January 10, 2015
I hate clothes shopping!
I know I’m not alone in this fact. I would imagine that many of us women, especially after a baby or two, find it rather depressing to shop for clothes. I bet most of us “mature” women, whose bodies have seen lots of wear and tear, prefer to avoid dressing rooms all together. I even get melancholy sitting in a fitting room waiting for my beautiful daughters to try on their clothes. I wait there, usually in line of sight of one of those HORRIBLE mirrors, lit with the most yellow bulbs, deeply wishing I could find joy in modern fashion and lovely apparel.
Right before Christmas, I set out on a mission to buy a new winter coat. Typically, I need some sort of mission to get me motivated to shop for myself. I knew I wanted a really nice, high quality down coat that would last me years. It had been a decade since I had chosen a nice one for myself, so I knew the time had come.
I adventured off to the best mall in my area for buying such a luxurious item. As I meandered the hallways, it did not take long for the weight of regret, frustration, and self loathing to kick in. I began to doubt that I would ever find a coat that would make me happy.
But then.... I got on to the escalator.
In those brief moments, as I stood still, resting my body, my mind became enlightened with truth. By the time I reached the second level, I had a whole new way of thinking. All of a sudden, I was freed from the bondage of self loathing and I was given permission to just not care about all of my reasons for being unhappy with my body and allowed to just accept the person I am.
In the time it took me to slowly ride up from one floor to the next on a department store escalator, I was given three important points to keep in mind. These points, when meditated on regularly, can free me (and you) from the oppression of poor body image.
Here they are.
1. Stop comparing yourself to unrealistic comparisons.
Even when I was a teenager and weighed less than 100 pounds, I didn’t like my body. I compared myself constantly with other girls who I thought were prettier or more physically appealing. In reality, we are surrounded with opportunities to judge ourselves harshly against the examples of beauty, fashion, and health. I get angry every time I walk through Sears and see those darn mannequins wearing professional women’s clothing, yet shaped like 12 year old boys. They have no legs, hips, or butts. No matter what I do, that same dress will NOT look as good on me as it does those plastic models. Even flesh models are unrealistic. We all have heard the stories of starvation and photoshop retouches. We can’t trust the images we see. Yet, the comparisons that bother us the most are the ones that hit closest to home. I must keep reminding myself that I am almost 45 years old and have had multiple children. My body has seen more late nights, emotional eating, pregnancies, and years upon years, than the young, fit moms I tend to compare myself too. To make it worse, there are women my age who have had a bunch of kids and yet they still look like they could be on the cover of a magazine. I want to shout to the sky, “IT”S JUST NOT FAIR!” But the truth of this point is that NOBOBY and NO BODY has the same experience and genetics as you. We can not compare ourselves to anyone, no matter how close the comparison may seem. I will even push it one step farther. You must also stop comparing yourself to the younger version of yourself. Time and life has a way of changing us. We usually see it in our physcial attributes, but we must accept the other wonderful ways time and life has changed us and move on from this point. We are who we are. We have our own beauty and value. There is no one else like us. We are unique and that is beautiful. Accept it, and walk in the freedom of being yourself.
2. Stop striving for that one special size.
That winter day, as I stepped off of the escalator, I made a conscience decision that I would pay little attention to the size listed on the label of the coat that I felt looked the best on me. I was willing to go up as many sizes as necessary to find the right fit. We get WAY to hung up on sizes. Yet the fact is, those little tags on our pants, shirts or coats, mean very little in reality. A size 8 pair of jeans in one brand will fit completely different than a size 8 pair of jeans in another brand. There have been times that I tried on a certain size, that I thought fit me comfortably, to find that I could not even get them up past my thighs. Did I gain a ton of weight in the time I drove from home to the store? Of course not. Clothes designers do not meet together and determine what the true size 8 should be; rather, they have their own interpretations of size, cut and fit. Freedom comes when you stop caring what the label reads and just find the piece that looks best on YOU. What a great feeling it is to discover that perfect pair of jeans that feels so comfortable, makes your legs look great, and gives a nice shape to that large drooping package on your back side. When those jeans are mixed with the perfect top, flattering accessories, and a killer pair of shoes, you can feel like a runway model. No one is going to check your tags and comment on the size listed (if they do, you have my permission to slap them). All they will see is a confident beautiful woman loving the way she looks.
3. DON'T Stop trying to improve, but not with a 30 day miracle.
All of these points are great. I need to be happy with who I am and not compare myself to anyone else. However, I CAN NOT stop trying to make myself healthier, skinnier and happier. The final point of enlightenment I received on that short escalator strip was to give myself permission to not give up. Yes, I am beautiful and valuable right now, who I am at this moment, with all of the curves and creases and wrinkles; however, I will never give up trying to make myself better. I think it does women a disservice to encourage their acceptance of their body image without also giving them the freedom to work on improving themselves. You can do both! You can be proud of who you are while working on improving yourself. In the end, beauty and body shape is not the most important objective for me. I ultimately want health. My desire to be healthy, from the inside out, is what keeps me from starvation diets, weight loss pills, and 30 day miracle workout regimes. I KNOW that my journey toward health will be one that I continue till the end. I must accept that there is no miracle 30 day diet that will make me brand new. It's slow, it's hard, and it's VERY frustrating. That is why finding acceptance in who I am now is essential; otherwise, I will be miserable for a long, long time. A healthy body image should not dismiss our responsibility to treat our bodies in a manner that befits it. This load of skin and bones (and more skin) is my vehicle to all of the pleasure and true joys of this life. I want my vehicle to continue running in the best condition I can keep it. So I must not stop trying to make it better.
For me, on that day when I bought the most attractive, warm down coat that I have ever seen, I found a bit of freedom from that bondage of self hatred. I felt beautiful looking in the three way mirrors. I even managed to buy several other pieces of clothing because I didn’t care what size they listed or if some other mom would be caught dead wearing it. I was happy with myself and simultaneously motivated to continue to improve by doing the things I know I need to be doing.
Acquiring a proper self imagine and maintaining it regularly is not easy. In fact, I found the need to write this post in the first place as a reminder to myself as I have drifted back into the pit of self loathing. Battling against false ideas is a life long fight. Keep fighting girls.
Please feel free to let me know what you think and how you've battled with poor self image. Thanks.
*All stock photo credits: dollarphotoclub.com
**If you have difficultly leaving a comment, shoot me an email to let me know. I want to make sure all of the glitches get fixed. Thanks