Self Image: Friend or Foe?

I read a friend’s blog today regarding body image and her struggles with keeping weight off while at the same time reminding herself that she was being motivated by an unattainable image pushed on all women by mainstream media.  I think her dilemma is shared by almost all women, including me.  From the time our little eyes can focus on the page of a magazine or catch the glimpse of a passing billboard, the world tells us that our bodies need improvement because whatever we currently have is not cutting it.

Self-image and the negativity that most likely goes along with it for a lot of women is a sneaky, silent attacker.  We don’t even realize we’re soaking it all in until we stand in front of the dressing room mirror, wearing whatever latest trend looked great on the model in the commercial, aghast at the fact that something has gone horribly wrong between the time that outfit was on the hanger and when we put it on.  Then we see hips that are too wide or no curves at all, boobs that are too small, too big, or not perky enough, legs that don’t show the right “thigh gap” or are too bony or *gasp* cellulite, feet that are too big or God forbid, second toes that are longer than the big toes, zits, moles, freckles, hair, wrinkles, scars, fat. . .

Men wonder why we can be moody?  I wonder how we get out of bed sometimes.

The sad thing is that we tackle all those feelings every time we look in the mirror, regardless if any of those body parts are actually showing- and they probably aren’t because we all get very crafty when it comes to hiding what we consider flaws.  (Isn’t that why products like Spanx and concealer exist?)  And even worse, we begin having these feelings when we are kids, at a time when just about everything feels beyond our control and everything is monumental- especially how we perceive to be perceived.  By the time we reach adulthood and finally, if we’re lucky, have that inner voice that tries to remind us that our self-worth is not based on what the magazines publish, we’ve gotten ourselves into such deep rooted routines that feed into and perpetuate the insecurities, that I have to wonder if it’s really too late to make any real changes.

At 36 I’ve come to accept some of my “flaws”.  I was once compared to Abe Lincoln because of my prominent chin.  Okay, fine.  When I worked in a grocery store a customer said to me, “Oh my gosh, finally someone like me who has a Bob Hope nose.”  Bob Hope?  Seems like a stretch, but okay, I’ll accept that too.  My legs have always been disproportionate and unfeminine.  Great.  My feet are huge. Lovely.  I’m totally unable to tan so I’m always too white and covered in freckles and moles.  And with a family history of skin cancer, I’m well on my way to having lots of scars from having things cut off.  Fine.  I still break out occasionally but now I’m more concerned with things like wrinkles and sun damage.  And let’s not forget all the fun things that come along with having children: stretch marks, sagging skin, spider veins, varicose veins, and oh yeah, where did my ass go?

Yet, I can accept all of it.  Accept it.  Don’t like it.  Doesn’t make me feel sexy.  But I’ll accept it.  But geez, it’s a constant battle to remind ourselves that we are beautiful, unique creatures when there is a daily barrage of rail thin, seemingly perfect women who do not age.  (And I’ve convinced myself that they never fart or have bad breath and all of their finances are in order and their homes are never dirty.)  So where does that leave us??

I guess at the end of the day, we all make choices, wardrobe and otherwise, that make us comfortable and perhaps even happy.  With age we come to realize that we can only be the best version of ourselves that we can visualize for ourselves, not the version Jillian Michaels or Vogue is selling to us.  And with age comes wisdom (hopefully some) and more importantly humor (hopefully a lot) because laughing at the wiggly part on the back of our arms or a Bob Hope nose can be a wonderful thing.

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