Last week I met a friend I hadn’t seen in quite sometime. I was two days away from a hair color and my cute jeans were in the laundry. So, I was already feeling less than lovely when we met. The first words out of my mouth should have been, “It’s so great to see you.” But instead I said, “Sorry, I look like shit. I’m getting my hair colored tomorrow.” Of course being my friend she said, “You look great, I can’t even tell.” Then she went on to talk about how fat she’s feeling three days before her period. At that moment it hit me, nobody is harder on themselves than women.
I bet that not a day goes by that you don’t find some fault with your body, hair, something. I’m also going to bet that when someone pays you a compliment you rarely say, “Thank you.” Rather you come up with three negatives things to say because surely you’re not worthy of that compliment. I’m going to double that bet by saying more often than not you pay more attention to how fat you feel or how bad your hair looks versus the beauty of a day, the positive aspects of your life or the constant criticism you so generously give to yourself. Did I win the bet?
It’s so Easy Being Mean
I was a personal trainer for over 20 years. Most of my training I did in private rooms which allowed my clients, mostly female, to share their most intimate secrets including the truth about their body insecurities. Interestingly, most of the women I trained were high powered, well-educated, solid women. Yet when it came to their appearance, not one of them accepted themselves as they were or felt good about their body. In fact, women were downright mean to themselves as they discussed what was wrong with their body versus what was right with it. I used to say to them, “If you treated a friend the way you treat yourself, you wouldn’t have any.”
So what gives? Why are we so brutal on ourselves? I believe it starts with magazines and television shows where women appear ageless and weightless. The constant pressure to be all things to all people. If you happen to have a rockin’ body and flawless skin you have won the good gene lottery. However, most people don’t and I think it’s an exhausting effort both mentally and physically to try to achieve it. When I owned my business I would ask my clients, “If you could be the ideal weight and yet lose 5 years off your life, would you take the weight?” All the women easily said, “Yes.”
Full disclosure, event though I lost 50 pounds over 30 years ago, I still feel self-conscious about my body. I’m a runner, I lift weights and yet I still think I could be in better shape. I wonder sometimes if being in better shape is the pressure I feel from a society that values a hot body more than a healthy body or simply the pressure I put on myself. I’m guessing it’s a bit of both.
Acceptance = Happiness
Fortunately, I don’t have to rely on my looks don’t pay the bills. Otherwise this would be a completely different post. Yet we see all the these reality shows and the women who go from average yet lovely looking women to having extensions, a stylist, dental work, etc. Average, lovely women feel the pressure and are likely pressured to be more.
At almost 52, I will never give up my exercise because it keeps me sane, mobile and medication free. Knowing that genetics plays a role in how I age and what my body shape will be, I am coming to terms with what is realistic. I don’t want to be 72 and still worried about getting a 6-pack. Ultimately, acceptance is happiness.
Perhaps it’s time to spend more time focusing on what I like about myself versus what others don’t. Eventually, I may actually come to appreciate my brown eyes that everyone tells me are so beautiful. (That felt weird writing that). However, from t his day forward, the next time someone tells me they like my eyes, I will say, “Thank you!” Without excuses, without justifying, “Today was just a good eye day, usually they’re not this pretty.” Rather, I need to drink it up and relish it.
I’m curious to know if I’m alone in this thinking? The truth is I can easily blame society or the media for the pressure I feel to be a 52 year old in a 24 year old body, but ultimately it comes down to me, what I’m comfortable with and what makes me happy.
What about you?