When I started this series, it was with a singular goal: to show you how damaging society’s messages can be to women, and how we perpetuate these messages everyday. Self-esteem – do you have any? Can you look in the mirror and see someone that you like, or do you, more often than not, tell yourself that you’re not good enough because you have extra weight, or dark circles, or wrinkles?
Are you a bully, spreading nasty rumours about your self-worth based on what you think you should look like? Are you able to see your external as merely the packaging to someone accomplished, someone wonderful and someone who sets goals, who is able to attain nearly anything?
We all should, even if for the simple reason that we are Mom. We have a hand in raising the next generation – one destined to create something amazing out of this world.
We have the most influential roles in how our children, and especially our daughters, feel about themselves. Parents model behaviour and children, especially during their earliest, most formative years, pick up cues about how they should think, behave and process the world around them. It’s a rare child who will act upon what they’re told, rather than what they witness.
Think about that the next time you’re standing in front of a mirror, talking to yourself about how ‘fat’, ‘ugly’ or ‘flabby’ you are. Your daughter is watching and learning, and soon may find herself in front of that same mirror.
Today, let’s focus on negativity, and how to eradicate it. How can we change the messages we tell ourselves and reduce them to static? How can we turn off the sound, so that no static exists?
- Throw out the magazines if you can’t rationalize that every single woman in them has been edited in some fashion – to appear thinner, more taut, unblemished, unlined, and even hairless.
- Turn off the TV or leave the theatre if watching a movie is going to trigger your negative self-talk. Entertainment isn’t worth self-esteem.
- Find three things you love about your appearance. Now.
- Compare your children to yourself. Look at them – they’re beautiful. Observe your likeness in them. Did she get your sparkling eyes?
- Take pride in what you’ve done today, this week, this month and this year. What you’ve created, succeeded at and how you’ve contributed.
- For every negative thought based on your appearance, find an alternative. Instead of thinking I’m so fat, consider instead I don’t feel healthy and my clothes aren’t fitting the way I would like.
- Append alternative thoughts with positives. Take I don’t feel healthy and my clothes aren’t fitting the way I would like, and add but I successfully quit smoking and I eat a variety of vegetables.
- Find the problem and find the solution. You may be overweight, but you can increase healthy habits by eating a variety of healthy, unprocessed foods and seeking out exercise.
- Don’t weigh yourself – judge your Self based on how content you are with your health and life.
- Realize that umbrella statements are always incorrect, sometime. You are not your degree, children’s behaviour, income or address. What kind of a car you drive does not define you. Neither does your weight, size or appearance.
- Shut up, already. Stop talking about physical appearance, period – without judgements, over/unders, fat/skinny, old/young, etc. Try it for 24 hours and notice how much more important the rest of it all seems.
- Think of why you consider people close to you as beautiful. Is it merely because of their size or appearance, or is it a holistic term, based upon who they are? This is how it should be.
- Remember: you’re your own best friend and worst enemy. You wouldn’t stand for someone treating your girlfriend badly – you’d speak up, argue, or defend her. You owe yourself the same.
- Seek out activity. Not just exercise, and not just as a method of weight control. Find something that gets you motivated to move, for the simple act of movement and enjoyment.
- Name your reasons to change your self-talk. Is your self-esteem effecting your children, or do you worry that it will? Has your sex-life fizzled? Do you find yourself not seeking promotions at work, or stuck in a job because you’ve told yourself that you don’t merit better?
- Imagine who you want to be and just be. Do you want to live in the moment, enjoying every bit of wonder that your children absorb? Then do – even if you’re wearing sweatpants and without makeup.
- See your doctor for a full physical. S/he will be able to tell you whether there are any physical issues that need attention, and give you advice on how to proceed.
- If you’re crippled by low self-esteem, consider medication and/or talk therapies, such as group or cognitive-behavioural.
- When you receive a compliment, say thank you. This is hard for anyone with low self-esteem, regardless of its source. We make minimizing statements or argue away the compliment. Don’t.
