I know that people laugh at clowns and that is precisely my point with this picture – I felt as though I looked like a clown most of my younger days. It didn’t matter that my mother, aunts and grandparents said I was pretty or cute because inside I felt goofy looking. When I looked in the mirror I saw someone that should be laughed at because she was very funny looking.
I was teased in school constantly by other children who would say the meanest things about my hair. Looking around at the other children, it was obvious that I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was very pale with lots of freckles on my face and bright orange hair that my mother had me wear in a style something like a bouffant. So not only did I look different than other children, I felt that I didn’t fit in with them. I was inferior. I agonized over this day in and day out, but never breathed a word to my parents about it because, well, they were my parents. We all know that parents say you are beautiful even when you are really ugly, so I didn’t value their opinion at all.
Definition Of Body Image
The mental picture that you have of your body or how you see yourself when you look in the mirror is called your body image. When you have a healthy body image, you appreciate your body, take care of yourself and “feel good in your own skin”. However, a negative body image is the complete opposite of a healthy body image and it can bring about many health problems and stress causing attitudes such as:
- Low self-esteem
- Eating disorders
As I got older, my hair turned from a bright orange to an orange-red color. I kept it very short because it was easy to care for without much work, I thought it would make my neck hot and there was less hair to attract attention. By the time I had become a teenager, I was a professional at blending in with the wall and suffered because of it. During this time, I started growing my hair a little bit. My self-image had turned from clown to a monstrous beast like Chewbacca in Star Wars. I felt socially inept and I still didn’t fit in with the crowd.
While other kids were breaking curfew, drinking and smoking weed, I stayed home every night studying. When I finished studying, there was always a book around to immerse myself in so that I didn’t have to think about what a terrible, ugly, tall outcast I was compared to my very petite, short and socially active sister with her millions of friends and boyfriends. So to spare myself from always facing my own inadequacies, I hid in my room, studied and read books to escape from myself. Did it work? Hmmmm…Yes, it did work temporarily, but when the sun rose in the morning and I had to head back to school, the dreaded gloom of nonacceptance and the reality of my ugliness was very evident. There was no escaping myself in the bright light of day.
By the time I got out of high school, I had accepted my ugly appearance. My sister was a tiny size zero, sported a golden tan and always had a boyfriend. She married a very handsome man and had a beautiful daughter. Her life proved that I was as ugly as I always believed.
In my early twenties, I met a very handsome “man” who said he “loved me” and I thought for sure he must be blind or crazy. Even though my hair had lightened to a soft red and hung to my waist in flowing curls, I felt very old fashioned, ugly and stupid. Somehow as the years had passed, I just tacked on more negative adjectives. I never felt pretty and “beautiful” was merely a word for other people.
I ended up married to this handsome man and entered a family filled with handsome and beautiful people. I was convinced that I was the ugliest of them all and hoped that I would have a child with their gorgeous features and golden bronze skin. I knew that if I had a beautiful baby, then my child would never have to go through the horrible experiences that I suffered. So I accepted my ugliness because I had a handsome husband and a firm hope that I would have a beautiful child.
Reasons For A Negative Body Image
No one wants a negative body image, but many people have one, especially women. Here are a few reasons that we have a negative body image:
- Body weight is not what you think it should be
- We compare ourselves to other people
- The media constantly shows and tells us that we need to be thinner
- We are sick and/or depressed
- Friends or family are critical of our body
I had a poor self-image because I had very little self-esteem. Self-image is what we see in the mirror, but self-esteem is our evaluation of our own self-worth. Self-esteem includes everything from our emotions and beliefs to our abilities. I believed that I was ugly and not as good as anyone else no matter how much I tried to succeed. That battle inside of me molded me into a perfectionist who overcompensates in order to prove my worth to a husband, parent, child, friend, employer and anyone else I come in contact.
Believe me, it hasn’t been easy. I always felt if I had blonde hair and tanned skin, the world would be my oyster. It sounds silly and totally irrelevant especially because I have one standard for me and a different one for everyone else. I expect perfection of myself because that is the only way I am worthy enough to be loved. Isn’t that stupid?
13 Ways To Improve Your Body Image
There are a few things that I have learned about body image and how to improve it if you are suffering as I have most of my life. As we age, our bodies will start sagging, bagging and wrinkling, so it is VITAL to learn to love and respect our body. Think about it, your body has gotten you to this point, so be thankful for the great job it is doing and enjoy it! Let me list a few tips on how to improve your body image:
- Eat nutritious food to help maintain the proper weight for your bone structure and height. It will also aid in your health. Skip the crazy diets and change your lifestyle. If you don’t buy the food that is cruddy for your body, it won’t be in the house to consume. Focus on fresh food and a constant weight.
- Exercise to keep your body fit, control the fat and to release those happy endorphins in your brain. Remember, the older we get, the weaker our bones, so give your body a little help to strengthen the muscles around those bones. If you think you don’t have “time” to exercise, simply turn off the television and you will be amazed how much more time you suddenly have available for exercising.
- Sleep during the night and take naps when you can squeeze them into your schedule. A rested body performs better and the brain needs the time to sort through your billions of thoughts.
- Wear the clothes you want to wear whether they are “in fashion” or not. The most important thing is that you feel good in the clothes and they are comfortable.
- Stop being so critical of your weight, height, color of your hair, number of freckles on your skin, angle of your nose, length of your eyelashes, number of wrinkles on your face and a billion other things I’m sure you could think of about your body. Let it go! You are unique and beautiful just the way you are now. Yes, I can see you!
- Don’t compare yourself to other people. Seriously, stop comparing yourself to other people.
- Say positive things about your body all the time. I’m sure if you think for just a few seconds, it isn’t that hard to come up with ten things that are super great about you. What? Umm…no, I’m not listing anything about myself. I’m GIVING advice, but that doesn’t mean I’m so good at taking it. Shhhh…I’m not done with my list yet!
- Pamper your body often with long showers, relaxing bubble baths, soothing massages, manicures, pedicures, naps and soothing massages. Oh, I don’t think I said soothing massages. By the way, I need a soothing massage.
- Avoid the pictures on magazines because they will add to your feelings of inadequacy. No one looks as good as the models on the covers including the models on the covers. Don’t set unhealthy and unattainable expectations of yourself or for your body.
- Avoid people who cut you down or make fun of you all the time. No negative stuff allowed! Instead, keep a circle of friends and/or family that buoy you up because they appreciate your talents, knowledge, heart and appearance.
- Understand and accept your genetics. Seriously, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Have you ever gotten to know a REALLY gorgeous person and then suddenly they aren’t so attractive anymore? Yeah, that is because beauty encompasses far more than just your physical appearance. All the things about you that can’t be immediately seen make you more beautiful. Remember, you are not a size or shape. You are a person of value, knowledge, talent and heart.
- Love yourself just the way your are right now.
- Participate in sex often. Of course I’m going to include it on the list! Sex is great for your body, health, self-esteem AND self-image. Really, the only thing better than a Krispy Kreme Doughnut is sex and a Krispy Kreme Doughnut. Don’t act surprised. Surely you knew I was going to say that even if I do have to remain grain free because of my allergy. So not to get sidetracked, let me repeat myself and tell you to have sex often because you will feel great about yourself.
Now you know the definition of body image, reasons for a negative body image and 13 ways to improve your body image. You have also heard my struggle with my own self-esteem and body image. The one thing I haven’t said is that ONLY YOU can change a negative view of yourself. Always comparing yourself to other people and coming up short is really a sad way to live. People who really love you think you are handsome/beautiful. They love the real you, not just your body, so be yourself. I think this quote sums it up well…