“My thighs are too fat.” “My breasts are so weird…” “Ugh. My stomach sticks out too far.” Sound familiar? It’s hard not to get down on ourselves when it comes to appearance. We are constantly bombarded by airbrushed images of perfect-looking models and celebrities. And with those “perfected” images comes the subconscious decree: Look like this or you can forget about being seen as sexy.
This week we’ll continue our series on self-esteem and discuss the damaging effects the hyper-sexualized and wholly unrealistic images have on women. It can infiltrate our self-perception, preventing us from being true to ourselves and having the life we deserve.
When we’re constantly exposed to a standard of thinness and beauty that is impossible for most women to achieve, we can’t help but feel lousy about our looks. 91% of women are unhappy with their appearance. A study in Fiji shows us how much media can influence us. The women of Fiji lived in a culture that prized curves. It had been considered a compliment to be asked if they’d “gained weight”. If someone said, “You’re so thin” it was usually with a voice of concern. After only three years of being subjected to Western body ideals, the young girls of Fiji were fifty percent more likely to exhibit eating disorders. The perception of what was then seen as beautiful changed dramatically. In the western world, we’ve been swimming in this “perfect body” soup for many years. It’s no wonder it can be hard for us to change the way we think about ourselves…and other women.
Too fat, too thin… which is sexy?
There’s nothing wrong with being thin. You don’t have to have a heavier body to combat these harmful messages that we’re constantly bombarded with. One body type isn’t better than another. More important is stopping the negative influence these messages have, and understanding what you believe is right and healthy for your body. Then: embrace it. Being your own Brand of Sexy means just that: learning who you are, what you value, and using your voice to get it. It’s about honoring yourself and what you want, and knowing that it’s how you’ll finally get the relationship you’ve always wanted.
As the late, great Eartha Kitt once said, “It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking for love to compensate for a self-love deficit.” When you love yourself, it becomes easier to find a man who sees you and appreciates you. You might say, “Dr. Susan, that’s easier said than done.” And that’s true, but your self-esteem is worth working for.
Imagine this: All your life you’ve happily looked in the mirror. Bathing suit shopping becomes a hunt for the best fit and color, not torture. If you tried on clothing that didn’t hang right, you knew it was because of the clothing, not something wrong with you.
This level of body-confidence could be our new ideal. When we feel we have to live up to some unrealistic image of the “perfect” body, it’s no wonder we are so reluctant to accept ourselves and everything about our bodies. Girls as young as eight—eight!—are dieting. Plastic surgery and “beauty remedies” are an $11 billion dollar a year industry. We’re trying to fix something about ourselves that isn’t broken in the first place.
How body-acceptance can change your life
What if you decided to take charge of how you see yourself? How much happier could you be throughout a day if you made a point to stop belittling your physical imperfections? Considering the idea of accepting your body as-is can be a first major step towards learning to truly love yourself. Try shifting your focus off your body’s appearance and onto what your body can do. You can also make a habit of pointing out what you love about your body. Great ankles? Strong arms? An hour-glass figure? Consider how much energy you might spend moaning over your body or wrinkles under your eyes. If it was directed at getting the things in life you do want, how much happier could you be?
We have the opportunity to open our minds to a larger point of view about beauty. It includes women of all shapes and sizes, different heights and skin color, and each one of us is unique and lovely just as we are. We can create a healthier, more accepting societal norm by lifting each other up instead of tearing one another down for not meeting unrealistic beauty standards. If we could truly join together as a sisterhood, we’d marvel at an incredibly fit Lady Gaga and her spectacular Superbowl performance instead of mocking her for having stomach skin that isn’t tight like a drum.
We don’t need to change our bodies. We need to change the way we see them. It’s time to love ourselves−and our sisters. We can accept one another and our beautiful differences. When we do this, we’ll be able to break free of these damaging pressures of “body perfection”. This isn’t easy. We’ve been so conditioned to think negatively about ourselves and each other that it will take a real commitment to think positively about yourself and other women. When you think positively, you’ll speak positively and create a new attitude within yourself that lifts you and your sisters up.
My book, Be Your Own Brand of Sexy: A New Sexual Revolution for Women can help you find patterns in your own manner of thinking to help you break free of negative self-worth. You can download and read a FREE excerpt here. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to love yourself. You deserve a happy relationship with a man who respects you.
Next week’s blog will have scenarios of women just like you who have found fault with their appearance and who in turn learned to love themselves and be their own Brand of Sexy. It’s possible to find the confidence to love yourself!
Join the revolution of women here and on Facebook who are taking control of their lives and getting the relationships they’ve always wanted.
You can do this!