- Don’t compare yourself to models, actresses, your best friend, the bitchy chick in high school. If anyone, compare yourself to You.
- Stop looking for something wrong in the mirror and find what’s right. This goes back to finding three things you love about your appearance, but it can be so much more. It can be that you’ve mastered flat-ironing your hair within the time it takes for your kids to brush their teeth and get dressed in the morning. It can be the scarf that matches your eyes. It can be the flush you have from a mid-day quickie with your partner.
- Apply your successes to your appearance. You’ve earned degrees and you got sober, then completed a triathalon while being a single parent. That deserves some wrinkles, sister.
- Look at things from another perspective. Wrinkles, for example, aren’t negative proof of aging and unattractiveness. They’re evidence of deep thought, passion, laughter and days filled with sunshine, for the world to see.
- Seek health, not perfection. You may never be a size two. Two decades ago, a size two wasn’t ideal; four, a size eight was considered thin. More: fifteen years ago, a size two was actually sold as a size four. There is no ‘perfect size’, period.
- Know how the fashion industry works: super-thin models are used because clothes hang on them, keeping the emphasis on the design, not the person displaying it; sizes have gotten smaller to convince women that they’re thinner and to create a greater division between the larger and smaller sizes (thus feeding income into weight-loss enterprises); print advertisements are created using lighting, heavy makeup, airbrushing, computerized sculpting, creative pinning of garments, green screens and even taping. They are selling an image to make money, and that image is sex appeal.
- Embrace the hourglass. The ideal stats for a woman were, and still remain: equal hip and bust measurements, with a waist 8-10″ smaller. So, even if your bust is 38″, and your waist 30″? You’re fabulous.
- Throw out the hourglass. If you’re rocking a pear-shaped body with an amazing butt, continue as you are. Everyone lacking what you’re rocking will envy your rear view. Same goes for women with cups that ooze femininity, divas with muscles that scream strength and waifs who echo grace.
- Frame a picture of yourself. Whether you have a boudoir-type of photo done, or it’s a very candid black and white with your head thrown back in laughter, no matter. What matters is that this photo is one that makes you feel at home in your self, and that it’s on display somewhere – even in your bedroom or en suite.
- Fire your inner critic.
- Be logical, but a bit shallow. Whether you’re in a relationship or not, look at the people you’ve tended to couple with. Science shows that couples tend to be equally attractive. So that hunk? Was seeking out his equal, unconsciously – you.
- Make a list of all of the things that you don’t like about yourself, whether physical or not, and prioritize their importance to your self-esteem. Mind-map ways to solve the issues associated with them, working from most important to least. You’ll find that some of the issues dissolve along the way.
- Get perspective. You may have proof of pregnancy, but some women can’t give birth. You might have scars from acne, but some have scars from abuse. There is someone, somewhere, that has it worse; there is someone that you think has it all, who feels completely without worth or beauty.
- Find gratitude. You’re alive, healthy and (I’m assuming) able to live a life free of persecution, with running water, electricity and a family you love. You’ve got food, a way to cook it, and a way to ensure that no one gets sick from eating it. You live a plentiful life and that’s not anything to take for granted.
- Write. Speak. Listen. Become a part of something bigger than yourself, your family or your community. Join in causes that challenge you as a individual, and bolster your self-worth (and self-esteem) in the process. Run a 5K for a charity. Give spa treatments to women fleeing from abusive homes. Volunteer time with a non-profit. Prepare grant proposals. Creating charities’ web-sites. Listen to someone who needs an ear; don’t advise or fix. Talk to students about bullying, acceptance, abuse, rape, drugs, alcoholism, religion, teenage pregnancy, eating disorders, or any other issues that are important to you. Appear at conferences and media events, and submit editorials to print publications.
- Repeat after me: The only person who can make you feel ugly is yourself, if you let yourself. Pass it on.