Yes, I’m a man and I’m writing about a woman’s self-image. Now if you aren’t mature enough to not say something other than, “Oh, he’s a man, what could he possibly know about a woman’s self-image?” then you aren’t mature enough to understand that number one, men can also have poor self-images and self-esteem, but number two, you wouldn’t be mature enough to understand what you’re about to read anyway, so it’s probably best that you don’t continue. However, if your mind is open enough, read on.
A friend of mine posted something on her Facebook that I saw yesterday and that inspired me to write this. It had to do with her self-image not being as great as she would like. Now self-image could be any combination of how a person’s body looks, how his or her face looks, or anything else involved when we look in the mirror at ourselves. While this can very well happen to men also, I would like to share my honest opinion on why I feel so many women have poor, or at least substandard self-images.
As the title suggests, it may have much less to do with “self” than you might think.
I will be the first to admit that even though it’s not nearly as much as it once was, I still struggle with my own self-image at times. It’s mostly in the area of my weight. Now a few blog posts from this one, I posted with a shirtless pic of myself. If you saw that, you would think I was insane to say that I ever “struggle” with my self-image. I’m 5’11” and I weigh 188. I look pretty good. I work out 5-6 days a week. I’ve lost about 30 pounds in the past year, which really isn’t much when compared to some other folks, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still significant.
For most of my life until I reached my mid-20s, I had to gain weight to be “skin and bones”…so I was just bones. A poor self-image is what got me into the gym in the first place to start working out. I was able to eat everything in sight and never put on weight…that is, until I reached my late 2os through the present, where eating the wrong foods will put on weight. When this started happening, it was an adjustment, because until then, I’ve never had to concern myself with what I ate or trying to keep weight off.
Here is my point. When I was bones and bones, yes, that got me into the gym, but what contributed to that poor self-image was to see other people who were more muscular than I was. I probably would have been just fine if I didn’t see them as much, but as an avid basketball player back then, I was always around other guys who had meat on them and at times, I’ll admit that I was pushed around on the court and got tired of that.
As far as putting on weight later on is concerned, yes, I said that it bothered me because I was used to being skinny, but what contributed to that was that I again, compared myself to my former self, but also to others who looked the way I used to look. That’s right…what once bothered me ended up bothering me again, but for a different reason.
In both cases, the answer was simple: My poor self-image was largely due to comparing myself to others.
Ladies, that’s just it. I don’t believe your poor self-image has to do entirely with you. It’s no big secret that ladies are harsher toward each other than anyone else and that’s the problem. I honestly feel that many of you, whether consciously or not, compare yourselves to other women and that’s what leads to your negative self-image. In other words, it’s not that you feel you look bad. It’s that you feel you look bad when compared to someone else.
Think about a lot of what we do each day on a CONSCIOUS basis. Think of all the standards we are forced to follow. Someone had to create and set that standard and everything we do from that point is based on that standard. Inevitably, comparisons will happen.
When you’re on the road and someone passes you, the first thought that comes to the minds of many of us is that we must be driving too slowly. Never mind that the person who passed you is doing 100 in a 70 and even you’re doing 80 yourself. The first thought? “I’m driving too slowly for them.” Now if that other driver does not zip by you like that, as far as you would be concerned, your driving is just fine. You wouldnt’ think twice about it.
Ladies, I see so many of you torture yourselves all day and every day over your self-image when all you have to realize is that you are simply comparing yourself to someone else. It doesn’t matter who. It could be your sister, your best friend or even that woman you walked by at the mall earlier in the day. If you have no one to compare yourself to, just as in the driving example, your self-images would be MUCH better.
Now I know that’s easier said than done, so let me offer something constructive here. When you look at the mirror at yourself, what do you see? You see yourself, right? Go deeper. Look at your face. What do you dislike about it? Too big? Too round? Blemishes? Don’t like the shape of your eyes, your nose, and/or your mouth?
Okay. Now ask yourself these questions. If your face is “too” big, what is the standard on “just right”? Someone else. Who says that blemishes are a problem? Someone else (along with all those Clearasil commercials). Don’t like the shape of your eyes, nose and mouth? What’s wrong with the shape? What’s wrong with the size? Even in that case, I can almost guarantee that you will eventually answer those questions (at least when doing so honestly) with “someone else.”
