Written by Maggie Steele
Published in Miabella Magazine
With the media focusing most of their attention on celebrities and how they look, it is hardly surprising that the rest of us are becoming more and more concerned about our appearance as well. In the United States today, it is estimated that one in 200 women suffer from anorexia and that approximately 8 million Americans have some type of eating disorder. Dieting is becoming the norm for girls as young as ten while teens and adults are now turning to energy drinks and plastic surgery in order to make themselves look pretty. Altering our appearance by losing weight or enhancing our breast size will not, however, make the problem go away. At its core, the problem is not how we look but ultimately, how we feel, and no surgical procedure or extreme diet is able to fix that.
The way we feel about how we look is largely due to the overwhelming amount of media coverage on celebrities. Let’s face it. We are bombarded with commercials, magazines, and billboards that show youthful, flawless, perfect women day in and day out. Young, hip, fresh-faced celebrities are put on pedestals and praised for their slender figures and polished looks while others are mocked and ridiculed for having gained a few pounds. The media has made their message very clear: youthful, tiny frames with blemish-free complexions are attractive and everything else is not. Of course, then, it is frustrating when we get home and take a look in the mirror. Our real life reflection is hardly as glamorous and our confidence drops to zero.
The truth is that while these images seem real, they are far from reality. Each image has been carefully altered and photo shopped to perfection. We then see the finished product and think to ourselves, “Wow! It is possible to look like that!” only to see our own reflection and end up feeling lousy about what we see. While we are all aware of the fact that these images may have been doctored, there is a part of us that wants desperately to look like them. As a result, we strive to emulate these flawless goddesses and when we fall short, our self-esteem crumbles and we end up feeling even worse than before.
Unfortunately, the society we live in today is often more focused on the physical appearance rather than the personality or ethics of an individual. It is no wonder then, that many young women are basing their self-worth on how they look and not on who they are. We look at one another, comparing our noses, hips, and hair silently wishing we had something that the other person has, never once considering that the very same person we consider to be perfect is thinking the very same thing about us! The comparison game is a dangerous game to play and will inevitably end in heartache and frustration, causing more harm than good.
While you may struggle with insecurities and your need to compare yourself to others may seem draining and overwhelming at times, don’t think that it will always be this way. There is a way to put those useless thoughts on a shelf and focus on more productive, uplifting things instead! The first and possibly most important thing to do is to recognize the voice inside your head that does the comparing. You know who I mean right? That annoying voice that ends up telling you you’re ugly, pudgy, or worse. Now you may think to yourself, “What? I don’t talk that way to myself,” but I urge you to listen. Some of you may be shocked when you hear some of the hateful things you are telling yourself on a regular basis.
A great way to hear that negative inner voice is to stand in front of a mirror and quiet your thoughts for a moment. Be patient and listen for that little voice that picks you a part. It might be difficult to recognize at first, but once you are able to hear the negative thought, it will disappear almost instantly. The key here is to recognize the negative thought so often that it becomes a reflex every time you hear it. You will likely start to notice that some of the things you tell yourself are so mean that if a friend of yours told you the same, you would probably want nothing to do with them. Think about that! You are allowing your own inner voice to berate and humiliate you on a daily basis, but if a friend told you the same, you would never put up with it. Well, don’t put up with it now!
The second step is to embrace your unique qualities and write them down in a journal or notebook. What are your strengths? What are you proud of? What is your favorite color at the moment? Or do you have many? What is something you really enjoy doing? What are you grateful for? What qualities do you possess that make you you? Have fun with the questions and come up with some of your own. By focusing on who you are and perhaps, who you would like to become, you will start to feel more comfortable in your skin and your self-esteem will increase significantly.
The third step is one that may take some serious focus. Make it a point to listen to your inner voice when you’re flipping through a magazine or watching a movie. What kind of things are you telling yourself? Are you comparing yourself to a celebrity? If so, recognize the comment and let it go. No need to berate yourself or judge yourself for being cruel. Just notice the comment and let it go. This exercise will have a huge impact on your self-esteem in the long run. Practice it enough and you will soon be doing it without even thinking, squashing that negative chatter before it has a chance to effect you.
Lastly, when you pass by someone in the mall and you hear yourself say, “I wish I had her body,” or “She’s so pretty, why can’t I look like that?,” think about what she might be thinking as she walks by you. Wish her a fabulous day and celebrate the fact that you are not wasting your energy on feeling bad about yourself. Instead, you are using your energy to wish someone a better day and feeling grateful for what you have.
At the end of the day, we all have insecurities and there are moments when we feel bad about the way we look. It is okay to feel bad from time to time, but feeling bad on a daily basis will cause you more pain and grief in the end. Why waste your energy feeling down when you have so many things to celebrate? It might feel like you’re all alone but remember that pretty much everyone in your social circle is struggling with their insecurities too. Help each other by focusing on the unique, remarkable qualities that make you, you. Point out strengths that you see in each other and character traits you respect and admire. Who you are reveals so much more than a reflection in a mirror, so focus on becoming the person you want to be and less on worrying about what others see.
Copyright © 2013 by Maggie Steele