Self Confidence and Body Issues
Who would we be if mirrors didn’t exist?
We would prefer it weren’t so, but so much of our self-described identity is wrapped up around how we perceive the way we look. I don’t mean how we look in an is-there-a-stain-on-my-shirt sense, but on a deeper, more profound self-worth level.
Who would you be if you had never seen your reflection in a mirror?
How much has your reflection shaped who you are and how you feel about your value and power in this world?
Negative self-image and its nasty sister, body shame, affect us on a deep level and can be part of what is holding us back from being our best self and a factor in why we are accepting less than the full joy and empowerment we deserve in our lives.
Mirror mirror on the wall
Do you remember looking in the mirror before the age of puberty? Not much, right?
Because we didn’t give a rat’s behind how we looked! We were FREE (from that particular aspect of self).
Never to be free again
From puberty on – our reflection became so much more important to our self-image and self-value. Who we saw reflected in that mirror became linked to our confidence, our self-esteem and in some ways, tied to whether we felt lovable and worthy.
Nothing but the truth
I vividly remember being about eleven years old, hanging out in the kitchen with my mother while she stirred a pot of simmering spaghetti sauce (the same scenario for virtually every Sunday of my youth).
I asked her, Mom, am I pretty? Being the straight-shooter she has always been, without hesitation and while still peering into the simmering sauce, she replied, you are unusual.
That was not exactly the answer I was hoping for at the time.
In fact, I’ve gone back to that answer she gave me a few times in the past forty years. I mean, jeez, if my own mother couldn’t tell me I was pretty, I figured I must have been a monster!
But now, when I think about it, it was the best possible answer she could have ever given her eleven-year-old daughter.
“True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul.” – Audrey Hepburn
There are many important factors that weave into the complicated formula of our self-worth, not the least of which is how loved and confident we felt as children growing up. But that’s history.
I’d like you to think about who you see in the mirror now.
There is no denying that body image and the constant comparisons we unconsciously (and consciously) make between what we see and what we think we should see – can suck the confidence, joy, and power to live fully, right out of us.
Like a bucket with a tiny hole, no matter how many self-love actions we pour into ourselves, the level in the bucket never seems to rise.
How to plug the hole and regain that self-confidence of your youth
Since a decent sized chunk of your self-worth can be tied to what you think of your reflection, the first step is to realize that you are not alone. No one escapes the pressure of wanting to visibly measure up.
That pressure only barely starts to ease up in midlife because, frankly, expectations are rather low for how women should or could look beyond a “certain age”. (Which, by the way, is insulting and aggravating – but a topic for another day!)
Maybe if we as women can identify and throw light on how painful and soul-depleting these kinds of life-long comparisons and “measuring ups” have been, we may be able to begin plugging the hole.
To accept the damage body image comparisons have done to our self confidence over time, and to relearn to value who we are.
You are whole
Yes, we want to look nice and feel presentable, but what is more important are the many amazing things we do with our bodies, minds, and hearts – regardless of our shape, weight, size, lines on our face, or number of gray hairs.
Regardless of what you see in the mirror, you are whole and amazing and as powerful as you choose to be.
Gratitude is the attitude
Those lines on your forehead don’t stop you from doing anything you choose to do. Your physical, mental and even spiritual health matters so much more than the story your skin tells. And let’s be thankful we have the opportunity to face a new day each sunrise.
Become grounded in what truly matters and has value in your life.
The stuff you would never ever trade for a fairer reflection in the mirror.
Stop allowing your body image to determine who you are and how you should feel about yourself. This takes conscious, mindful work.
Focus on wellness
Mirrors or no mirrors, we should focus on feeling well and doing whatever makes us feel confident about ourselves.
Exercising for strength and stamina, maintaining a healthy weight, applying makeup, coloring hair, wearing a good bra… there’s no reason not to do whatever keeps you lifted (no pun intended) and feeling empowered, and healthy and strong.
But please stop letting the mirror be the judge of whether you’re good enough, young enough, thin enough, and just plain – enough.
Paying it forward
And, let’s think about what we can do in our daily lives to help the next generation not feel their worth is so tightly tied to their body image. Speaking to our kids about their value and power in the world and how they can help others. Refraining from repeatedly commenting on how they look – telling them they are beautiful or handsome (even though we think they are works of art).
Talk to your kids about how the media manipulates what is perceived to be attractive and how untethered their looks are to their value. This conversation is as important for boys as it is for girls.
Listen up my friend, you may be the one that needs to hear this today:
You are not a sum total of the woman you see reflected in the mirror.
You are an incredible, smart, unique and magical creature capable of living more fully than you have been.
Cliché? Yes – but I’m going to say it anyway.
Your value to yourself and those around you comes from the inside.
It’s in your mind and your heart and in how you give love, friendship and kindness to others. In how you respect others, and how you care for, love and respect yourself.
Shift your perspective
Tell your bathroom mirror that you are breaking up with it. That it has treated you unfairly and has been a cold-hearted bully.
Tell it that you will visit to make sure your teeth are clean, and your blouse isn’t see-through, but that it will no longer be the judge of your value, nor hold the reins to your self confidence.
Cheers to being pretty. Pretty kind, pretty funny, pretty smart, pretty awesome and pretty strong.
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