The Beauty and Power of Self
By: Rhonda J. Huthmacher MA, LMFTA
When I was asked to write this article, I was very excited to do it because of the inherent need to shine more light upon the topics Body Image and Self-Compassion and how it affects little girls and women. I have noticed over time that some women have become so critical of themselves; they start to generate a strong sense of self-hatred. I was watching the news the other day and I heard a current statistic that reported that 80% of school-aged girls do not like their bodies. As I continued my research I also discovered that middle aged women have a problem with body dissatisfaction and eating disorders. It instantly took me back to being a little girl and remembering when I first felt uncomfortable in my own skin.
Anyone that works with children or has children knows that they can say some of the cruelest things to one another. I remember when I was in seventh grade a boy said to me that my boobs were so small that they looked like mosquito bites, “Talk about cruel!” From that point on I was very self-conscious about my chest and I covertly resented my friends that didn’t have any issues in that department. Is this how the cycle of self-hatred starts? We don’t like something about ourselves internally so we project someone else’s beauty as our inner inadequacy. I’m curious to know if there are any women that can remember when they became self-conscious about her body, hair, or anything else that distinguishes them from everyone else.
Ladies, we have to stop this. We need to disrupt this vicious pattern. I acknowledge that not all women have issues with body image however; I believe that some women are in denial and not willing to admit that they have this problem. The contempt that they feel for themselves has become normalized to the degree that they don’t notice the contempt that they feel for other women. Some women are actively battling the shame of feeling negatively about themselves which could lead to sadness and potentially depression, depending on the severity of their case and the intensity of their feelings. There are also many women who openly admit how they feel, shame others and don’t know or care why, but many women have no idea how to free themselves from such bondage. I grit my teeth as I write this because while I don’t shame other women, I have my own struggle and freeing yourself is easier said than done. I get it.
Identifying the Problem
How do we stop? How can we encourage instead of discourage? Let’s identify some of the noise in the system first. One key point is that perfection is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Maybe you’re seeking validation and striving for perfection is the way you receive it. The kudos may feel good temporarily but the overcompensation may become tiring very quickly. Another point is that the media, in most cases, doesn’t help the situation at all. Women and young girls feel such pressure to measure up and to be “perfect” that it can become unhealthy. Ask yourself, do you have a loud, mean, nasty, or obnoxious inner critic? Why do we submit so easily to this voice in our minds? “My ______ is too big”, “I hate my _____”, “My hair is too _____”, “My skin is too _______” or any other ways our inner critic strives to put us down. Is it possible that you have people in your life that are equally discouraging? Ladies, are we teaching the wrong message to our young girls? We may think we are masking our self-hatred but our girls can hear what we say about ourselves.
The Power of Loving Your ”Self”
One of the key elements to try and put into practice is self-compassion. To have self-compassion means loving every aspect of you unconditionally, flaws and all. This world would be incredibly boring if we were all the same. If you are able to start loving yourself, you may be able to love and respect the differences of other women. Do not fall into the comparison trap. It may be difficult to get out of. The other benefit of consistently loving yourself is that you may be able to eliminate the negativity and judgement that you are harboring for good. Have compassion for who you are internally as well as externally. Cut yourself some slack day to day if your hair doesn’t do what you’d like it to or your outfit doesn’t look the way you want it to. Grant yourself grace if you make a mistake. While you are an awesome women remember that you are also human. Find beauty in your personality quirks. It doesn’t matter whether you are introverted, extroverted, or ambiverted. There is nothing wrong with longing for love and acceptance. Be sure to love and accept yourself so that others may do the same in return.
There is a need to create an alternative method to generating, teaching, maintaining self-compassion in women. In order to put these changes into action we must consider personal wellness from a holistic perspective. The areas of personal wellness that I would like to highlight are: Social-Environmental, Emotional, Physical, and Spiritual. These are some of the areas of our lives that we need to keep in healthy standing. If these areas are intact it may increase your capacity for self-love, compassion, and acceptance.
When trying to increase self-compassion, evaluate your work and social environments to determine if you are influenced by any negative energy. Ask yourself if you are in contact or have interactions with any family or friends that may be exacerbating the unsavory feelings that you have about yourself. They could be talking about you or themselves. Their negativity may be having a harmful impact on you and you are not aware of it. You may have encounters at work that are more difficult to escape. Try to be aware of how someone else’s attitude may influence yours. When possible, try to surround yourself with positive people. You can enhance your social wellness by the activities you choose to do and who you spend your time with. Ask yourself, “What energizes me?” You can do anything from starting a focus group or book club to finding an interest group on MeetUp.com. When possible, enhance your environment by socializing with great people, listening to pleasant music, or lighting candles with smells that are pleasing to you.
Emotional wellness can be maintained in a variety of ways. Journaling is a method that I recommend to my clients when they need a way to consistently keep track of their thoughts, feelings, and actions. It is a way to reflect on the progression of your emotions over an extended period of time. You can also talk to someone if you trust that they will be objective and not harmful in their feedback to you. If you sense that you have been feeling down more than normal, it may be time to contact a therapist. They will be able to respectfully help you evaluate and navigate your emotions.
One of the most important ideas pertaining to physical wellness is having an understanding of what we are putting on and into our bodies and how it affects us. This includes food, cosmetics, hair, and body care products. Try to pay attention to what your body may be telling you. Are you a heavy caffeine drinker? This is a question that I always ask my clients that may be dealing with anxiety or anger. The quantity and the quality of your sleep are also significant factors for maintaining physical wellness. Doing activities like biking, swimming, yoga, pilates, and even walking helps. You can always go to the gym as well if that is your choice. Consult with a medical professional if you have specific questions about symptoms you may be having.
What have you done lately to improve your spiritual well-being? People do many things to fill their spiritual selves like singing, hiking, fishing, sewing, or baking. You have to do what feeds your soul. Meditation is a great way to focus on your breathing for a few minutes. If you’re not into sitting still for extended periods of time, you could take a walk and just listen to the sounds of nature. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an 8-week class that you can take if you want to learn more about meditation and how to apply it to your life. If you find that time is limited and you have difficulty slowing down, you could take a quiet moment in your car when you’ve arrived to work to quiet your mind before starting your day. An additional option is meditating before you go to bed each night. Try doing something where the rest of the world is silent and you are the central focus.
The major underlying message here is to give yourself a little room for the self-love to grow in your heart, mind, body, soul, and spirit. Get into the practice of replacing those unpleasant words you use to describe yourself and changing them to positive and encouraging words. When someone gives you a compliment say “Thank You” with confidence. By doing this, you are acknowledging that what they’ve said to you is true. Remind yourself constantly that you are beautiful in your uniqueness and that you are a gift to the world. You are marvelous and striking but you have to believe it. Through self-love and compassion you hold the power to define and express your beauty in a manner that is fitting to you.
**Thank you Sis. Rhonda for sharing this thorough conversation piece about Self Love. May it be a blessing to all that reads it and we look forward to reading more of your articles.
Family; May the blessings of Yah be with you and your family!