A while back, I wrote a post that, in essence, encapsulated my belief in being happy with the way we look and not getting wrapped up in feeling inferior to models and actresses and porn stars and icons of beauty. For heavens’ sakes, we are born with a particular genetic make-up that defines what we’re going to look like and what our strengths will be (emotional, intelligence-wise, physically, etc); each of us is unique, and each of us should feel empowered and encouraged to embrace those positive elements of ourselves that set us apart.
After more than 40 years on this planet, simmering in this stew of images that I can’t possibly live up to, I have finally come to embrace and love my looks for the simple fact that they are mine, but that doesn’t mean I’m not hit with powerful moments of insecurity. Of course I am. These days I love myself the way I am, not because I suddenly see something different staring back at me in the mirror, but because I choose to focus on the good things with what I call “shake it off” thoughts. As in, I shake off the negative with something positive. It goes something like this, when I look in the mirror:
- Initial Thought: Jeez, I seriously have no chest. And what’s there is, well, let’s be honest, it’s nothing to get excited about. And what do men dig? Boobs. Something I don’t have, something I’ll never have (and something, frankly, I have no interest in spending money to acquire). Shake-It-Off Thought: But you know what? I have kick-arse arms.* Yes, they may be a bit muscular for some, but I like their definition. I like how they physically represent my independence and strength, and darn it, they represent hard work!
- Initial Thought: My face is so masculine. Why do I have to have such a masculine face? If only my jaw were a little less square or my nose maybe more petite. I look so harsh and overbearing. Shake-It-Off Thought: But you know what? I have pretty eyes and a genuine smile, and together they overcome the harshness of my other features. So I’ll just make sure to keep looking people in the eye, and I’ll find a million things to make me smile every day.
- Initial Thought: I am so short. Not petite. Short. Stubby little legs. Men like “leggy,” and women want to be “leggy,” and if there’s one thing I’ll never be… it’s “leggy.” Shake-It-Off Thought: But you know what? My legs are strong, and they can run for hours. And if you can’t get into short, then you probably don’t need to be around me anyway. Besides, let’s face facts: I love being small.
We get into this mentality where we feel we need to compete for attention, for attraction, for love, even when the people from whom we want attention or attraction or love are supposed to be “ours.” We feel that we’re under constant threat of being deemed “less than” and being judged harshly against or even turned away for a newer, younger, taller, fitter, boobier model. And you know what – whether that comes from the people we adore or from our own internal demons, that sucks. It’s unacceptable.
We all need to do a better job of putting a stop to this kind of pressure and judgment, from others and from ourselves. We need to turn around these thoughts in our own heads, and we need to spend less time around the people in our lives who feed our insecurities.
In the spirit of “owning” this, I will share two images. Here’s the set-up: I am in the best shape of my life. No joke. I am stronger, fitter, slimmer (but not scrawny) and generally healthier than I have ever been. I worked hard, over several years post-baby, to get to this point, and I work hard to stay fit. And yet, what do I tend to see first when I look in a mirror? My stomach. Not the tight muscles of my core that help me stand straight and keep good form when walking and running… no, my eyes immediately go to the loose skin that is the hallmark of my pregnancies. Because I can tighten the muscles all I want, but the skin covering those muscles was stretched in a way that simply will never bounce back.
If I stand up straight, you can’t see it, but if my stomach is exposed and I bend forward at all, it ain’t a pretty sight. So when I see myself in the mirror, instead of seeing this…
… I tend to immediately focus on this. And then I feel embarrassed and unattractive and decide that I want to live the rest of my life covered in multiple layers of sweaters. Maybe in Alaska.
So let’s promise to do this, together. Let’s all try harder to focus on things like that first image above, on the positive, on the strengths we have naturally and those we’ve worked hard to establish. Let’s try to move past our initial, negative thoughts and to focus on our shake-it-off thoughts, our strengths, the things that make us feel strong and confident and, well… uniquely “us.” And let’s do a better job of shutting out the people in our lives who – deliberately or inadvertently – steer us toward insecurity.
Won’t you join me?