You are beautiful, thin, healthy, strong, smart and amazing. You do not need to wear that makeup, go on that crash diet, and for Christ sake you look just as good pale as you do with a deep, dark tan so stop leaving the house without sunscreen. Those pants do not make you look fat, if anything hiding behind baggy clothes that are 2 sizes too big for you makes you look fat. Everyone is not thinner then you, better looking then you, smarter then you, or more talented then you. Stop the self-deprecation, open your eyes and take a really good look at yourself to see the real you.
Do you ever wish you could go back in time and smack your younger self? This feeling is often sparked by an old photo from an event or time in life where you can distinctly remember feeling like garbage and in hindsight understand it was crazy and stupid to feel anything less then triumphant. Often I look at one of these photos and am surprised at just how good I look, especially photos from my teenage years when I hated everything about my body; my thick legs, wide shoulders, big butt, boxy waist, stringy hair, shiny skin, big feet, thin lips, etc. etc. etc. Obsessing over these issues probably perpetuated them as food quickly became the cause and solution of so many of my problems.
After tripping upon a photo album from my prom I had mixed feelings of sadness, anger, delight, and hunger. I can vividly remember the months and weeks leading up to the prom, trying every diet under the sun, buying multiple dresses in the hopes one would make me look thin, and crying to friends and my mother about how I was going to be the biggest, ugliest girl at the dance. In true early-90s fashion my dress had gigantic puffy sleeves that strategically drew attention away from the rest of my “fat” body. Standing pin straight and sucking in my gut all night made for a terribly uncomfortable evening. It is so sad knowing my prom night was not as fun and memorable as it should be because of an obsession with my perceived size. I say perceived size because looking at the photo now I cannot comprehend why I thought I was fat and what made me feel so unattractive; oh how much I wish I could have the waist, legs and wrinkle free skin of a seventeen year old now! As “they” say, youth is wasted on the young and what a waste in hindsight not enjoying the beauty and strength that is being young and (relatively) carefree.
Of course, can you imagine the arrogance of teenagers with perfect self-esteem and zero feelings of personal doubt? Oh yes! So many of today’s teens seem not only self-confident but almost over confident. Witnessing some of the narcissistic attitudes displayed by so many teens in the media today makes me realize that low self-esteem and self-loathing could be an important element necessary to keep egos in check and prepare us for the horrors and disappointment of adulthood. If we actually understood we are at the top of our physical game at 18 wouldn’t the rest of life seem bleak and impossible? High School physics is hard enough without learning a lesson that only comes with time; gravity is the law and it applies to Newton’s apples and our own breasts. Ignorance of youthful perfection could be the bliss that is needed to keep trudging through future birthdays and the downward droop of our mid-sections.
Putting ourselves down is certainly not limited to our teenaged years. Photo after photo, memory after memory it is hard not to think of how much more fun life would be if we focused on the positives of body and mind rather then the negatives. Longing for the smooth skin and gravity defying butt that only a person under 25 or under the knife will soon be replaced by yearning the days when I could walk for miles pain free, go to work routinely without makeup, party until the wee hours with friends, and sleep soundly through the night in my 30s. It is hard to think that 15, 20, 30 years from now I’ll be looking upon my 30s as potentially the best years of my life and regretting the time I wasted obsessed with my imperfections. Changing this attitude is easier said then done in a world that worships teenage pop stars, botoxes well earned frown lines, celebrates beauty over substance, and promotes anything over a size 4 as being fat.
How can we embrace and survive aging, especially as women who are thought to be all washed up by their 40th birthdays? The answer to this question is about as unique as all people who face it. The beauty of getting older is the confidence gained in getting wiser and I learned I don’t want to look at photos of myself in a decade or two and feel the mixed feelings I looking back now. Working through my own body image issues I have come to accept some of the inevitable parts of getting older, but continue to fight some others. My goal is to learn how to embrace the beauty and strength I have today while attempting to preserve what I can for tomorrow through important steps like better lifestyle habits, more time with friends and family, mind expansion through reading, and enjoying the little things in life. Someday I hope to look back at pictures from today and smile with the knowledge of a life beautifully lived, no regrets; cellulite and wrinkles and all.
Vita brevis. Carpe Diem!