Opening Our Eyes To Our Real Beauty

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I can’t actually place the exact afternoon in time-space, but I was going through old photographs and saw ones of me in my earlier days.  In my 30’s, 40’s, and early 50’s.  I expected to see the same unattractive, awkward, unshapely woman I had always seen when I looked in the mirror.

I couldn’t believe my eyes!  Actually, I had been beautiful. Not Cover Girl beautiful, but no one else is either.  Quite attractive though.  If I had only seen myself then as I actually was, what a difference it would have made in both my personal life and my work life!   The song above still makes me cry every time I hear it.

Mirror, mirror

“Female dissatisfaction with appearance – poor body image – begins at a very early age. Human infants begin to recognize themselves in mirrors at about two years old. Female humans begin to dislike what they see only a few years later.”  Social Issues Research Center

Studies show I was not alone in my distorted body image.  In study after study, between 80 and up to 97% of women hate what they see in the mirror and criticize themselves for being too fat, too skinny, too full-breasted, too small-breasted, nose too big or too small or too straight or too hooked, tummy too fat (even rail-thin anorexics say that), hips too wide or too skinny, eyes too small, lips too thin or too full, face too round or too square…and on and on.  What’s more, increasingly more and more MEN feel the same way about their bodies.

We all think we are unattractive “ in comparison to others,” that is in comparison to some inner ideal we hold of what beautiful should look like.  Then our own personal inner bully calls us ugly names we would never accept from anyone else and we slink out the door to meet imagined inner slurs from everyone we meet as we compare ourselves physically to everyone else walking down the street.

Now, it’s most excellent to want to be healthy and fit and live a long time, but this obsession to meet some unattainable inner ideal of beauty eats away at our self-esteem and destroys lives.

Did you know some size 0 models eat tissue paper when they can’t stand being hungry, or live in hospitals on IV drips to keep their jobs?

“It’s getting very serious,” (a leading agent for models) said. She lowered her tone and glanced around to see if anyone at the nearby tables could hear. ‘The top casting directors are demanding that they be thinner and thinner. I’ve got four girls in hospital. And a couple of the others have resorted to eating tissues. Apparently they swell up and fill your stomach.’”  Former Vogue editor: The truth about size zero

Who would do that to themselves for a JOB?

Here’s the real secret as to why we are attractive or not. It isn’t our features or our body shape.  It’s our own confidence and belief about how attractive we are!  Really!  Just as soon as we believe that we are attractive the whole world will reflect that belief back.    Your confidence shines forth in the way you carry yourself – in how you walk, the way you dance, the way you look at other people, the clothing you wear.

Some people did an experiment where they asked some men to wear a deodorant that supposedly had pheromones that attracted women, and others were not given such an option.  They photographed both groups of men, and wouldn’t you know that, even though the photographs smelled the same, the women viewing the photos rated the men with the “special” deodorant as more attractive?  This could only be because the men FELT more attractive, and thus looked the part.

So, if you knew for sure you were beautiful, would you give up drab brown and navy for bright pink with flowers? How would you use your eyes?  How would you walk?  How would you fix your hair? What would you wear?    Try some of them.

Let’s look at Oprah Winfrey for a moment, because we all know her. Just Google her images and you’ll find hundreds. We have watched her struggle with her weight over her public lifetime, sometimes heavier, sometimes lighter, NEVER a size 2 – and yet, always beautiful.

You see some of us are roses, some are lilies, some are daisies, and some are orchids.  Some have vibrant color, some are pale, some grow tall, some much closer to the ground.  They are each beautiful.  Fortunately flowers aren’t self-conscious, or the gladiola would destroy it’s beauty cutting and bleaching herself to have bright white petals like a daisy and the daisy would twist herself out of shape trying to be a rose.

We should be concerned about our health and self-discipline is a great quality, but our choices around diet and exercise should be because we love ourselves, not because we hate ourselves.

Let us want to be healthy so we can enjoy our bodies, have energy to be productive at work and relaxed at home, take pleasure in time with our family and friends.  And let us work to be happy with the beautiful body we have been given, walk proudly and confidently whether we are pansies or buttercups or iris.

12 Comments

  1. Heidi

    I’ve had an experience exactly like this one – I spent the majority of high school absolutely hating myself. It was hard not to when you put me next to my classmates, they were all so much better looking than I was, or so I thought. But then a few years ago (I’m 25 now) I was looking back on some old photographs and I came across one from high school, and again I was unhappy with myself. Not because of how I looked, but because of how little credit I ever gave myself. I was so much better than I had believed at the time, and it was disappointing to think that I spent so many years hating a body and a face that really was beautiful.