Now let’s talk about your body. Say you’ve recently had a baby and you want to lose that baby weight. Forget the fact that your body on looks the way it does as a result of bringing a LIFE INTO THIS WORLD. Being responsible for someone EXISTING for the next 70-80 years, nah…forget about all that. Just focus solely on the fact that your body isn’t exactly where you’d like it to be, which in turn leads you to feeling that you aren’t attractive.
Now ask yourself…why do I feel fat? Why do I not feel good about myself?
More importantly, where did you learn that gaining baby weight makes you “fat”? Someone else. How did it get into your head that you “need” to lose the baby weight right away and where did that come from?
For the record, I’m no doctor, but I don’t know of too many women or people at all who could carry a LIFE in them for nine months and not put on weight.
Anyway, you get the idea. Even if I’m not RIGHT where you are with how you feel about your body, I’m positive that I’m on the right track. Again, don’t focus on exactly who you’re comparing yourself to. Just know that if you aren’t happy with yourself, that’s likely what’s happening and it doesn’t even have to be on a conscious level. Think of all the things we do on a daily basis without thinking twice about them.
Now add this to the list.
So you’re wondering, “How can I NOT compare myself to others when I’m constantly around people?” Great question, and there’s no real easy answer.
One answer that’s NOT good is for me to say, “Oh, don’t worry about what other people think,” or “F^## ’em.” That adds NOTHING to the conversation and is a pet peeve of mine. I can’t stand when people say that, because you need more than that. People responded to my friend’s post on Facebook in essentially this manner and it does NOT help. To me, it’s dismissive. If it was that easy to just tell you “not worry about it,” then here’s a news flash: YOU WOULDN’T BE WORRIED ABOUT IT…BUT OBVIOUSLY YOU ARE…and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no law that says we aren’t allowed to care what others think and it’s NOT a sign of weakness to do so. Get that out of your mind. Again, when you’re around people all the time, it’s not unusual for your mind to go there. Now some people can more easily disregard what others think, but that doesn’t make them stronger or better than you in any way.
I say this doesn’t help because when people say that, to me, it’s like they’re telling you that it “shouldn’t” be a problem and all you have to do is flip a switch to make it go away. Not that simple.
To answer the question of how you can start working toward limiting how often you compare yourself to others, first you have to understand that it IS a process. You will get there, but it won’t be overnight. Some days will be tougher than others, but each day, it WILL get just a little bit easier if you work at it. I promise.
Next, try to understand that we are ALL at different points in our lives. That doesn’t have to mean that one person is “better” than another. Understand that another woman’s body is THEIR body, not yours. You don’t have to try and “make” your bodies match. Society created the unwritten rules on how our bodies are supposed to look. There’s a reason those rules are unwritten.
Everyone’s body works differently. Even if you tried to get your body to look like someone else’s, sometimes it just never happens. You have to tell yourself, “THAT’S OKAY.” Just because they think you can just “snap” your body to look the way theirs does simply means they don’t understand that you’re all built differently. But YOU do. Keep that in mind.
I could add a bunch more, but I’ll leave it at one more thing: STOP PUTTING DOWN THOSE WHO ARE SMALLER THAN YOU. THAT WILL NOT HELP YOUR SELF-IMAGE. Get it out of your head that “Real women have curves.” Just stop. You’re ALL real. The same body shaming that leads to your negative self-image is what you’re doing. It’s not going to make you feel better. It may give you a quick high because a few others may agree, but when you look in the mirror, that same body is still there…and we know how “highs” are. When you come down, sometimes you really come down.
On top of that, that’s another example of comparing yourself to someone else, which I said more than once above that is a big part of the problem. Your self-image will NOT improve at the expense of someone else. What makes you think a woman smaller than you will actually go along with the whole “Real women have curves” nonsense? They may say more to you that will make you feel worse than you’re trying to make them feel. Keep that in mind.
The bottom line is this: The more you work on YOURSELF, the better you will feel and the more confident you will be. Stop letting others influence how you feel about yourself. Get rid of the pride. The sooner you realize that that’s the case, the sooner you can begin working on improving your self-image, which in turn, will make you feel MUCH better. Take your time. Take your GOOD qualities and build on those as a foundation. I promise, it will get you there.