Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Watching How to Look Good Naked got my brain humming more than usual. It’s so easy to tell someone to lighten up on their body issues. But it’s an uphill battle against all of the factors that reinforce feeling like your body isn’t good enough.

I’ve had clients moan about how fat they are in their size 2, 4 or 6 bodies, while I sit there saying, “excuse me but if you call yourself fat, then I must be a huge blimp in your eyes.” They always seem horrified that I’d think they see me that way, since they do see me as the beautiful, sexy woman I am! Yet they’re so hard on their view of themselves. I believe them.

Many of us see ourselves in a distorted mirror that magnifies every bit of excess skin, pound, or cellulite dimple. When I was a DoorMat I had a big distorted mirror that highlighted every bit of cellulite and other imperfections. And it minimized the wonderful things about me. Fat! Fat! Fat! That’s what those mirror radiate. So I know that since these clients don’t see me in that distorted perception mirror, I look fine to them.

Few ever get the irony of ranting to me about being fat since I’m much larger.

Each comparison to someone thinner — each person who comments negatively on our weight — each time we look in the mirror and notice a roll of cellulite in the waistline or skin hanging on the upper arms — each negative view of your body makes self-esteem goes down another notch.

People feel too fat, too skinny, too pale, too dark, too frizzy-haired, too straight-haired, too bald, too flat-chested, too voluptuous, too bottom heavy, too top heavy, too—too—too! VERY few people are satisfied with how they look. The quest for perfection is strong, yet impossible. We focus on what we don’t like instead of good qualities. You all have them!

Nobody begins life with good self-esteem. It develops, or not, as you grow and create your self-perception. Unfortunately, many outside factors can dampen even the brightest intentions of loving yourself as you are. It happens to guys too, more often for reasons related to income or achievement. I see lots of very portly men (and I’m being kind!) with beautiful women. A fat wallet can compensate for a fat belly! Men tend to be more body oriented about a romantic partner. Women tend to look for someone who can provide security. No all. But these stereotypes are common according to the many men and women I’ve interviewed.

I meet few people of either sex who have a truly good self-image, and a minimal amount of insecurity about something. Why do we judge ourselves so harshly?? There are some common reasons:

* Fat is used generically: We call ourselves fat for the slightest imperfection. You’re bloated for a few days and feel fat. You ate a big meal and consider yourself fat. It seems like anything that doesn’t feel right with your body can elicit feelings of fat. That word has way too much power! And way too little true interpretation of the word. Most of us self- proclaimed fatties aren’t fat. We’re just no perfectly thin. But every time you refer to yourself as fat, the word stabs you. You may not be conscious of it if you’re used to the pangs of shame or self-hatred.

* The media: You all know the drill. We see the airbrushed, buff celebs—men and women—in magazines, on TV and in films and strive to be like them. Many men like that standard in women and push their partner to look like the images they see. Women want the men they see in the media. It’s so unreal yet it drives us. Crazy!

* Painter Peter Paul Rubens would be considered a chubby chaser if he lived today: The voluptuous women he painted in the fifteen-sixteenth centuries—considered the standard back then—are fat by today’s standards. Yet that’s how a vast majority of women actually look. If I lived back in the sixteenth century, many more men would lust after me. ?

* Words that used to mean a sexy woman now mean fat: I’ve heard men say that if they read a personal ad and see the words curvy or voluptuous, they assume that the woman is fat. Hello! These are NICE words! Lack of appreciation for a womanly body is sending many chicks to surgery, and eating disorders. I AM curvy and voluptuous, and proud of it! ?

* Comparisons: There will always be someone with a better body. Yet some of us torment ourselves by thinking we won’t be happy until we’re more like him or her. So we go after their bodies and feel inadequate for never quite getting it “right.” Yet no one can be a clone of another. That person you envy for his abs or her legs might envy you for your gorgeous head of hair—which you ignore in your quest for what you don’t have!

* Unhealthy dieting: In the struggle to lose weight, many people go on fad diets that don’t bring long-term results. That just reinforces feeling like a loser, a fat one.

* Cultural standards making the average sized woman feel like she’s unacceptable: Size 12+ women have the majority but allow we allow ourselves to be treated like a substandard minority. Plus size women are often normal size. But being called plus-size can create shame.

* MANY men and women have dated at least one person who criticized some facet of their body: I know few women who haven’t been told by at least one guy that they need to lose weight, firm up, get more buff, etc. Many men say they’ve been put down by a girlfriend for not being buff enough, having a pot belly, being too short, etc. That criticism can stick to your memory like crazy glue and nurture an insecure body image.

* Criticism by friends and family: They say women can be their own worst enemy. Girlfriends criticize each other and may be the first to notice a small weight gain. Men tease other men to make themselves feel better. I’m amazed at how often someone comments on my weight, good or bad. It can feel like you’re under a microscope.

* Less fashion respect for sizes 12 and up: I HATE when I go to a store, see great clothing and then feel down because they don’t have my size. It feels like many stores want to punish those of us who aren’t small by making us wear more dowdy clothing. Thinner women are catered to and the rest of us must settle for what fits. That feels LOUSY!

On a bright note—Sarah Jessica Parker recently began a line of inexpensive, fashionable clothing called BITTEN and sold at Steve & Barry’s. I just checked. Her clothes go up to size XXL. Bless your heart Sarah Jessica! While my size is smaller, I’m glad to see that she respects the rights of larger women to look fashionable and not pay an arm and a leg for less att
ractive clothing.

If you become more aware of these factors, you can try to slowly find ways to deal with them. Body image issues will always be there. It’s YOUR choice to internalize them or keep them outside of your perception. You can love and appreciate yourself as you are, or make yourself miserable chasing what you’re not. Use some of the tips from my last post to practice loving and appreciating the packaging you come it. Do what you can to improve what’s possible and make the most of what you have.

GO GET NAKED. RIGHT NOW! If you’re at work, wait till you get home. ? Otherwise, take off your clothing—all of it! Look in the mirror and say, “I love you the way you are.” Run your hands up and down your wonderful body and appreciate all that you are. Remember, walking around comfortably in your own skin is the sexiest act for many people.

Being naked is being free in your own skin. It’s a loving act. You might feel uncomfortable at first, or for a while. But practice eases discomfort. And as that happens, you may come to appreciate your body more. It’s the only one you have so treat it lovingly, not with scorn.

So go ahead—I dare you to get naked. Let me know how it feels to you! ?

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