Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Oh, Body Issues

A feew years ago I wrote an essay for a program called Recapturing Beauty,, sponsored by BYU Women=s Services. Here=s the edited version that may or may not be published this year.

Women deserve to feel beautiful. But how do we go about doing that? How do we see standards of beauty that no one can meet and still feel beautiful? My answer to this is simple in theory, but difficult in practice: I chose to believe that I was beautiful.

This process started during a theatre class taught by Eric Samuelsen. He said that while most men believe that they are in the top 50% of the world’s handsomest men, most women do not believe that they are in the top 50% of the world’s most beautiful women. Most women believe they are less beautiful than half of the women in the world. This blew my mind. I looked around the room; I knew most of the women in it and every single one of them was beautiful. I thought about my friends and my family. I thought about my sister, who struggles with anorexia and bulimia, but who I’ve always felt is the pretty one in the family. I thought about a friend who struggles with depression and low self-esteem whose beauty had struck me the last time I saw her. I thought about my mom, who spent weeks looking for a dress for my wedding, crying because she felt that she looked terrible in everything. My heart still breaks over that. All of these women deserved to feel beautiful, but didn’t, and neither did I. I compared myself to advertisements, to clothing sizes, to my ex-boyfriend’s expectations, and not surprisingly, I came up short.

As I sat in that class I came to a decision. I didn’t want to spend my life feeling like I wasn’t pretty, so I decided not to. Instead of comparing myself to other women, I started looking at myself. When I did that, I found things about my appearance that I liked. I began to appreciate myself on my own merits and to believe I was beautiful.

It’s been a year since I made that decision. There are still times when I look in the mirror and think “Man, I look terrible.” But now I don’t let those thoughts sink in. I know that they are destructive and untrue. So I make myself look again and think “I look good.” I can’t stop negative thoughts from surfacing, but I don’t need to believe them. It’s a wonderful feeling to know I can make myself feel beautiful by believing that I am.

Recently I=ve hit a new snag in body image issues. In general, I feel good about how I look. But since I started working a desk job, and also eating out of boredom at work, I=ve been gaining weight. So while I'm okay with how i look, for health reasons I need to lose some weight. But this has thrown a bit of wrencch in my difficcultly established body image; ccan I still be alright with how I look while realizing that I need to lose wight? It's sad to me that I have to rework my body image again.


  1. That's cool that you were able to be aware of a negative thought process and change it. I find that helpful too when dealing with negative body image thoughts. Those who love us see us through different eyes than we see ourselves I think, and I also find it helpful to try to see myself through loving eyes. I can relate to how you feel about your weight right now too. (I'm at the top of a weight fluctuation after losing my post-pregnancy weight, grrr) I think we all have fluctuations and seasons throughout our lives, and I think recognizing a problem and desiring a change can happen independently from (or maybe even because of) self-love.

    I also think that remembering priorities can help us be kind to ourselves when assessing habits. Your job is a commendable priority, so give yourself props for achieving that.

    I like the quote "Be okay with who you are, even if you know you want to change". It's my mantra right now to help my thought process stay positive while acknowledging my goal.

    ~Annie B.

  2. Hi.
    I love your insightful and honest approach. I must admit I was a bit surprised that most men thought they were in the top half of the good looking stakes - yet another confirmation of how I don't relate to/align myself with this cohort very often. I am paranoid about linking to my blog because it can smack of self promotion and all those other things which make my skin crawl. I just couldn't help but think what you have written here certainly struck a chord and I thought you may be interested in my observation a little while ago.
    I am so pleased I have discovered your blog and look forward to your opinions and understandings of the world in which we live. Best wishes. Jeff.

    1. I often find myself not lining up with the norm too. And I don't like to line up with other norms, like low self-esteem, so then I try to purposefully try not to line up. I'm contrary like that.

      Thanks for linking to your blog; I like seeing what other people have to say. I've had similar moments of self-conscIousness. They are hard to get through. But I've learned a lot by talking myself through them. Thanks for reading and commenting!