I got my hair cut recently. It’s a great cut.
But when the stylist swung the chair around and I took a look, the first thing I noticed were the 1000s of wrinkles, sagging skin, and drooping chin beneath it. I looked…ugh.
Okay, I exaggerate. But still, the wrinkles seemed to leap out at me, vicious reminders of how I don’t look as good as I used to. Ironically, I recall having this EXACT same feeling looking in the mirror during a haircut—30 years ago!
When I popped by to see a friend, she didn’t say, “Wow, that haircut really makes your wrinkles more obvious!” Instead she said it was adorable.
So why wasn’t that MY first reaction?
I have known this woman most of my life. She’s a dance, yoga, and Pilates instructor, and she’s stunning, elegant, graceful, and stylish in a wild woman, gypsy sort of way. I always have a moment when I visit her of feeling dowdy and chubby. I know now to dismiss it as irrational, but I always have the thought, even fleetingly, because it’s an old, old habit and self-view.
One day a few years ago we saw each other after a long time apart. We hugged, and she said, “Oh, you’re so tiny! I always feel so huge next to you!” Say what? It turned out that we’d BOTH always had this moment when we’d feel overweight and drab next to each other. Silly, right?
The truth is that although from the outside we both look fine, it doesn’t matter if on the inside we don’t FEEL fine.
Like almost everyone I know, I’ve had to work against being critical of how I look. I’ve had to remind myself to love the body, face, hair, feet, and skin I’ve been blessed with–at every age. And I do, most of the time.
But thinking less of yourself is a habit that starts when we’re very young, and unless we’re aware of it, we can’t break it. According to research done by the Dove Self-Esteem Project, “6 out of 10 girls are so concerned with the way they look that they opt out of important activities.” In other words, more than half of us compromise our lives based on our self-esteem, which we’ve based on our looks.
When you look in the mirror, do you love what you see?
Or are there parts of your face and body that you not only don’t love, but that you avoid looking at altogether? What part of your face or body have YOU been fighting against your whole life?
Sometimes I’ll meet a woman and I can tell by how she stands or walks that she’s thinking, “Oh, my butt’s too big.” Or, “My thighs are like an elephant’s.” Or, “I look awful today.” In my teens, I remember hunching over as I walked, hair in my face, wishing I had a paper bag I could put over my head so people wouldn’t see how ugly I was. (Yes, these were usually hormonal moments…)
How much of your time, your energy, and your HAPPINESS have been lost by wishing you didn’t look the way you do?
For instance, from the time I was a teenager until my 50s, I did my best to create the perfect arched eyebrow. It never looked right. It never looked like the gorgeous brows from the magazines and movies.
One day as I was drawing on those “ideal” brows from the magazines and movies of my youth, I took a close look at my face. My brows were naturally straight. No wonder they resisted being drawn like the curve of a rainbow!
However, straight eyebrows weren’t part of a beautiful face when I was growing up. It took until the 21st century for straight eyebrows, bushy eyebrows, or even no eyebrows to be part of how our culture defined “beauty.” If something as simple as this could be redefined, I realized, couldn’t everything?
Of course, we need to be healthy, eat well, and exercise.
But even if you need to lose weight or exercise more, you can and need to love who, what, and how you are, right now.
Happiness comes from embracing what IS and letting go of what ISN’T.
TRY THIS. On your UnBlocks®, or on a piece of paper, write down anything you can think of that you don’t like about your appearance.
If using UnBlocks®, just write one thing per side, and put it near the bottom of the block. If you’re using paper, write one item per line, and leave a space in front of each item.
Go ahead, get it all out. Maybe it’s just one thing. Maybe it’s a long list. Maybe it’s something a partner didn’t (or doesn’t) like about you, or a “friend,” or a parent.
Now write the words, “I love ____” in front of every single thing you thought of, for example:
- I love my straight eyebrows.
- I love my flat butt.
- I love the wattles on my arms.
- I love the way my belly hangs over my waistband.
- I love my wrinkles.
It’s hard to do this, because the truth is, we don’t love these things. We’re accustomed to hating them, or at the very least, disliking them. Some of them we can change, and some we can’t. Some of them are real; some are imagined.
Regardless, when we become willing to love who we are as we are, this negative self-talk loses its power over us. Getting in shape is actually easier once you accept and love yourself, because you stop throwing self-defeating roadblocks in your way.
If someone in your past or in your current life initiated this destructive vision of yourself, you’ll also break their power over you when you recognize that you are wonderful and beautiful even if you have spent years thinking a face lift, nose job, or tummy tuck would make everything better.
My friends, embrace how you look right now as if you designed yourself this way on purpose. Accepting and loving yourself in this moment is the first step toward happiness.
“To love yourself right now, just as you are, is to give yourself heaven. Don’t wait until you die. If you wait, you die now. If you love, you live now.” ~Alan Cohen
Marcy McDonald is the creator of the Happiness Builder Program, more than 70 exercises to help you change your perspective so you can change your life.