What if we actually liked ourselves?
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.