Give yourself a hug...please
Despite efforts at self-esteem campaigns aimed at young girls and Dove’s natural beauty initiatives, women still have exceedingly warped self-images. Size two or size 20, seemingly everyone thinks they’re ugly and fat.
Over the past 24 hours, it has occurred to me just how warped some see themselves and, in stark contrast, there are very few who really get it – and sometimes I think they only get it after realizing what really matters in life. For many, it seems that facing one’s mortality seems to be the biggest wakeup call that, perhaps, they’re decent and in the scheme of things, does it even matter?
On Martha Stewart’s show Tuesday morning, a guest was talking about how her daughter asked her, “If you could have any super power, what would it be?” Now, my response would be “ability to heal” or “amazing power of peacekeeping” or something of that nature. Her response, sickeningly, was “I would want to be able to eat anything I wanted and not gain weight.” Please. You’d waste a wish for super power on that? How shallow are we? And how wrong to make such a warped statement to your impressionable, probably already weight-obsessed, teen daughter?
The ubiquitous “media” doesn’t help this. Nor does advertising, television shows, etc. When you think of makeover shows, the ones that come to mind typically involve unrealistic workouts with 24/7 personal trainers that real people can’t afford, stylists, cosmetic dentists and, a good portion of the time, significant plastic surgery. What many would view as thin women going under the knife, getting their fleshier parts circled, sucked out and stapled up again in the name of looking good. A lot of the time, they looked just fine to begin with.
For the first time, I just finished watching a "makeover" television show that actually worked at building people up. I was skeptical at first. I mean, this is new territory. Instead of the woman standing there before a full-length mirror looking at herself in beige (who really looks good in beige anyway?) and spewing feelings of self-loathing as the show’s host berates her imperfections, this show actually began immediately asking about her insecurities and attempting to begin a process of improving her self-image.
Amazingly, the process took admittedly frumpy people who were wearing their insecurities on their sleeves. By the end of the show, they were gorgeous and glowing. It wasn’t all about new outfits and highlighted hair. It was about more than that – and it worked.
The show, “How to Look Good Naked,” is now running on the Lifetime Channel (my husband’s least favorite on our cable lineup) and is hosted by the poised and punchy Carson Kressley. After verbalizing exactly what it was about their bodies they didn’t like, the women on the show, clad in only their grundie-undies, walked before a lineup of similarly-sized ladies with the directive to find their spot, size-wise, in the biggest-to-smallest scheme. Invariably, each woman over-estimated her size by several inches. They were all shocked to see they were much smaller than they thought. Meanwhile, their scantily-dressed body was superimposed on the side of a building. Passersby were asked to comment on the woman’s size and shape. Guess what, folks? They were POSITIVE comments! “Wow, she’s hot!” and “Look at her calves!” and verbalizations like that. Some were even…racy...and bleep-able comments. After the woman on the show got over the initial horror that her overexposed body had been large and in charge on the side of a building in some city, she was floored to hear that in others’ eyes she looked good. The self-esteem was newly plumped and the wheels began to turn. A transformation took place in each woman that radiated – suddenly smiles were gleaming, hair was fluffy, everything looked right…no, more than right.
The halting moment at the end of each episode was when Kressley asked the women, in their full glory of gorgeousness, if they’d like to pose…in the buff! Eyes popped out of heads. Jaws dropped. I thought surely they’d say no…
They said yes!
For those of you worried about what I’m going to say next or those thinking there is no way they are going to watch smut on television – the remaining five minutes of each show were tasteful, vindicating and cathartic for womankind as a whole. It wasn’t about the photos – it was about facing the fears and not only acceptance, but a sense of self-loving. We can all use some of that.
I realize skewed self-images, diet obsession, vanity and insecurities built upon after years of repeated insult are not going to go away overnight. But, starting with you – probably the only person that really, really examines at you skeptically in the mirror everyday – just make it stop! Before you have to reach some life-altering moment, quit wasting hours of your days, weeks of your life and would-be memorable moments obsessing about your hair, your body, your face and worry about meaningful things. Be amazed that the miracle that is your life is happening. So you may be a little “fluffier” than models in magazines. So what? Remind yourself that you have fans they’ll never know or that you can actually enjoy a piece of double chocolate cake if you want to! Remind yourself that someone, your spouse/special friend/whomever, does think you’re gorgeous. In fact, remember that probably half of the people you pass on the street probably find something attractive about you – and the ones who don’t probably loathe themselves too, make the people around them miserable and their opinion is of no consequence to you anyway. If the show I watched was any indication, this is what we all really need for the ultimate self-makeover. We need to love ourselves first. The rest will fall into place.
Jennifer Zartman Romano