  2. Suzanna

    I want to come at peace with my body but I’m not there yet. I don’t hate the way I look now but the actions that drove me to this body. A few years ago my husband asked to divorce because he decided we aren’t getting along anymore. The stress was incredible and it definitely left a huge mark on my body. I’m overweight, my eyes are all wrinkly and my self-esteem in deep in the ground – I’m only 34 years old.

    I started working out recently and while the pounds are still there, I feel happier, more confident and eager to change my way of thinking first and then start working on my looks.

  3. Francie

    Gerry, I had a best friend who exemplified exactly what you’re saying. We were both in our 50’s, both in junior college, and both overweight. I was about 180, and she was probably around 300+. She was always very active and was on the Board of a non-profit that helped abused women.

    I remember being at her home one day, and she was talking to me in her usual, animated way, complete with winking and lots of laughing. I realized that she had a downright flirtatious way of communicating. Not that she was hitting on me or anything, but her manner seemed to suggest that she was very happy with herself, that she was letting me in on her most treasured secrets, and that she trusted and admired me.

    Who would not want to be around this woman?

    I realized that I had not flirted with anyone for years. I would never dare to project myself as someone who had something to laugh about or something to offer. I had never possessed the self-assurance and self-confidence that was normal to my friend. Despite being way overweight and probably subjected to teasing at various times of her life, she was delightful, friendly, married, on the Board of an organization, a great student, and a terrific friend.

    It was incredible to me that she had something inside that was creating the exterior that was so inviting. Everything about her was “alluring” — not that she was trying ooze sexiness, but that she projected self-confidence and put people at ease. In short, her joy was infectious.

    After that, I let myself “flirt” more. I let my eyes be happier, more expressive. I wouldn’t resist the temptation to laugh and even toss my head if I felt like it. In short, life became more enjoyable because I wasn’t trying so hard to control myself, act my age, and come across as humble.

    I think that we’ve become so obsessed with judging our outsides that we’ve not only overlooked the outer beauty that we actually have, but we’ve also failed to evaluate what really makes us beautiful – our inner beings.

    Thanks so great for a helpful article.

  4. Lynda

    I am a firm believer that true beauty starts from the inside. You have a beautiful mind and a good diet, it shows. I have seen women of all shapes and sizes, crooked teeth, acne, thin hair and they look beautiful because on the inside, they are. Physical beauty never lasts and it is a shame it is marketed above inter beauty and spiritual intelligence.

  5. Ian

    It’s so sad that so many women dislike the way they look! I mean, so many of them look amazing and they still say they look horrible, or that they have cellulite or who knows what. If women only realized that they look amazing and they shouldn’t stress so much about a bad hair day, they would be so much happier.

  6. Heather

    It’s so sad to hear about some of the things models do to try and stay thin or appease their hunger! I hope that one day our society will no longer be guided by the media or marketers and that women and men will start to understand true beauty!

    • Nelda

      You’re a real deep threink. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Bridgett

    You alluded to self talk in this article, about how we would never let others say the things we often say to ourselves. I think this is such an important concept. I read about it years ago, and it changed my life. I started listening to myself and realized I loved to beat myself up. After coming to my senses, I decided to start combating the negative self talk with positive comments, and it made a huge change in my self esteem. I totally agree with the idea that if you take care of yourself – eat right and exercise as well as pat yourself on the back once in a while – you’ll have an attractive aura and project happiness. Thanks for a thought provoking article.

  8. Samantha

    Everyone is beautiful! Size, shape, or color, it doesn’t matter.

  9. Jess

    I love the flowers analogy. That is such a wonderful way to describe the special beauty we each possess and it is so true that we continually want what we don’t have when it comes to beauty. For example, those with beautiful curly hair who straighten it daily in the quest for pin straight hair whilst those with the naturally straight locks pay for chemical treatments to get curls. It would be funny if this self hate didn’t cause so many tragedies in real life. I myself will keep reminding myself of the flowers analogy when I’m struggling. Nicely written.

  10. Joann White

    I wasn’t full aware of my body till I was around 11, prior to that, I never thought anything on my appearance. The first comment that made me look at myself was when I sat down next to a boy in school and he said “Eww” while looking at me. I still remember the boys name as well. It has haunted me my whole life. This article was a great read for someone like me. It is a shame us women have to think or feel beauty is more important than health. I know the difference now but I wish I did back then.

  11. AJ

    I still find my body, even at the ripe old age of 40, to have its flaws and imperfections. I want to go back to the days when I thought I was ugly and fat when I was indeed beautiful. It’s sad when we wish our life away going somewhere that we aren’t. Even when we are in our prime. We should be happy with how we are.

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