Musings

Self Image

Yes, I'll write about food again some time soon.  And cheese.  Which, of course, is food, but at the same time MORE than food around here.

A few things…

Guess what?  If you eat less, you might lose weight.  Especially if you eat less junk.  Or stop that whole "fourth meal" nonsense.  Do I NEED to eat another meal's worth of food at 8:30 or 9:00 at night?  Um, no.  Turns out I don't.  Good to know.

And guess what else!  If you get up and move, you feel better.  Really!  And you might look better, too!  What a concept!  So I'm trying that one out, too, just, you know, to see if it's really really true (because frankly, it sounds too simple, too easy) and I have to say, there seems to be some truth to this wild rumor. 

Guess what else!  If you do do those things I just mentioned?  You might just feel a little happier about yourself.  Really.  Like, when you look in the mirror, even if you look exactly the same as you did last week (pretty much), you still might look different.  Because a lot of how we look, when we look in the mirror, has more to do with what's going on in our heads then what we're really looking at.  No, it's true.  I honestly look pretty much the same as I did last week.  Same hair, same glasses, same eyebrows in need of waxing, same good stuff, same bad stuff, same, same, same.

But.

I don't.  Don't look the same.  I notice I look much better when I'm just feeling good in my head.  And I'm dead ugly when I'm not.  Really.  It's kind of bizarre and funny and wonderful, all at the same time. 

I also notice I look better when I'm not wearing stuff that's way too big, in my sad, feeble, ridiculous attempt to hide my flaws under a tent.  It doesn't hide anything, Jayne.  It makes them worse.  Hard lesson to learn, somehow.  I want to hide the parts of me that I think are grotesque, but in hiding them, I enlarge them, accentuate them, and draw all that (imagined) attention away from anything good. 

Of course, I'm also assuming that SO many people can't help but gaze at me and think about these things.  Self-absorbed + introverted = weird.

So, like so many people, I struggle with all sorts of self perception issues on a daily basis. 

It really, really seems to get better if I'm doing GOOD things for and to myself rather than BAD things.  Again, simple.  But, for some reason, so hard to hang onto. 

But I didn't start out this way.  I don't think anyone does.  I think (hope) we all start out like my kids, who, bless them both, love their own perfect little bodies.  And then, for so many of us, we start to look around and compare and scrutinize and criticize and judge and on and on.

My daughter is beautiful.  She is beautiful inside (well, except when she's crabby or violent…) and she is smart and creative and quick and joyful and funny and enthusiastic and opinionated and stubborn and a myriad of other things.

And she is beautiful on the outside.

Right now, at just-turned-six, she is physically beautiful.  She has this strong, well-muscled little body – a gymnast's body type.  And I say this not to brag about my child, because that's obnoxious.  I say it with awe and wonder and amazement and joy, because at this point in time she is unaffected by external stuff that says how she should look.  She just IS.  And she IS beautiful and happy with herself and runs around in her underwear because why not?  She's a kid, and she can, and she does not see herself as flawed in any way.  She just IS.  

She looks in a mirror and makes faces not because she is unhappy with what she sees, but because hey – if she does this, it's funny!  There is only laughter in her eyes – no narrowing of the eyes, no squint of disapproval.  Her face is fluid and funny and wonderful, as is the rest of her. 

Her arms are strong.  They are good for waving at Daddy in the morning and throwing toys to the cats and carrying her box of crayons and (yes) hitting her brother when words just take too long.  They are good at hugging parents and friends, and snuggling Pinky at night.  They propel her through the water and carry her back and forth on the "unbeeven" bars at gymnastics. 

Her legs have well-defined muscles that she was born with, just like her eye color.  They kick her along at swim class, they prople her upward on the trampoline, they carry her across the playground.  They pedal her bike at breakneck speed DOWN hills, and they thrash wildly and dangerously when she is angry. 

Her waist is trim and not at all ticklish.  She can suck it in and stick it out and is equally happy either way.  She thinks her belly button is funny.  Her abs get a huge workout from all the laughing she does. 

Her hips and little wiggly butt?  Funniest.  Things.  Ever.  Yesterday we were at the grocery store picking out fruit.  I was smelling peaches (which aren't in season here yet, but I had a craving) and Julia picked up an apricot.  "Can we get some of these?  What are they?"  "They're apricots.  You can pick some out."  She selected one, looked at it, and held it up to me.  "They look like a bum!"  She took four.  She likes her own little booty quite a bit.  Not because it's shaped well or firm or anything, but because it's hers

That's her attitude about her entire self.  It's hers.  It's amazing and capable and strong, and it's hers. 

My wish for her – that she never loses that feeling.

My wish for me – that I can get that feeling back.

I'm working on it.

10 thoughts on “Self Image

  1. Wow. I could have written this post myself. Glad to know that I’m not the only one that feels this way, but sad that so many of us adult women end up feeling this way… I was having this sort of conversation with myself yesterday. I needed to go clothes shopping. I hate clothes shopping. Which is probably why it never seems to go well. I decided to go with a more positive attitude (or at least try to). It sort of worked. I still ended up buying t-shirts, but actually bought ones that weren’t tent-like (yes, I fall into that trap, too). If you find a good way to stop spending so much time in your head worrying, please let me know!!! =) And in the meantime, hang in there.

