Spirit Saturday: Love Thyself

Of all our infirmities, the most savage is to despise our being.  ~Michel de Montaigne

But how can you not despise yourself?

You turn on the TV and there is a thirty year old woman with the hips of a fourteen year old, the boobs of a comic book heroine, and skin as clear as a baby. Or for the guys, there’s bodies like Jake Gyllenhaal in Prince of Persia whose training regime seemed more like an evil science experiment than good exercise.

Are these women even real?

So he has abs – but at what cost?

And then you open a magazine and are pummeled with shots of beautiful people doing spectacular things in sexy clothes. I’m sure everyone knows this already – but advertisements aren’t reality, or based on reality. As the Dove Evolutions commercial says, “No wonder our view of beauty is distorted.”

But that’s not all that our self-image comes against. I take my daughters to the grocery store, and what’s the only thing that people tell them? “Oh, you’re so beautiful.” “Such a cute dress.” “Such pretty eyes,” and the like. Will they start to think that the only way they’ll be noticed is by their appearance? For some people, getting compliments becomes a drug. For others, the lack of affirmation to their appearance will make them either despise/ignore their appearance, or find affirmation elsewhere.

But even with all that outer onslaught against your self-image, it’s nothing compared to what your own mind can do. Loving who you are is a long journey, but one worth taking. I know that even the most beautiful, powerful, rich among us have screwed up self-images. And no matter how many times they are called pretty or successful, it isn’t enough. It doesn’t fill the void.

People are crying up the rich and variegated plumage of the peacock, and he is himself blushing at the sight of his ugly feet.  ~Sa’Di

What if everyone was real with themselves, happy to just be alive? Stop worrying about their image. People joke about not wanting to share their weight and age … but that is part of who you are. You might as well own up to it. When people start to enjoy who they are, it changes them. Just look at the Golden Rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It says plainly that you give to others the type of love that you give yourself. So if you’re hatin’ on your image, you’ll probably be hatin’ on your neighbor’s image as well. Likewise, if you love yourself, you’ll love others.

Everything starts by being honest. With yourself. With others. By looking in the mirror and stop comparing your image to the Chanel model, or to James Bond. Instead, when you look at yourself you say, “Hi, self. You’re not perfect. You don’t need to be. I know you’ve got issues and baggage and stretch marks and weird moles, but I won’t gain anything by worrying about it. I’ll just enjoy being.”

So I’m gonna try to be more real. And I’m gonna start now.

I’m 25.

Since 10th grade, I’ve weighed anywhere between 155 lbs. to 205 lbs. Right now I weigh 165 lbs. I am taller than the average female bear at 5’10”. I still have stretch marks over my stomach from carrying my babies. I hate plucking my eyebrows, and put it off until I can’t ignore the fact that I look like Frida. My feet are calloused and rough from strike-toe running in sandals. I have pale skin, unless I’m hot or exercising then my face turns a bright red. I love my dark hair, I like the silky way it moves through my fingers – I play with it a lot. I also think my green and grey eyes are pretty. That’s the way I see myself when I look in the mirror.

*deep breath* And for the full reveal, this is what I look like when I first roll out of bed (5:30 AM), no makeup, no face washing, no botox, just me:

Tell me, do you have any tips about self-image?

Where are you at in your journey?

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28 Comments

  1. Michael Soderstrom

     /  July 16, 2011

    You are beautiful, but your outward beauty doesn’t come close to matching your heart. You’re awesome.

    Reply
  2. Ok. First off, there is no way in hell I’m stating my age and my weight on the internet. Even my hubby doesn’t know half of that. And as for where I’m at in the equation, I work hard at the gym to maintain my “not bad for an old broad” status. Some days I’m more successful at it than others. And I will take food from my children’s mouths to pay for my highlights.

    But for me, it’s about loving myself. When I don’t work out, my arthritis overtakes me, and I can’t take care of my work or my family. We all suffer for it if I’m out of commission. Likewise, if my hair is drab and gray and I look that much older than I feel, I get down and cranky, feeling like life has passed me by. Again, I and my family suffer.

    Thank you for pointing out the essential factor of “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” If you don’t love yourself, how can you know how to love your neighbor.

