The question as to why we compare ourselves to others still hasn't been answered clearly in science or psychology in my experience. Especially when it seems to be more related to western culture. One of the recent Facebook posts I saw made that clear to me (if you haven't seen Eve Enslers – Love your Tree before, I've posted it below). Before then I wondered if it was an evolutionary drive where the caveman woman had to prove her worth to get her caveman. Why else have we evolved into a species that goes to great amounts to cover all flaws with make-up or have our bodies surgically "corrected". Not to mention the multi-billion industry that has created a culture of yo-yo dieting and gym junkies. Life gets sucked out of you when you go down this track and yet we keep doing it.
Body image, when derived from outside of ourselves, is based on a judgement that you need to be like or better than someone else in order to be worthy of love. This is fundamentally a belief system cultivated by a society that has put an enormous empathises on beauty and ignored all of our other strengths and it seems that it is now even affecting men. We place the emphasis on the beauty and not the person behind the outer cover.
There is such a huge difference, in my opinion, between beautifying yourself, slipping on something slinky and sexy and wearing it under your clothes feeling good about yourself all day TO smothering yourself in make-up to cover your flaws and hoping you will be noticed by someone whilst at the party. One has that good feeling imbedded internally, where you feel good about yourself and don't need any external indicator of your worth (ironically, in my experience, that is exactly when it happens – people love to look at people who feel good about themselves). The other is purely driven to have that external point of reference to give you an inkling of your worth and it is short lived and unpredictable.
In my practice, I get all types of women and men who struggle with their body image and self worth because they have based it on what someone else thinks. Some of them are very attractive and yet to speak to them, you would realise they didn't know it. It's not surprising, our parenting model generally reinforces an external reference point for feeling good about our accomplishments. We use praise to reward our children for doing, being and looking good instead of encouraging our children to admire their own achievements.
I know from my own early experiences struggling with my weight anyone who made a comment on how good I looked really challenged me. It wasn't until much later, when I became more aware of myself that I realised that just by making that comment to me "You are looking amazing" (or equivalent), unconsciously told me that before that I didn't and that I had great potential not to look amazing because I'd been there before. I can tell you now that if you're my friend, I will never tell you that you look great as a result of losing any weight! Instead I'll be checking in on how you feel, are you happy with your own results, are you feeling good about yourself! And I won't even mention it unless it's clear you want to talk about it. I want you to know that you're worth more than what you look like.
A healthy body image comes from inside.
It is accepting yourself exactly who you are. It's not wishing you had a bigger bust, smaller butt, flatter stomach or any other body part that you perceive is flawed. Feeling good for longer than a second comes from inside. It is not wishing you to be anything that you are… Love your Tree!
If you tune into your internal self-worth, cultivate it and honour it, you can ditch the diet and those scales and start living your life from a place of self-love instead of self-loathing.
Cultivating a healthy body image
Believe it or not, this doesn't mean standing in front of the mirror saying "I love you just the way you are" and it's not the same for everyone either. It has to come from within and it needs to be genuine and not forced. It needs to encompass all your strengths and not just your looks. It needs to invoke pleasure and joy from within.
Cultivating your very own healthy body image needs to be based on what makes you feel good. It addresses more than your body image, it addresses the whole package. Identify your strengths and find ways to express these creatively. If you are a creative person, then get creating! If you enjoy helping others then get helping! If you enjoy using your intellect then look for a project that expresses that. It's when we feel good about ourselves that we can do the positive work on our self image.
Here are some other ways to help you:
- Ditch the diet! Research shows that 95% of them fail – so why set yourself up for failure?
- Ditch the trashy and diet magazines! Comparing ourselves to celebs doesn't help us at all
- Ditch the news/newspapers! Listening to depressing news reinforces helplessness and increases stress
- Ditch the obsessive friends hooked on the above! If you want to start feeling good about yourself, don't hang out with others who don't! Find a new tribe based on healthy body image and life style approaches (like Beauty Redefined)
If you're going to put yourself on a diet, go on a diet of self worth and avoid comparing yourself to anyone else. When you do, just remind yourself to love your tree! It's crazy not to… it's yours, it is what it is says love..