Wednesday, 23 February 2011

There Will Never Be a More Beautiful You!

Thoughts on Negative Self Image

I was browsing the net yesterday and noticed one of those ad's for some kind of photo enhancing software, where there was a photo of a woman before and after they had manipulated the image. God it made me sad ... and so angry! In the first photo, the woman was beautiful and natural - and they'd taken that image and taken away everything that made her, her - turning the whole thing into something completely unattainable (they even removed her freckles!!), and quite honestly, nowhere near as beautiful.

What kind of a world do we live in when we're teaching our kids, not to mention ourselves, that they can never be beautiful??!!?? Where we believe that the photo's on the front of Elle or Vogue are real - that the models in the images actually look that way in real life. It teaches people lies. It teaches us (guys, not just girls!) to hate our own bodies!!

'I Won't Eat' Anorexia Nervosa
And it's not just the media to blame either. People are cruel to each other, from childhood right the way up to old age. Kids are teased, bullied, & abused at school (and even at home!) for being overweight, 'ugly', for not having the right clothes - for being different in any way, basically. Tiny kids as young as 5 or 6 are getting eating disorders because they believe people see them as fat, ugly, & disgusting - and they go on to be cruel to themselves, repeating all that same rubbish within their own minds, over and over again, for years - sometimes for a lifetime!

I've had body image issues, along with self esteem issues in general, since I was in infant school - that's kindergarten for you American's. I'm 34 now, and I still hate my body, my face, my weight, myself!!! I still don't know if what I see in the mirror is what I really look like! Schoolyard bullying started the whole thing off. For me, I was different purely because my family were Christians. I was isolated, degraded, and punished because I wasn't like the others. I was bullied in FIVE different schools, right up until age 18 - and every single one of those bullies used taunts about my physical image as an arrow straight to my heart.

Image © Christi Nielsen - Distorted Body Image

And guess what? I went on, only around 4 years later, to marry a man who didn't know how to love me, and who repeated over and again all those messages the bullies at school had sent my way - only more severely, more violently - & with an even more damaging result. I didn't even realise for a long time that the things he was doing and saying to me weren't ok, because I'd spent almost my entire life being treated like that!

This man, my husband, the man who I loved and who I thought loved me, encouraged me to take laxatives so I'd lose weight; & he often refused to have sex with me without my being hidden under a sheet, with the lights out ... and it made me feel such deep, traumatic shame about myself - I can't even describe it to you. I hated myself!! And you know, I wasn't that fat, or that 'ugly'. I had some nice features, actually. I can look back now and say, ok I wasn't a beauty queen, but I wasn't that bad - and I made a lot of effort for him - but nothing was ever enough. Because the issue wasn't with me - it was with him

I think back to that time in my life now, and I think my view of myself was so broken. (I think it still is broken, though perhaps not quite so badly.) I think societys view of me/us/you is broken. And I'm angry at myself for letting other people, and the media, tell me how to view myself - not to mention angry at them for treating me so badly. I don't know what the answer is. I don't know how to change how we view & treat each other & ourselves. I just know that I don't want to live like this anymore. I don't want to look in the mirror and see some ugly freak looking back at me - I just want to see me.

It's National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) in the US this week, and one of the featured organisations is Operation Beautiful, whose goal is to end negative self talk, one person & post it note at a time! They encourage women to leave encouraging notes on bathroom walls, for other women to read. When you see the huge amount of notes posted on their site, it somehow gives you faith in the human race again. So - post a note, take a photo, and send it to Operation Beautiful. You might just change someone's day, or even their life!

I'm confined to these 4 walls, so this is my post-it-note to all of you!

You are beautiful. You are unique! Don't ever tell yourself otherwise!

We do not need to change our bodies; we need to change the rules.
~ Naomi Wolf ~

Small addition to original post :

Please also check out this music video which I happened upon after posting this blog this morning. It's by Jonny Diaz, and it's called 'a more beautiful you' - absolutely perfect for this post!

I've had some great feedback on this post so far - just wanted to say thank you! It wasn't easy to write about some of it ... but it was well worth it! :)

Susannah's Signature
I'd love to hear your reply and I know it'll be valued by other readers too! I always try to respond, please just be aware that it can take me some time to find the energy to do so as I've been particularly ill recently and struggling to get online. Thanks for reading! :)


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