    Speaking of neighbors, I live in the most physically fit county in the nation. Those desperate housewives in the picture are my neighbors. Really. I hate them. :)

    Reply
  3. EllieAnn

     /  July 16, 2011

    You are one of the most confident women I know, Piper. I can tell you love yourself by the way you treat others. it’s a beautiful thing.

    Reply
  4. First off, if that’s what you look like at the crack of dawn, I’ll go have my head fitted for a paper bag, now. But you’re right, we’ve got to learn to love ourselves if we want to love our neighbor. Unfortunately, I saw a few of them last night, at a wedding rehearsal, and they looked pretty close to the mystical TV ladies I love to poke fun at. Seriously, I had to stop myself from running up to Pamela Powerlift and shouting, “Ten bucks to crack this walnut between your biceps.” I didn’t because her friend Holly Highlights was blinding me with her perfectly bleached hair and I lost track of Pamela.

    Ahh…but if I were perfect, what would I have to write about?…nada.

    Great post!

    Paige

    Reply
    • EllieAnn

       /  July 16, 2011

      LoL! Great comment. It takes a lot of time/energy/money to be Pamela Powerlift and Holly Highlights. I’m glad your Paige the writer, I love that.

      Reply
  5. It is interesting how culture enforces gender stereotypes through compliments. If daughters are only complimented on their looks, that is what they will focus on. If sons are only complimented on their athletics or humor, then they will pursue those avenues.

    For this reason, I make a point to only compliment people on the silliness of their walk. If my mad scheme works, soon we’ll all be walking like Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks!

    Reply
  6. You are gorgeous! Damn, I wish I looked that good when I first roll out of bed… :)

    Great essay. You’re so right. With two daughters and two sons, I struggle with finding a balance in how I talk to them about looks and image. It’s so much harder with girls… There is SO MUCH wrapped up in how we see ourselves. I try to make appearance mostly a non-issue–like, we have to be presentable in public, but the rest is just window dressing and really up to you.

    Now if I can just get my 12-year-old son to remember to comb his hair, we’ll be in business… :)

    Amy

    Reply
    • EllieAnn

       /  July 16, 2011

      I like how you won’t concentrate on appearance with your kids … Except, of course, when Christmas pictures roll around and you make your family wear red and white striped matching clothes for the picture, right?

      Reply
  7. Great post, EllieAnn! Very timely for me: I’m about to wrestle myself into a bathing suit for a pool party with sisters-in-law who haven’t seen me in years. Between menopause and writer’s “spread,” I’m 15 lbs heavier (used to be 20 lbs) than I should be. Self-conscious doesn’t even begin to describe it. Weight is different than other physical features; some people see being overweight as signs of laziness and lack of discipline. Heck, I’ve caught myself thinking that way, too.

    But your post has reminded me of the important stuff. I’ll keep working at getting to a healthier weight, but I need to appreciate what I have: I’m healthy overall, everything works the way it should, and I’m not dealing with chronic pain or anything like that. There are some people who can’t say that. I am, in fact, very blessed!

    Reply
    • EllieAnn

       /  July 16, 2011

      Great attitude, Kathy! When we concentrate on the good things we forget to worry about our appearance, or the worry just dissipates. Thanks for sharing your good thoughts!

      Reply
  8. Very nice! The Sa’Di quote is fantastic. I think we can all use a little more realism in our lives.

    It’s a shame that often what we perceive as imperfections are actually signs of our greatest accomplishments. (ie. callouses from work or exercise, stretch marks from children, etc.)

    Reply
    • EllieAnn

       /  July 16, 2011

      Yes, and those “imperfections” are what we love in others, too.

      Reply
  9. I think one helpful thing to do for self-esteem building is to fill your life up with stuff of value. That way you have very little energy left for thinking about wrinkles, fat, and hair. Oh, and all those activities keep you skinny (ha!).

    Reply
  10. My daughter has always had a head of thick wavy hair and naturally tan skin. Everyone always comments on how great her hair is – but I don’t want her self-worth to be wrapped up in hair. Her hair may some day betray her – fall out or grow brittle from some awful disease.

    I’m 38. I think in some ways I’ve improved with age. I’ve learned over the years to focus on health. Eat well – good natural foods. Exercise – to keep your insides in tune. The weight and appearance will be what God intended it to be if you treat your body with respect.

    Great post. You are brave and wise.

