Examine Yourself: Body-Image

Examine yourself. Love yourself, today and everyday.

My eyes are free from mascara and I have small blemishes on my face. There are creases on my cheeks, revealing the exact placement of my head on pillows from the night before.  The hair that falls from my head is moppy and disheveled. But I have my coffee and have already started a load of laundry.

When I started high school, I always made sure that my hair was done, my eyes were sparkly and perfectly lined, and my body was the shape that it needed to be – light, bony, but with enough curve to entice attention. I believed that this image was who I was meant to be. And it, in many ways, this notion wrought havoc on my self-esteem.

By my freshman year of college I had turned every table previously described. I hadn’t shaved my legs in a year, my body had filled out slightly, and my armpits were full of the soft hair that I had stripped in previous years.  In this new phase, I thought I knew who I was.  I didn’t wash my hair for weeks at a time because I wanted my body to take care of itself and had learned that this organized neglect could potentially re-balance the pH of my scalp. I was creating my own definition of beauty.

I believe that I truly found myself after my breakdown of stereotypical beauty.  I was raging in my college years – mad at myself for wanting to fit into a mold that is so unattainable, mad at society for setting my expectations so high, mad at my peers for not airing their own dissatisfaction … and disappointed that in distinct moments I wanted to “doll” myself for parties and events – despite all of the previous commitments to “natural” beauty I had made.

Loving yourself is hard work. At least this has been my experience. I have to practice everyday.

Finding a balance in self-esteem, self-worth, and self-image can be painful, but self-reflection is a journey worth embarking.  I’ve been married for almost a year and find absolute comfort in knowing that my husband appreciates every inch of my body and loves all the things that I count as insecurities.  His love has allowed me to relax within my conscience and find myself again.

When I look into the mirror, I’m happy with what I see.  I wear make-up often, but feel relaxed when I’m not wearing it. There are moments that I do not want to go out and run errands because I feel like a hot mess … but I don’t feel alone in this. And when I take a step back, it’s not hard for me to remember that every single one of my friends feels the same way. The solution? Pull on my boots and head out into the world. It’s a small step against the system that tries to define our beauty and self-worth. Keep being you!

The older generation of my extended family recently had a discussion concerning the “casual nature” of the millennial generation. This was generally pointed at the stereotypical femininity and formality that women have broken in past years. My family is relatively progressive, but their questions reminded me of how engrained “beauty” is in our society. It is synonymous with manicured bodies, perfectly applied makeup, and a flirtatious nature that engages the masses.

I might run into someone while I’m sporting my leggings, baggy t-shirt, and tennis shoes … but when this happens, I hold my head a little higher because I’ve owned my individuality.  There is a time for formality – but it’s not when you’re running errands or generally existing in life.

Look into the mirror with your fresh eyes, funky hair, and examine yourself. Examine every piece of who you are and reflect on what you like and don’t like about your body. Then, after completely making yourself vulnerable to the world’s view of YOU – deconstruct why you feel the way you do.

Why are you concerned that your lips are too thin? Your lips are beautiful! Maybe they aren’t styled in Kardashian fashion, but they are yours – own them.

Why don’t you like the freckles on your face? Your freckles bring joy to the world!  They are unique to you – own them.

Why do you think that your arms are too fat? Your arms are strong!  They move you through the world and allow you to take part in all things human – own them.

Examine yourself. Love yourself, today and everyday.

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