Over the course of a decade, I've had the opportunity to be in the dressing room with women and listen as they've revealed some of their most intimate secrets, vulnerabilities and you guessed it, insecurities. If there is one thing I've learned it's this:
We women as a whole are relentless on ourselves.
I often joke that if I had a tape recorder installed in the dressing rooms of my store, you would hear the same song in a different tune play all day. Ladies, the image we see ourselves as, or maybe better stated, the image we don’t see ourselves as, CONSUMES US.
What’s more unfortunate is that we let this false image define us.
This is how we are all wired- that who we are and how we look, is never good enough.
What I find to be even more fascinating is that we currently live in a time where the media has finally caught on that a majority of women don't identify with 'model' bodies or images that have been photoshopped to show no cellulite. We are finally seeing bodies with real curves, stretch marks, cellulite and all the other natural side effects that come with aging, child bearing and being a woman.
Campaigns that tell you to "BeYOUtiful", #freethenipple and love your curves are everywhere, but guess what? It doesn't really matter.
Sure, on a superficial level you may identify with the image or statement being marketed, but it's not hitting the heart of the problem.
And that problem is two fold:
First, despite the messages being marketed throughout media today, if a body positive message wasn't being marketed + delivered to you directly, set as an example and practiced in your community while you were growing up, then it likely isn't resonating with you now. We were never given an opportunity to look like we wanted, but instead we were being shaped by the images that were current and trendy during those times. For me, that meant Cindy Crawford hair, being skinny, and tan. At the time I wasn't purposely trying to achieve that look, but on a sub conscious level, it was definitely shaping my views on what was 'the look'. For my daughter, the Kardashians have defined her generation. Having a butt and curves is everything and if you don't, well... insert booty implants.
The message being delivered is that our bodies 'should' look a certain way, but if you don't fall into that 'that look', you've likely started internalizing and developing some habits that haven't served you mentally in the most positive way over the years.
The focus continues to be on our external image, not the internal of who we are.
Second, and most importantly, we are lacking self love. Who could blame us? We are not raised to cultivate self love but instead, how to love and please others (think about how this message has affected women in the bedroom?) We as women are taught to put everyone in front of us from a very early age. We also grow up being told what's appropriate vs inappropriate to do with our bodies. That if we are proud of our looks we are conceited. That if we have sexual desires, we are sluts- that we have to wait to have sex until we are married. Some of us were told not to go college, have kids and stay home, others go to college and have kids, all women- learn to cook, look your best, be a woman everyone wants to have as a friend and make sure you are good in bed.
We aren't even given an opportunity to start thinking about what we want for ourselves.
I'm not implying that we are all robots or not raised in loving supporting homes, but from the day we are born, we have so much 'how to look, how to be and what to do' crammed down our throats that we never really stand a chance to grow naturally into who we are and shape our own opinions.
And though the message isn't 'you're not good enough', it immediately sets women up to feel that way without even knowing why. This is where the body shaming and lack of self love begins.
I'm with you in this relentless struggle of trying to overcome body shaming and learn self love. I too have spent most of my life looking at my body and beating myself down. It is other level exhausting (and I often think narcissistic ) to constantly be comparing myself to an image that isn't even realistic. Shaming myself for stretch marks and cellulite, that quite frankly- IS OUT OF MY CONTROL.
At 23 when Faith was born, I stood in front of a mirror sobbing as I stared at the newly formed stretch marks I had streaked across my stomach and thought,
"who will ever love me now?"
and then felt such shame for thinking that because I had a healthy baby. I was afraid to tell anyone.
It took so many years to accept these stretch marks as part of my body. Being told that they were 'badges of honor' was not enough because the problem was deeper.
I spent my early 20's putting my finger down my throat and working out anytime after I ate- I thought it had to do with being skinny. I now understand that it was about having some semblance of control over my life
This is only a small piece of what I've put myself through physically and mentally because I didn't have an understanding of self love or the tools to learn how to value myself for my than my body.
Self love was not only unspoken about, it was totally unheard of.
This body has been through and done some incredible living. My mind has created, evolved and continues to do. This face has laughed and cried through life's experiences- My heart has both loved and ached in ways that are indescribable.
This is what defines me and this is where I'm finding my self love. When I start breaking down how much "life" my body has had to show up for, suddenly I have more compassion towards it.
When you stand before me in the dressing room, and start talking about back fat or how your nipples look like stretched out bottle tops from the 70's (legit customer quote) I'm almost grateful, because I have an opportunity to set you straight. To ask you where you got that visual (and laugh with you) and then ask you about the children you raised. To see you face light up to talk about yourself and accomplishments. In that moment you realize you are more than what's in front of the mirror.
Unfortunately, that moment can be fleeting.
Practicing compassion and self love requires work.
So how do we break down these walls of self hate and the daily mental battle we consume ourselves with? How do we stop this internal dialogue that is stealing our thunder? How do we accept that it's not really the cellulite on our legs or the extra 5lbs that's making us loathe ourselves, but instead a lack of self love and being misinformed?
How can we cultivate a love for ourselves that is real and empowering?
Where do we start?
Start with giving yourself a break ladies and being kind to YOU.
Ask yourself, what has your body been doing for you 24/7 all these years?
Sit quietly and ask yourself, where do some of my body standards come from? Are they truly yours or ones that have been engrained in you over the years.
Is there an issue that's deeper that you have yet to uncover and process but instead have been taking it out on your body?
Talk to your body the way you would your best friend or your daughter.
Believe me when I tell you, you have self love within you.
You only need to start practicing using it.
Share with me in the comments they ways you cultivate self love.