Because I am out of town Kassandra Lamb, a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer, has agreed to post today to keep all of you entertained. So give Kassandra a warm Arm Chair Adventures welcome!
“Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful”
Are you old enough to remember the 1980’s Pantene shampoo commercial that made this line famous? Or perhaps it resonates because of the lyrics in Keri Hilson’s much more recent “Pretty Girl Rock.” Actually I could have sworn that Elizabeth Taylor said it first, but, after a quick romp around the Internet, I was not able to prove this.
Unfortunately, for all too many of us, the answer to that line would be “I don’t hate you; I hate myself because I’m not beautiful.” And sadly there are a lot of people in our society, especially women, who would say that even while those of us around them are secretly envying their beauty. Not only has physical attractiveness become the main criteria for okayness in our society but most people actually see themselves as a lot less attractive than they actually are.
Why is that? If being beautiful, handsome, adorable, is what makes us valuable, than why aren’t we all clamoring that we are beautiful, handsome, adorable? Oh, if only the connection between self-esteem and body image were that simple.
The reality is that if we feel poorly about ourselves, for a variety of reasons, than we are going to perceive our package as not okay, no matter how beautiful we are. One quote that I did find for Elizabeth Taylor, who was drop-dead gorgeous and an incredibly talented actress, was, “I don’t like my voice. I don’t like the way I look. I don’t like the way I move. I don’t like the way I act. I mean, period. So, you know, I don’t like myself.”
Interestingly, she did admit that, “…when I was a little girl, my father was abusive when he drank and seemed to kind of like to bat me around a bit.” Could explain the low self-esteem.
On the other hand, if we perceive our bodies as less than attractive, in our society at least, this tends to undermine our self-esteem. I am one of the few women, amongst my circle of friends and acquaintances, who actually sees my body fairly accurately. Until my late thirties, I was, and perceived myself as, a reasonably slender, moderately attractive woman, with nice hair, warm brown eyes, a cheerful smile and less than perfect skin. I liked my appearance basically, or at least I wasn’t displeased with it.
Then I developed a problem with my thyroid and experienced the onset of middle-aged spread in a huge way (and I mean that literally). In less than a year, I ballooned from 125 pounds to 160, and suddenly I found myself feeling insecure–a feeling I had not experienced in the last 15 years! I was shocked that my self-esteem, that I had always assumed was grounded in my intelligence and other talents, was that easily shaken by a shift in my appearance.
Over the next decade, I slowly came to grips with the betrayal of my body, which is a good thing, since I gained another 15 pounds before the doctors finally got my thyroid problem under control. Now I’m pushing sixty (hard) and I’m back to thinking I don’t look half bad for my age, since I still have the hair, eyes, smile combo going for me. But a lesson was definitely learned about how fragile our self-esteem can be, in the U.S. of A., when our bodies are less than perfect.
This whole issue of body image and self-esteem has been on my mind lately because, in my book that just came out, Family Fallacies, the protagonist, Kate–a woman of average attractiveness–is being wooed by a very handsome guy. He’s six-five, 240 pounds of mostly muscle, with gold flecks in his hazel eyes and an easy-going, sexy grin.
*stopping to fan face; must be having a hot flash*
Her good friend, Rob, is very uneasy about this budding romance, and it takes awhile for him to realize that the disparity in their appearance is the reason for his distrust.
That brings me to the next and, I think, optimistic point. Research has found that people tend to be attracted to those of a similar level of attractiveness. This is good news for those of us in the butt-ugly to moderately attractive range. There is someone out there, probably several someones, who will find us cute, or at least will be relieved that we’re no prettier than they are!
The reader discovers, as the book progresses (with mysterious things happening; well, because it is a mystery after all), that Kate’s suitor wasn’t always a hunk. He was a late bloomer.
Which brings me to the last of my points about this complicated interaction between body image and self-esteem. The body image we develop in our teens may very well continue in our brains long after we’re grown. I had a male colleague who was quite thin (naturally; he was not anorexic), and yet he admitted that he still tended to see himself, in his mind’s eye, as chunky because he had been a chunky teenager, until he grew into his weight during a late growth spurt. That’s where I got the idea for my character’s body image issues. At one point, he confesses to Kate that he often does a double-take when he walks past a mirror, because his internal self-image is of the short, scrawny sixteen-year-old that he once was.
Do you know anyone like that, whose body image is dictated by something other than reality? Does any of this resonate for you? What are your thoughts about the link between body image and self-esteem?
Thank you so much, Alica, for your hospitality!
And to show my appreciation, anyone who comments below will automatically be entered in our contest to win a free e-book set of the first three books of my mystery series. And if you go to www.misteriopress.com and comment there, your name will go in the hat twice. The winner will be announced this Friday, here and on misterio press. You can also pick up an extra chance or two of winning by commenting at the two stops left in my little romp around the blogosphere.
Thursday, I’ll be talking about getting A Check-Up From the Neck Up with some tips for maintaining good mental health at Ginger Calem’s cyber-home, http://gingercalem.wordpress.com
Friday, I’ll be chatting with Jennifer L. Oliver about writing, eating and puppy dogs (no, we’re not eating puppy dogs) at http://www.small-escapes.com
Hope to see you there, and good luck in the contest!