A Cure for Bad Self-Image: What to Do When You Hate Your Body
What do you hate about yourself? What is the one thing your mind instantly jumped to when the question was asked?
There's a TV show where a dad goes shopping with his daughter for her prom dress, accompanied by his mom. With every dress the daughter tries on he says genuinely, "you look beautiful" and she sighs:
"Dad, you said that about all of them."
Grandmother sweeps into the rooms and clucks her tongue, "you look terrible, darling. Try this one, it's your color."
Dad looks at grandmother after the daughter leaves and says, "are you trying to give her body image issues?!"
She shoots back, "here's a news flash darling, every woman has self image issues all on her own. Every woman has something she hates about herself, some perceived flaw: her nose is too big, her bum too flat, her eyes too far apart, her fingers aren't delicate enough..."
He, puzzled: "I remember the days when all it took was a plastic tiara and pink tutu for her to feel beautiful." She replies:
"We spend the rest of our lives trying to recapture that feeling. We wear clothes, and makeup in a way that makes us feel like our flaws are hidden, and so we feel beautiful, which makes everyone else think we are beautiful."
THE FLAW OF BEAUTY
Beauty is such an odd thing. There is the loveliness perceived by the world which goes exactly as deep as skin, or as big as a bra size. There is an inner beauty, cultivated by excellence of character and attention to the structure of our spiritual life. Then there is a kind of beauty not often spoken of; what we feel about ourselves and how that translates to the world in confidence. This confidence is as slippery as an eel and elusive as the perfect body. Often, we say things to ourselves we'd never dream of addressing to someone else:
"You miserable cow. When are you ever going to learn?
"Would you just get a grip on things already? No one else ever messes up half as much as you do."
"I should never have eaten that piece of cake, now I'll never be thin. I'll be fat forever."
Chances are you just read these words and didn't think they sounded all that bad; it's because we're all guilty of it. Honesty is not bad; we safeguard and steward the lives we have and a little honest talk is in order sometimes. What is never in order is trash talking ourselves.
Words are powerful. If we continually speak death to our hopes, wishes and dreams it's going to be incredibly hard to get past those doubts to a confidant womanhood. Blaming culture, our family, that one person who said something undermining, or the environment may comfort us but in the larger analysis we are usually the ones responsible for about 75% of our own insecurity.
WHAT CAN YOU CHANGE?
If you have something you genuinely hate about your body or character take an honest look at it and ask yourself three questions:
- Why do you feel this way?
- Is it tied to something you've been told before, or all your life?
- Can you change it?
Someone who has been told all their lives that they have "child-bearing hips," while being pinched and slapped over it countless times, has had a physical feature magnified out of proportion. This is when identifying why you feel that way, and whether it ties to what people have said to you, are crucial first steps to bringing the question down to its proper size. Then we come to the real crux: can you change it (or should you change it)? If the answer is no, then it is time to work on changing your perspective about it.
First off, people say things all the time that aren't unkind in themselves, but with the weight of repeated use become fulfilling prophecies in their own or someone else's. Chances are, the person harping on you for something struggle with this same thing themselves, especially in cases of relatives remarking on things that get decided by genetics. We can't change other people, so we have to come up with something that works for us. This is not a "game" you have to play.
With fairness, there is also a chance that they don't mean anything by it and are just something like Greek or German and thus don't always understand how to be tactful.
Either way, the choice is now up to you.
What we think about ourselves helps define how other people see us. Negative voices that are allowed to chant endless choruses of doubt to ourselves make it almost impossible to grow in healthy relationships.
No one has proven the existence of black holes, but I think there is definitely one when it comes to feeling beautiful. We hunt down our flaws with the deadly skill of a sniper and shoot ourselves full of holes every day. We can't win. When an auto-immune disease attacks the body it's incredibly hard to fight against, because the battle is against ourselves.
There is a time and place to figure out what to do if someone is harming you with their words, but for the most part let's assume for right now that the thing you hate about yourself is there because you think it's a problem. In this case there is no cure for diving down those black holes everyday, except to start being thankful for the body you have. Of course, there are things you can do to lose weight if that is the issue, or ways to work on clearing up skin problems, but in the end your best assets are going to be to prioritize health, nutrition, exercise, and a grateful heart. Neglect any of those and it will be hard to keep anything in balance, but work on taking care of the body and spirit you have and it will reward you with a healthier perspective.
And no more trash talk. Replace it with the wonder of a life you have been granted. Those same hips you have might've born 3 children. That nose you feel is too big gives you the ability to breath and stay alive, not to mention smell things like roses. Your mouth, not shaped quite to your liking, still allows you eat amazing things. Those fingers, do they not serve you tirelessly? There's always something to be grateful for.
Beauty is always flawed if not refined through gratitude. We can be dissatisfied all our lives, only to discover a simple - difficult - shift in perspective would gain us that ingredient that defines all kinds of beauty.
LIVE IN WONDER
Let me close with one more example. A man, talking to his mom on Skype after she had suffered and began to recuperate from two strokes, noticed her try to pick up a spoon to take a bite of something. Having lost use of her fingers she attempted to used her whole hand to cradle the handle. It didn't work and the spoon fell, scattering food everywhere.
She began to cry. The most basic function of being able to transfer food to her mouth was denied her.
Think of that, and with the next breath you take think of what all your body does for you everyday, and be grateful for the wonderful gifts and abilities you have. It is when we begin to live life in this wonder that we become truly beautiful. This isn't trite. It truly works inside and out. Don't believe me, go acquaint yourself with someone far more qualified than I: Dr. Caroline Leaf.
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