He looked at my face, touched my nose, smiled, and said: “If only this was slimmer, you would be perfect.”
We were great buddies; we were in the same class during high school, and he was one of the few people I assumed accepted me exactly the way I am.
It did not affect me, I thought, so I jokingly told him to shut up. Later that day, I went to the girls’ bathroom, looked in the mirror, touched my nose, and thought … What is wrong with my nose?
Similar incidents happened to me that left me unsettled with confusion and self-doubt.
Like this one; we were sipping our morning coffee when one of my good friends looked at my lips and started trying to convince me that I would look much sexier if I got lip injections. At that moment, I said, “This is really bizarre, and I don’t think I need injections.”
Apparently, she had had hers done. Nonetheless, she sparked new questions in my head: Are my lips too thin? How would I look with bigger lips?
Another incident occurred was when I was greeting a distant relative I hadn’t seen in a while. While giving me a hug, she pointed out that I had gained weight. I thought, How about a hello, you monster? That is how usually people greet one another on planet earth.
I shamelessly admitted that I had indeed gained 2 kg ONLY since I last saw her. She caught my insecurity and loved the way I emphasized the word “ONLY,” so being the Cruella that she is, she said: “Well, 2 kg or not, it shows that you gained weight.” Her comment left me puzzled, because I did not understand why her words made me feel so bad.
I finally snapped a few years ago. I was in my room, trying on new yoga pants in front of my friend, and as I was looking at the mirror, she tapped me on the sides of thighs and said: “Your body will look amazing, you just need these to go.”
And that is when I snapped and barked back: “I LOVE MY THIGHS EXACTLY THE WAY THEY ARE,” and of course, I cursed her.
She definitely wasn’t expecting my reaction and started telling me she did not mean it.
I am surprised I did not slap her. What? You think that would be extreme? First, what is with people touching me and telling how I could be prettier IF ONLY?? Who does that? Second, I don’t go around pointing out what I would like to see differently in other people’s looks!
Unfortunately, some people do that. Not everyone knows that it’s inappropriate, hurtful, and none of their damn business!
I never had body dysmorphic disorder, but I always used to feel upset after such incidents.
What I realized is that it really does not matter how rude and obnoxious these people are; what matters is how much I believed it when I said, “I LOVE MY THIGHS EXACTLY THE WAY THEY ARE!” or how much I believe that my nose and lips are gorgeous precisely the way they are. Because one thing I know for sure is that I am being told how I should look constantly and not just from those weirdos that I called friends and family, but from almost every corner in my world, especially #youknowthatthingthatistakingoverourlives social media (the new Cosmo that you don’t have to pay for to feel bad about yourself).
I’m tired of such feedback, whether it’s from a so-called friend or that silly T-shirt that does not fit me the way it fits the plastic human “mannequin.” No one is telling me how I should look; no one has the right to!
This was an empowering realization … but it was not enough! I could huff and puff at the bullies, but it really comes down to how I truly feel about myself.
And how I felt about myself was my mission.
Our bodies are instantly responding to our signals and energies. Just as studies on water molecules and plants reveal that when exposed to positive words, they change; the water particles look like beautiful snowflakes and plants blossom.
Our bodies are responding to our self-talk all the time. Studies show that negative self-talk causes stress on our bodies. Joanna Fishman, director of Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney, explains that there is a direct association between stress and negativity on our immune system.
“When a person is experiencing a period of stress and negativity, his or her body is less able to mount an inflammatory response to attacks from bacteria and viruses. This results in an increase in infections such as the common cold and cold sores.” Fishman says.
Many studies explain how our self-talk and outlook on life impact our health, success, and the way we thrive.
Knowing all this, I needed to change and build my resilience, so I read a couple of self-help books to build my confidence. However, some of those books made me feel worse…
Most of the books are all about positive affirmations and the horror our negative talk has on our lives and futures.
The affirmations did not work for me!
