You are. Have you seen this Dove commercial that went viral?
When women were asked to describe their physical appearance to a forensic sketch artist, they were way off. They described themselves as much more unattractive than they really were.
Feelings of not measuring up to rigid beauty standards start early. Did you know that by middle adolescence, most girls show huge plummets in their self-esteem. They go from these cute little ” I-can-take-on-the-world daughters” to “Why am I so ugly? How can I change myself? I wish I looked more like _____.”
Mirror, mirror on the wall …
Western culture is tough on women and their self-esteem. We are supposed to be physically attractive. Yet, youth, thinness, and specific archetypes of beauty are rigidly defined and unreachable for the vast majority of the population.
I remember reading The Beauty Myth by Naomi Campbell. Did you know news footage of accidents or any important news items will always try to feature pictures of thin,”attractive” young women? So, if there is a bus accident and an obese woman is wounded, “attractive” and thinner victims are shown in the coverage.
Since I read this, I began looking more closely at news features and cover story photos. Sure enough, even well-respected new organizations tend to put the pretty young thing on the cover, even if the background is an earthquake or a war. So annoying. And what an impact on our emotions and self-esteem! I think this is just one specific variable amongst many others. However, the messages are strong and clear.
What can you do to accept and love how you look?
- Find something you really like about your appearance. I really like my shoulders and arms. (I could easily list the things I don’t like, but I am NOT going to do this.) Focus on that when you catch yourself being self-critical.
- Read The Beauty Myth or access other articles and information to understand more fully how you are being influenced on a massive level, without even knowing it.
- Avoid critical self-talk. It comes very easily in our society. For every negative comment you make, you must say something positive about yourself. I suggest something like … if you catch yourself saying “I am so fat!” then say, “and I am a special and loving person.”
- Place yourself in the future, when you’re say 80. Look back at your now body. Some say this is powerful.
- Appreciate your differences as defining and special. I have always had a love-hate relationship with my saddlebags. They run deeply into my German matriarchy heritage. A lot of my aunts and cousins share the same hip-to-waist ratio, if you know what I mean. I once had an aunt who I was visiting see me bending over in the parking lot. I had driven across the country to see her and she didn’t know I had arrived. She screamed, “I would know that Neubert butt anywhere! It must be one of us Neubert women.” At first, I was so freaking annoyed. Nowadays, I have come to appreciate my pear shape as being an outward symbol of my connection to these strong, lovely women who share my bloodline (and my shape).
- Speak more lovingly about yourself. Try to stop comparing yourself to others. Or, at least try to stop yourself when the negative self-talk begins. It is so cruel.
How do you protect your self-esteem? How do you undermine your positive self-esteem? What techniques do you use to counter this? Let’s share strategies! We are all in this together.
Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW, is a therapist living in Chicago. She also blogs about home, work, life and love at www.stopgivingitaway.com.