  2. Jayne,
    My wishes for you and for Julia are exactly as you wrote down. May she never lose that feeling. And may you regain it.
    I think as adults for most of us, it’s a constant journey. You get it back, then you have a crap week and lose it again, but I can tell you, those ‘wild rumours’ are all true.
    Good luck!
    Your cheerleader from Australia 🙂

  3. I love this post. That is exactly my wish for my kids…to see the beauty in themselves and retain that strength and innocence that kids naturally have.

  4. I have followed your blogs from time to time since I found your Google hot sauce post a few years ago, and have lurked every few months to find interesting food, or whatever gets posted, but I never felt like posting myself. I also find it exciting that when you do something to improve yourself physically that you tend to figure out that self image is largely in your head. It is one of the fuuny things about being alive that going out and doing something physical once or twice in a row can make your brain stimulated enough to release a chemical that can change all of your confidence levels. You may be just as pudgy as you were a couple of days ago but you feel better and are less sore than the first day that you worked out. The best factor is that even though you don’t immediately look better, you will be more motivated to continue your habits and turn the changes that you feel in your personal perception into changes in reality

  5. Indeed!

    I have noticed (and I know it’s not rocket science, here) that if I am mindful about eating… you know, savoring the textures and flavors and scents of my food, that I… EAT LESS!

    It’s time consuming. But I think I’m doing my body a favor. No more gulping down the food like I’m starved. Instead, I am now enjoying the sensation I get when my teeth crumble the food in my mouth.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that my guts will be much happier now. I know, right?

  6. Beautiful Jayne. Your baby was just gorgeous in her birthday pictures. Wow, she has grown, such a little lady.

  7. Nicely put, just keep telling her and yourself how wonderful you both are and start making it a habit to take some Mother-Daughter walks or bike rides.

  8. It’s funny how sometime around the age of 12 or 13 all of a sudden we (as women) start to watch our bodies change and all of a sudden nothing is good enough for us anymore.
    It was an odd experience for me. Growing up I was too skinny (as deemed by my peers) I had barely a trace of a chest or hips until halfway through high school. I was picked on and teased by some of the more “developed” girls (the girls where I grew up started developing around 11). But then again, those were the same girls that teased me because I didn’t own a Trapper Keeper or Guess jeans.
    By the time I hit college I was 135lbs, had a chest, hips and long curly hair. I think that was the happiest I ever was with my body (that it when I looked in the mirror), but I still went to the gym every day religiously to lift weights, run on the elliptical trainer, because I thought I could still stand to lose a few inches around my thighs and bum. Being a size 5/7 wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted to look like Sigourney Weaver when she was in Alien Resurrection – she looked sleek and powerful.
    Then the freshman 15 came along.
    Slowly over the years I gained more and more weight between bouts of depression. My hips and grew wider and my chest was bigger. It was so hard to see myself go from this little girl that was “too skinny” or so undeveloped to someone that had curves and “fleshy parts”. The more weight I gained the more depressed I got and the more I would eat (or drink). Although at this point, no one teased or made fun of me anymore. It was all in my head. The echos of those voices haunting me every time I looked in the mirror or stepped on a scale.
    When I met Garry three years ago I weighed about 200 lbs. – the most I’ve ever weighed in my entire life. I could hardly look at myself in a mirror and I wouldn’t let anyone photograph me. When we met, something fell into place and I started to eat better and go to the gym every day. Over 4 months I lost 40 lbs. I started playing football and gained muscle tone and lost another 5lbs. I was starting to feel really good about my body again – even though it was a size 12 and not a size 7.
    Football ended and when you stop moving things start piling up. I hit another bout of depression last winter and the pounds crept back on (ok, not crept, but multiplied in full force) and now I’m finding myself back at around 185, at the foot of that mountain that I’ve already climbed once before, frustrated that I have to climb it again.
    I have wedding dress shopping looming over my head. A whirlwind of snarky bridal consultants hovering around my head like a swarm of hornets throwing white taffeta and silk over my head while silently snickering to themselves that maybe I should’ve just “put down the fork” and wondering how much money is in my bank account.
    I’d like to lose that 40lbs again, I’m going to try my hardest. But the biggest obstacle isn’t the weight, it’s how I feel when I look in the mirror. It’s knowing that my bone structure is set in such a way that it is almost physically impossible for me to be smaller than a size 6. It’s knowing that I have a good job, a man that loves me (no matter what I look like) and being able to look in the mirror and say “You know what, I am beautiful.” I’m still not there yet, but I’m working on it.

    Julia has such a strong personality and it’s wonderful that she loves being who she is. Encouraging that will make her stronger in the long run when all the bullies come out and the social pressure starts to sit in. I was always told just to “get over it” as a kid. It’s good to see you praising her body confidence and possibly healing yourself from it too.

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