What do you see when you look in a mirror? Do you appreciate the face that stares back at you, or do you find fault with it?
How about when you look at your body? Do you immediately notice all the things you believe are less than perfect, or do you rejoice in what you see?
If you think these questions don’t apply to you, because you’ve removed all the mirrors in your home, or you refuse to look in them, you may be wrong.
If you’ve chosen to ignore your looks, what’s your motivation? Do you really not care what you look like, or are you afraid of the feelings that arise when you see your reflection?
I’ve struggled for most of my life with my body image. From the time I became aware that there was an ideal body type, I knew mine was substandard.
Sadly, for me, teenage Twiggy was the epitome of the female form when I was very young. My skeleton will never look like that. That’s not to say I was overweight. But I was tall and slender with curves, not skinny and flat chested.
I inherited my dad’s large bone structure. It means I have a larger head, hands, and feet than the average woman. In my day, saying someone was big boned, was a polite way of saying you were fat.
Even today when I look at pictures of myself beside other women, I distort what I see. It’s hard for me to believe that I’m not the size of a barn.
I’m far from unique in my body shaming experience. Both men and women frequently struggle to see their beauty rather than their faults.
Recently, I came across a photo from my late 20s. I’m in a bikini, on a beach in Greece. I look amazing.
That isn’t, however, what I thought all those years ago. I didn’t want anyone to take my picture because I knew it would look awful. But who listens to me? I’m glad they didn’t.
It’s sad to look at that youthful image and know that I didn’t appreciate my shape. In fact, I actively disliked it.
I still struggle to accept my body. My default behaviour is to find flaws rather than to love myself without judgment.
Aging brings its own version of this madness. The media has encouraged us to believe that beauty is reserved for those who manage to continue to look young.
In an effort to help me with my struggles, the universe recently blessed me with an opportunity to see my beliefs mirrored in someone else.
I spent some time with a gorgeous young woman who’s struggling to see her natural beauty. She’s doing everything she can to alter her facial appearance.
Like me, she sees a distorted image of herself, every time she looks in the mirror.
How can anyone believe they have to look like an airbrushed model to be beautiful? The idea seems crazy, and yet it’s a common affliction.
Knowing something isn’t the same as believing it in your soul.
If you know that you shouldn’t judge yourself, but you still do, here are some ways to work towards a more peaceful and harmonious relationship with your physical self.
- Abandon conventional ideas. Define beauty in ways that aren’t physical. Your attitude and energy have a lot to do with your attractiveness. Practice letting your inner self shine through. That’s where your true beauty lies.
- Practice looking for beauty in real life. Stop looking in magazines and on social media for what you think is attractive. When you pass a person, or meet up with them, consciously look for beautiful traits. It might be sparkling eyes, a ready smile, or lively energy.
- Let your quirks and idiosyncrasies out into the open. Your authentic self is meant to be seen. You may find that you’ve hidden it so well, even you aren’t sure who you are.
- Ditch the makeup and dress for yourself. If this seems scary, start slowly. Aim for a more natural look or start walking your dog before you put on your face. If someone isn’t attracted to you, they aren’t your person.
- Focus more on health than appearance. It’s true when they say beauty starts on the inside. The glow that comes with a sense of wellbeing, is better than any anti-aging cream you can buy. Mirrors and photographs rarely capture that. It isn’t your features that make you attractive, but the energy you carry.
- Reject the feature-altering filters on your camera apps. This is like air brushing a photograph and re-enforces the idea that you should look differently than you do.
- Practice happiness. If you’re happy on the inside, it will seep through to the outside.
It may be difficult to change how society defines beauty, but you and I can shift how we do.
I think Coco Chanel said it best.
“Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.”
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.