matter because in truth, nobody cares. People who deserve to be in your life will love you no matter how you look.
I am not saying to let yourself go either. I am saying to love and accept yourself for who you are and when you do this, you automatically make better choices for your body and for your life. It was not until I was able to have the courage to stop the masquerade that I realized that I no longer needed to hide behind my mask. Neither do you!
Stop feeding the imposter and dare to be you. Yes, that YOU! The beautiful one, the one that has a roll or two, the one that has wrinkles, the one with stretch marks, the one with chubby cheeks, the one with thick thighs, the one with the frizzy hair, the one with freckles, the short one, the one with the grey hairs — Yes, that beautiful you!
Be confident with who you are at all times of your life. Be grateful to be you! Love your flaws. Without your so-called flaws you wouldn’t be you and trust me, this world is anxiously awaiting to enjoy the gift of the real you.
There is no magic mirror on the wall who can tell you that you are beautiful nor person in this world who can validate that for you. Only you have the magic to believe and tell yourself that… YOU ARE THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL!