What if we just looked in the mirror and said, for once, “I like what I see”? What if we allowed ourselves to be happy or in love with our appearance or who we are on the inside?
What do we LOSE by liking ourselves? What do we sacrifice by daring to validate and value who we are? Why do we think we need someone else to do that job for us, when we can’t even do it ourselves?
Think about it.
This is what I thought about in the shower the other day. D and I have an ensuite bathroom and our shower has no walls or doors. It’s just a wide open space with a floor drain and a shower head in a tiled corner of the bathroom (it’s quite lovely actually), and almost inevitably, he will come in while I’m showering so that he can shave or do whatever. In reality, he’s coming in to get a “peek” of what he considers his sexy wife in the shower. But in my mind, I am horrified to be so exposed and so, I try to cover up my flaws by turning away from him. I feel very awkward in the buff and despise the harsh fluorescent lights (what woman doesn’t?!). And every time this happens I can’t help but ask myself, Why can’t I just relax?!
In his mind, and I am going only on what he tells me all the time, I am sexy and beautiful. In my mind I see cellulite, flabbiness, fat and wrinkles. When I look at my face, I don’t see what he sees. I see ugly, worn out and old.
How can two people, looking at the same object, have such a different perspective? More importantly, why do I insist on carrying around this negative attitude and poor self-image when I logically know that it’s not true?
I began to think that perhaps our negative self-image gives us something, is a comfort to us or holds some kind of value. Why else would we maintain such a desctructive and irrational point of view? So, I asked myself, what does it give me? And what sense of comfort might I lose by getting rid of it? When I was brutally honest this is what I came up with:
- Assimilation: By confirming that I am ugly, or imperfect, it validates that I AGREE WITH and CONDONE the western cultural belief that beauty is Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell. And that anyone with any sense of self-confidence who doesn’t look like a model is just fooling herself and is thus, laughable (case in point: any overly confident reality TV show personality who fancies herself “hot” but, in reality, or rather, by Hollywood standards, is overweight, flawed, a bad dresser, average or generally unattractive). By agreeing with this notion of beauty, by feeding into this falsity, I am nonetheless, fitting into my culture. I am able to not only judge others like the westerner that I am, but I am able to judge myself as well. And that makes me feel good to be accepted by my culture and to know that I am capable of assimilation.
- Humility: In many religions (Christianity in particular), we are taught to be humble and to shun over-confidence; “for whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 14:11). I am able to use my humility as a positive part of what I, as a whole person, offer as part of my package. I am clearly not a narcissist and my low sense of self worth is therefore a virtue.
- Judgment: People bond together over shared values and, unfortunately, over shared judgments. My friends and I (and even my husband and I) will sit in a cafe and people watch, and of course, whether we’d like to admit it or not, we judge. Look at her…who does she think she is…and so on. When I am part of a group that shares the same judgments, I can clearly see how others are “ranked,” myself included. And while my friends will never insult me or call me fat or ugly, they will look at strangers with a similar body-shape as me and judge and laugh and make fun. By joining them in their judgments of others, not only am I bonding with my friends, I am also adopting my group’s point of view, whether it be right or wrong. And since many in my group are harsh and judgmental, and have a very closed-minded and narrow definition of beauty, I will too–especially when it comes to judging myself.
- Progress: IF I accept myself as is and love the person in the mirror as she is, it means I am done changing. That no progress or improvements need to be made and that I accept that THIS IS IT. Well, that’s a bit scary because America was built on progress. Even in recovery, we say, progress not perfection. My less-than-perfect self-image allows me to accept that there is room to grow and become an even better me. Unfortunately, that kind of “room to grow” ends up being more of a dangling carrot than a satisfying motivation to become “better.” Why? Because there is no end to how much better a person can become. Even if I lost 10 pounds and toned the hell out of this bod, got a boob job and a facelift, there’d still be more progress to make…
- Validation: Lastly, my poor sense of self gives me what many unhealthy people seek to make themselves feel good: pity and lots of verbal compliments. Every time I feel crushed under the weight of my own low self-esteem and I make it known, people pacify me by telling me that I am beautiful, thus, validating and valuing me. By having this sort of validation come from an outside source, as opposed to from within me, it makes my job to love myself a heck of a lot easier. I don’t have to do the work, others can do it for me! Thing is, it only lasts so long. People change their minds, you change. I would have to keep seeking fresh validation in order to feel loved and that’s hard work.
So…now that I know the reasons why I hold on to my poor self-image, I can work to bust through all these myths, these FALSE beliefs. Today, I will try my hardest to look in the mirror and say, it’s OK to like myself. Even if I go against my culture, refuse to see being humble as a virtue, get a NEW more open-minded sense of judgment, scrap the whole progress not perfection mentality, and validate myself, it’s OK to see myself as beautiful.
11 thoughts on “What if we actually liked ourselves?”
I think Love in its purest form is the absence of all (negative) judgment. When I look at my wife and feel Love I never think “I Love everything about you but this…..” It’s an absurd notion, yet I was one to do the same thing to myself at one point in my life. I feel the road to self-Love begins with the elimination of regret. Ponder this for a moment. Regrets are grudges we hold against ourselves. When we hold a grudge against someone else we are harboring a sense of payback towards that person and it usually is fantasized with punishment of some kind. When we do the same to ourselves through regret the mind says “punish yourself” and we don’t even know we are doing it. When we accept ourselves wholly we not only eliminate unseen pain and roadblocks, but excuses. Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from being perfect at following this mindset myself, but I am much more adept at recognizing it quickly and stopping it before it becomes a burden. The two things have been hardest (other than my recovery) in my life were this. First, around age 30 (I’m 49 now) I was finally able to say to my reflection “I am a man.” Really. Hard a hard time with that one for years. Secondly, around age 40 when I was still almost 350 pounds (I eventually got down to 202 in 2009) I was able to say “I Love you.” This was because I had no regrets AND I knew my potential; which by the way continues to grow. I wrote some time back an entry to my blog called “Eliminating Regret” perhaps it might at least entertain. I enjoyed your post and look forward to others. Daniel
“When we accept ourselves wholly we not only eliminate unseen pain and roadblocks, but excuses.” YOU SAID IT. All of which I speak are excuses. And I love the concept of holding a grudge against yourself and the concept of knowing your potential. The more I thought of the whole “progress not perfection” thing, the more I thought, well, maybe people might think I mean that they no longer have to eat well or exercise. But that’s so far from the truth. You could think of yourself as complete and “perfect” but still add positive activities to your daily regimen. And why would you do this if you perceived yourself as perfect? Because the idea of exercising or eating well would not be done because you are trying to improve yourself. It would be done because you love yourself and recognize what it takes to make an investment in yourself. Knowing your potential is thus, simply disguised as loving yourself and taking action to support that love 🙂
Most, if not all of my harsh judgements originated when I was a young girl/woman. I was a “hottie” and my outward “model” appearance/body opened just about every door I wanted into. I can remember seeing old women with dried up-cracked feet/toenails or other “unsightly” characteristics and thinking/judging how ugly it looked. Of course, now, as a mature woman myself, I have numerous “unsightly” characteristics myself and still judge them as ugly. Many characteristics I cannot change because of aging.
So, I guess I have to mourn the loss of my outward beauty and youth. I have to give up comparing myself as I look now with how I used to look when I was young. I console myself by reminding myself that at least I got to experience being young and beautiful for a season. I also realize that I was an empty shell of a person back in the day. I got by on my looks and did not have to develop a good personality and a genuine set of soulful values. You’ve taught us about developing values here. Back in the day, my values and self-esteem were based on my false beliefs based on my outward beauty. Today, my values have to be re-tooled based on something else….something that is foreign….genuine worthiness based on my character and who I am inside.
Second, I distrust what men say. I do not believe that a man finds sagging boobs sexy. I always default with the belief that men say whatever they think I want to hear in order to get sex. I admit this belief needs to be examined in therapy. However, I don’t find a fat, sagging gut sexy and I won’t say that I do. I can still accept it. My reality today is that I am looking inward at my character, my heart and soul. I value myself for different things today. This helps me to accept myself and my new physique and consequently that of others. Accepting my body and thinking it is sexy are two different things. First I must accept, then I can like, and after that I can love.
Thank you for writing about this subject. I will continue to think about my judgements and evaluate their origins. I will continue to eat right, exercise, and go to counseling because good mental, spiritual, and physical health are what I value today.
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30 NIV
“Accepting my body and thinking it is sexy are two different things.” Well said! And I think you hit on an important point: the sexualization of who we are. Why do we have to be sexy at all to accept ourselves???? Something more I need to ponder! 🙂 As for sagging boobs, I LOLed after that comment. I was blessed with 32 DDD (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) and despite breast feeding they are still decent. They are, however, much closer to my belly button than they used to be as gravity has taken its toll. Yet, D says they’re beautiful, almost to the poin tof annoying me. Anytime I’m changing clothes and he catches a glimpse, it’s like a Pavlovian response for him. I truly believe that men do not see our flaws like we see our flaws. And I do believe that despite the sag, D does find them rather attractive. They’re not perfect, but he has access and that, I guess, is the bigger turn on. Anyway, I too must keep working on my values and keep things in perspective. It’s hard, but I like the challenge. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!
Love, love, love your posts.
And I’m so happy I found you.
Your insights are a blessing to me!
Thank you Joy. How nice of you to say so!
I’ve always been WAYYYY overly modest. I have a naturally really small chest (A cup) and I had breast implants for a while, which I then got removed. I was so happy that my breasts weren’t saggy after I got them removed even though I had had children (never nursed because my implants screwed that up somehow – I never got milk). I feel like I look okay except for my C-section scar which is REALLY effed-up because I was bleeding to death and they had to sew me up the best they could to save my life. It ain’t pretty. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get it fixed.
I think I’d die if some guy I was with walked in on me in the shower. When I was married, I always covered my body up with a towel or sheet in front of my husband. It made him so mad. I’d never let him shower with me. I’ve always dreamed I could have someone to bathe and/or shower with but I think my commitment fears would keep me from ever doing that because I’d be scared to show them my REAL body with the big scar across my stomach. I know no one is perfect but…WOW. That would be a frightening thing for me.
June – I’m so glad your husband loves you as you are. I’ve never felt loved like that. I have about decided I never will be. I did an awesomely stupid thing this weekend and told a male friend I liked him. He very mercifully told me he only liked me as a friend. I felt like the biggest dumb idiot in the entire world. He told me he thought it was awesome I could be honest though and still hung out with me the rest of the night. I know it’s my LA…I’m so desperate for love and attention. Gosh, I am pathetic. I wish I could find a therapist I could go to every single day. I really feel like just getting into my car and driving away sometimes…I might do it if I didn’t have kids.
You just don’t like yourself Anna. And you’re not alone. Millions of people feel the same way you feel about yourself. Nothing weird or unique about your situation. But guess what…the only reason you feel this way is because you were never TAUGHT self-esteem. You most likely had a very insecure parent. But you can teach yourself. You can learn to like you, and you can even learn to accept that scar. You may never like it! But you may be able to accept it as part of you. Heck, many women can and should be proud of their birthing scars. Everytime I get grossed out about the way my body healed after giving birth to my second son (it’s not pretty either!) I turn it around and think, this scar was worth it if it meant bringing such a beautiful human being into the world. Start to look at YOU and your body in a new light. Not as you “wish” you looked, but as you are. Human! Seek a new perspective from others who are suffering with scars. How do they deal with it? Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head. SHe has scars that she cannot hide. How does she feel about it? Try to motivate yourself to think differently about being human… 🙂
That story was amazing…I guess I do need to remember that my scar could be from something much worse. The girl showed extreme bravery and also received her scar for a very good reason. It’s so easy to become self-absorbed. My mom was extremely insecure – she has always thought she was fat and ugly, even when she weighed 90 pounds. She never even thought she was “good” enough to go into a store like Macy’s. I don’t want to pass along these feelings to my kids – all the better reason to start feeling better about myself. I’m all for self-improvement but I am for self-acceptance too.