    Reply
    • EllieAnn

       /  July 16, 2011

      Kids learn a lot from their parents about self-image. With your perspective, I have no doubt your daughter will grow up with a healthy self-image!

      Reply
  11. You are one BRAVE gal posting a picture of yourself a minute after rolling out of bed. And you make a good point. You have to love yourself the way you are. No one is perfect, including movie stars who freak over their public images.

    Reply
    • EllieAnn

       /  July 17, 2011

      Glad you see it that way, Malinda! And I’m not sure how I was smiling that early. ;)

      Reply
  12. Ellie, you are incredibly brave and have my absolute respect. It takes a great person to face their realities and say “hey, I’m cool with what I see.” Bravo.

    I’m 42 (43 in September). I am just under 6’4″ and weight between 200-230 although I’ve been up to 260. I have gray peppering its way into my beard and my hairline is following my grandfathers pattern, with a little help from having worn a pony tail constantly when I was younger. (Yes, at one time my went down to the small of my back and I would donate it every 3-4 years to Locks of Love).

    I am absolutely comfortable with who I am. Everyone should be, self-image has nothing to do with anyone other than you :)

    Reply
    • EllieAnn

       /  July 17, 2011

      That confidence in liking who you are really comes through your writing, Gene. Thanks for you great and honest comment!

      Reply
  13. Love this post. And you’re gorgeous at 5:30 a.m. (I echo Paige’s paper bag comment).

    I don’t read fashion magazines. They make me feel fat and ugly and like I need to buy things to make me prettier. In short, I feel like the before picture. Simple solution = don’t read them.

    I’m confident, though. I love my body even though it has war wounds from gaining 60lbs in 4 months during my pregnancy with twins.

    But some days, loving your body is easier than others…

    Thanks for this.

    Reply
    • EllieAnn

       /  July 17, 2011

      So true about fashion magazines, it’s like setting yourself up for discontent thoughts. Same goes for home design magazines (for me). I do like the magazine Real Simple because it seems to focus on improving what you already have.
      And I have NOT got this issue of self image figured out, my mind gets messed up about it all the time and so if you ever see me with a paper bag over my head you’ll know it’s one of my bad days.

      Reply
  14. I look like I have 4 children ages 4 and under, but I’m OK with that. I DO!

    Every time I start to feel like I should force my body to conform to some American cover model standard of beauty, I think about how DRC. I’ve heard several missionary women say that they overhear the Congolese talking about how “beautiful and fat” someone is, or “she used to be much prettier when she was fat”. My personal favorite of such stories is a lady whose house help was watching her exercise, then asked the question, “Why would you want to look like you never had kids?” Skinniness is a sign of malnutrition or disease. Now, I’m not advocating obesity, but how freeing it must be to not be feel the urge to conform!

    By the way, I have calloused feet, too. I hate socks so much that I will go barefoot most places, unless legally obligated to wear shoes.

    Reply
  15. Ellie – what a beautiful post…until you reminded me of just how rough I look in the morning when I roll out of bed. LOL. :)

    Reply
  16. Ellie, thanks for writing this and opening a discussion on it. It’s so important for people to embrace who they are instead of trying to be someone they’re not. The most beautiful people in all the world to me are the ones who are comfortable in their own skin and encouraging to others. Sadly, our culture says you’ve got to have the good looks, the right clothes, and the best makeup. But, there’s nothing that can replace that genuine, radiant smile of someone who knows who she is and likes what she sees.

    I work with college students, so as you can imagine I’ve got my work cut out for me in helping these young folks (women especially) recover from the wounds of the past and the lies of society. One way I help fight this battle is that I make girls accept compliments. Somehow, we’ve been trained to reject a compliment if we don’t feel pretty or every hair’s not in place. When I give someone a compliment, I mean it, and I don’t want people to basically tell me I’m a liar by refusing it. Quite a few girls have rolled their eyes while accepting the compliments I’ve given them, but then some of them get it. They realize their worth and value. Not because they believe it at first. Sometimes it takes months or years. It’s not fail-proof, but I think we have to act our way into a feeling. We have to act like we’re beautiful (warts and all) – not in the snobbish kind of way. Then, a shift happens inside in which we start to believe that maybe God made us the way He did for a reason.

    Ellie, you are beautiful to me! Keep up the positive attitude and friendliness!

    Reply

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