Full Life Reflections

Striving for happiness, peace, and fulfillment in a chaotic world

In my last post, I wrote about a few of my personal “body image role models,” women who embody healthy body attitudes and are helping me to cultivate similar perspectives. Now it’s time to consider the celebrities…

We often hear about the negative effects of the media and the damage created by trying to live up to celebrities in terms of beauty and thinness. While it’s true that many stars are not good role models for young (and older) women, there are some who buck that trend. I have written about a few of them in previous posts and will continue to share stories of women in the limelight who possess refreshingly positive attitudes related to the topics addressed in this blog.

I also keep a file of positive quotes from famous women on the topics of body image and self-esteem. Today’s post shares a few of these quotes from celebrity body image role models, as well as my commentary on what they have to say. The women quoted represent various professions – an athlete, a model, a singer, and a reality TV star – but they all have powerful insights to share with those of us who are working to rehabilitate a negative body image. It is my hope that you will gain a few tidbits of wisdom or “aha moments” from reading the quotes below.

A lot of attention is given to celebrities who have enviable figures. We’ve all seen the magazine articles with such titles as “The Hottest Hollywood Bodies,” “Body after Baby,” and a multitude of other stories chronicling celebrity weight loss and the body ideals showcased by the stars. Similarly, many of us know “real people” with amazing physiques and we may compare our own bodies to theirs and find ourselves coming up short. Seeing beautiful bodies can either motivate us or deflate our spirits, depending upon our mindsets and how we feel about our chances of achieving our body goals.

While it can be helpful to have body role models, it is even better to have body image role models, especially for those of us who are working to rehabilitate a negative body concept. This post will highlight a few of my personal body image role models and show what I have learned from the women in my life who embody healthy attitudes toward their bodies.

Are you stuck in an image rut? Is there some aspect of your appearance that you would never consider changing? Do you think there is one thing about your looks which makes you special?

I recently watched an episode of the modeling competition show, “She’s Got the Look,” which brought the above questions to the forefront of my mind. For those who aren’t familiar with this show, it’s similar to “America’s Next Top Model,” but geared toward women ages 35 and older. The winner of the show is awarded a spread in Self Magazine and a contract with Wilhemina Models.

On the second episode of this season’s show, the contestants were all given makeovers at a top hair salon. One of the models, Jocelyn, refused to have her long hair cut in the manner that was suggested. After some provocation, she agreed to have a few inches cut off and some layers added to her hair. Her naturally curly hair was styled straight after the cut, as was done with the other curly-haired contestants.

Not only was Jocelyn extremely reluctant to alter her look, she was highly dissatisfied with the results of her makeover. Although what I saw was a beautiful woman with either curly or straight hair, Jocelyn regarded her “after” look as unattractive. While looking into the mirror, she tearfully declared, “I used to feel beautiful and now I just don’t.”

For as long as I can remember, there has been at least one part of my body which I have found completely unacceptable. This hated body part hasn’t always been the same, but I can’t remember a time when I was not obsessing about some aspect of my body. It is extremely difficult for me to inhabit my body and not be roiling against some part of it. I do not feel fully comfortable in my own skin and this leads me to feel hopeless and despondent at times.

I can remember hating my hips, calves, tummy, butt, nose, and hair at different times over the years. While I am still not thrilled with any of those parts, I no longer obsess over them. At the present time (and for a number of years now), my most hated body part is my thighs. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t find myself cursing the size of my legs, wishing they could miraculously be smaller, and trying to find a way to camouflage what I consider to be their tremendous girth.

I’m fat! My thighs are huge! I’m ugly! I’m old!

How often do you say these types of things about yourself, either aloud or inside your head? How much time and energy do you spend disparaging yourself and your appearance? Do you think this kind of negative self-talk helps you to change?

For many years, I was my own worst critic. I would criticize myself for a multitude of “sins,” but my most frequent criticisms related to my appearance. I set unbelievably high standards for how I looked, and I would berate myself for not living up to these benchmarks. Whenever I would look at myself in the mirror, all I would see were my flaws; my virtues were invisible to the harsh judge inside my head.

I used to believe that my self-criticism served a useful purpose. I thought that my brutal thoughts and words motivated me to change, and that the judgments pushed me toward productive action. While it’s true that seeing that I didn’t live up to my own standards propelled me to exercise more often and restrict my food intake, there was also a downside to my self-criticism that I didn’t see until recently.