Are they kidding me? I thought. I should look in the mirror and say, “You are beautiful—I love you?” This was uncomfortable and weird, and I ended up feeling guiltier after reading some of those books, because I am not doing the work and apparently if I am NOT lovey-dovey that way, things are going to get worse!
I know a couple of people who resonate really well with positive affirmations, and they have, in fact, changed their lives. But if you are like me and feel worse while trying such affirmations, you are not alone.
There are different reasons why positive affirmations don’t always work. Some people feel as if they are lying to themselves or their negative affirmations are 10x more dominant in their everyday lives.
Let’s say, for example I am really uncomfortable with my weight and I start using the affirmation, I am in my perfect weight; an alarm goes off in my head squeaking NOT TRUE, NOT TRUE, NOT TRUE … and if throughout the day all I could think about is how much I want to lose weight, one positive affirmation does not stand a chance in making a difference.
Repeating positive affirmations every morning when I looked in the mirror did not help me build that resilience I was seeking.
The Shift Makers
Two tools we learned in our coaching training did help, though: being curious and asking powerful questions.
So, I began asking myself questions:
What do I already like about myself? What can I love about myself?
This allowed me to focus on parts of my body that I loved, and slowly strengthen my self-acceptance.
How can I feel good about myself today?
And the answer would be, wearing something I loved. I slowly stopped wearing anything that did not make me feel good.
How can I treat myself better? Answers like drinking more water or standing up and walking instead of sitting the whole day would show up …
If I were to love myself unconditionally, how would that look like?
What does it mean to be resilient and self-confident? How can I show up more like that?
What does it mean to be enough? How does that feel like? What is in the way?
So, the questions come from curiosity, open-ended and without judgment.
When I encounter any judgemental situations, I get curious about what I am feeling and ask myself What is making me uncomfortable? How do I want to deal with it? What is true for me?
This helped me better than repeating a sentence I did not believe just yet. It allowed me slowly to build a more positive, solid relationship with myself.
It is a form of self-coaching that anyone could do with just a little patience, curiosity, and self-trust.
The Mega Shifter
The other significant shifter for me was appreciating my body. Before you snap and think, I knew this article is just like any new-age article out there, trying to talk me through the benefits of gratitude, please wait.
Yes, the terms gratitude and appreciation are the trending topics in self-development and happiness corners, and often, they are difficult to implement, but I found that we can approach these tools either as a heavy chore or really connect with what we want to appreciate.
I sucked in gratitude exercises. I used to list things like, OK, I’m grateful for my health, family, house. And I’d feel nothing afterward, maybe a bit bored when I noticed I am repeating the same items on my list every day. But it has been shown that feeling gratitude, not just thinking about what we are grateful for, is what helps. I stopped with gratitude exercises until I decided to try one more time.
I purposefully connected with my body and saw it for what it really is and what it has done for me, and this is what showed up:
- That with all the crap I eat, I can still get up in the morning and continue my life normally.
- The fact that I am in a bad posture all day, yet my body still allows me to sit up straight, walk, and stand.
- The fact that I changed my hair color around 50 times, and it still allows me to do that.
- That I wear contact lenses instead of glasses, and it still lets me see.
- That I wear uncomfortable clothes, yet my body does its best to sit still while I torture it with those tight jeans.
- That my skin always tries to recover after being exposed to harsh makeup and toxic beauty creams.
- That it gets sick to help me stop a bad habit.
- That it gains weight to tell me to take it easy on the processed carbs.
- That it gets dehydrated when I drink bad fluids, forcing me to drink more water to wash away the toxins.
- That it gets tired, so I can slow down and rest …
The list goes on. This connection is what allowed me to love and appreciate my body. I began recognizing what I was taking for granted every day.
And that is why when anyone gives me feedback, I am unfazed, because I truly love my body EXACTLY THE WAY IT IS.
What are your thoughts about the imposed feedback we get about our looks? How do you react? What has worked for you?
Fishman, J. (2016, June 03). Positive Psychology: The Benefits of Living Positively. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/positive-psychology-the-benefits-of-living-positively/