Body Image – not just for women
“My thighs are too fat” she said after they had completed 6 sets of 130 stairs.
“You have beautiful legs” was his response.
She did, in fact, have beautiful legs!
But isn’t that what most of us struggle with? We don’t think we are enough or there is too much of us.
Too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short, not enough of this or that. Our hair is too thin, too curly, too straight…. Our face is too long, too square, our eyes are too small, and our lashes are too short. OMG it literally has no end.
I see 10 and 11 year old girls already obsessing over this.
This is apparently also becoming a thing for young men.
Did you realize that if we start with this distorted body image when we are young we are likely to carry it with us throughout our lives?
It rarely gets better by itself!
I grew up during an era when the skin and bones look was in. The Super-model of the day looked like she might break in half if the wind blew too strong.
She was on every magazine cover; there was no escaping the message.
Alas, I had curves, a J Lo butt and curly hair.
Boy, did I feel ugly!
I also had a beautiful mother who spent hours in front of the mirror perfecting her look. The women in my family had strong of opinions about how other women should look.
In other words, they were very critical of others.
My parents used to spend weekends and holidays with another couple. I loved them, they were fun; they laughed a lot and were nice to me. We were frequently invited to their lake-house and all of us females wore bikinis. My mom’s friend had stretch marks on her belly and it definitely wasn’t a six pack, but she had great self-confidence. She wasn’t shy, she felt good about herself.
My mom, however, couldn’t stop criticizing. “How can she walk around in a bikini looking like that? The nerve! She shouldn’t be wearing a bikini”.
My dad was a prominent businessman in town and everyone knew and watched us.
We had to be perfect. Kind of like a celebrity on a smaller scale.
My dad only complimented us when we looked good, never about our personalities or abilities. He loved showing my mom off. My parents went to spas to lose 10 pounds, if they ever gained any weight. We never had candies or any kind of junk food in our house.
When I finally received some allowance, I spent it on candy. It was the most exciting thing for me to be able to buy some of this sugary stuff. My mom’s comment was: “You’ll get fat if you keep eating all these sweets”.
I, of course, heard that I AM fat. So, off I went into my teenage years FEELING fat and unattractive, which I wasn’t.
That’s the environment I grew up in.
Being an observer, I noticed the many different perspectives of my girl-friends. Some were equally self-conscious about their bodies, some were not at all and some were in between.
The ones that weren’t shy about their bodies seemed to have more fun.
They jumped into the pool without worrying how their hair might look afterwards. They freely participated in games, while those of us who felt inadequate physically sat back and watched…..with our perfect hair and sucked in tummies.
Like I said earlier, this distorted perception of self never goes away on its own.
It is such a profound burden! It made me miserable to constantly worry about my appearance, as if I had no other redeeming qualities.
Continuously stressing about what foods I could and couldn’t eat. What outfits looked most flattering, what things I could and couldn’t do.
I had to find a way out of this messed up belief system.
The one thing that helped me the most is something that was not on my radar. My father had a huge Birthday party with a belly dancer. That was my first exposure.
Afterwards, serendipitous events began to happen.
We visited Egypt and saw several belly dancers.
We spent a week with friends at their beach house, where we all played music and danced. One of the women there (I didn’t know her very well) was very confident and frequently danced for all of us.
She was a Belly dancer. I was intrigued.
On Face Book I discovered that she also performed on stage and I noticed that in some obscure corner of my mind there was a small part that was envious.
Then a friend suggested that we take a class together. I was not fully ready to put myself in that position, but I did it anyway.
Turned out my friend couldn’t make it and there I was: by myself. This is what I discovered.
- This is a complex workout! I learned to move parts of myself I didn’t know I had.
- I had to connect fully with my body, from my fingertips to my toes.
- There is a deeply feminine sensuousness at work that goes beyond the physical self.
- I saw all sorts of bellies and after a while I began to accept my own belly…..my whole body.
I believe for each of us there is that one thing that will help shift a faulty body image, something that allows us to become whole. Belly dancing may not be right for you. It could be surfing, dancing, hula hooping, yoga, excelling at a skill……whatever it is that begins to take the focus off your appearance and onto your whole being.
- It’s important to be healthy. Eating fresh foods, eliminating sugars and processed foods makes us feel better.
- It’s important to exercise. Human bodies are not meant to sit all day. They are made to move.
- Find that one practice that makes you feel good about yourself in every way, not just physically.
- Every day take a quiet moment to check in with yourself and know that you are more than your physical appearance.
- Have people in your life that emphasize your inner beauty, not your physical hotness.
- Let’s compliment and encourage girls for their qualities, not their looks.
We need to find our answer; we need to become explorers until we find it. The alternative is insecurity, misery and/or lots of plastic surgery.
If you are interested, here’s more to read and see about belly dance: