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!
Thank you Kass, it is very interesting how much the number on the scale can effect how we feel about ourselves!
You can find Kass’ book Family Fallacies at B&N and Amazon
Being a sociology student I find the concept of teenage body image affecting later life self-esteem is interesting. Body image is definately an issue in forming and weakening self-esteem, which is why cosmetic surgery is so popular as everyone wants to appear ‘normal’ (a concept not easily defined).
Personally, even though I may not be entirley happy with the way I look I have no desire to change it, especially through surgery.
I don’t think anyone, male or female, is completely happy with the way they look, because nobody’s perfect. What I find so sad is when people let their package define their value, especially if their perception of their body is off kilter. I was surprised when I found that quote from Elizabeth Taylor (she’s the lady in the red dress above, btw; that is not a picture of me..I wish!). Then I had a vague memory of hearing her say something to that effect, years ago in a TV documentary, so I know it’s a valid quote. Thanks so much, Abbey, for stoppng by and getting the discussion rolling. Best of luck with your studies!
Thanks Abbey, it is so interesting how our body image develops. I’m always careful to say that I want to be healthier, stronger, more felxable in front of my daughter.
I read somewhere that women are happier if they “marry down” in the looks department. Maybe because they feel more secure that they won’t have to compete with women as attractive as them and their husband will appreciate what he has?
I know that personally, my self-esteem is tied to how healthy I am feeling. If I can work out, do yoga, eat healthy, have energy to accomplish everything I need to do, then I feel good about myself. I feel so sorry for teenagers with all the photoshopped images of perfect-looking people shoved in their face at every turn. The world would be a much better place if we could somehow teach them to love themselves unconditionally and treat themselves kindly.
Amen, Shannon! The teen years are hard enough without having impossible ideals thrown at them. It’s a time when kids are starting to form their self-image of who they are going to be as an adult. So they are naturally questioning how they should look. And do you remember that horrible self-consciousness you felt as a teenager? You’re sure everybody in the world is noticing that little tiny zit on your chin, when in reality, everybody is too busy worrying about their own zits to care about yours!
Shannon I agree I feel so much better about myself when I accomplish something physical then when I lose a pond or two.
I’ve struggled with body image my entire life. I was chubby – and just plain fat – for a lot of it, and then finally lost 65 pounds in 2011. I thought that would be the end of it, but it’s not. It is a constant struggle to look in the mirror and be okay with what I see. I’ve finally realized, though, that I can’t tie my self-worth to my looks. And like the others, I feel incredibly sorry for the teenage girls these days. Things are only getting worse, and I worry for my own daughter.
Oh, Stacy, that word ‘struggle’ really jumped out at me. So many women, and a lot of men sadly, struggle with this issue. Glad to hear that you’re breaking the connection between self-worth and body image. Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t do the best we can with whatever the good Lord blessed us with, but we should be valued by what’s inside. Good luck with your daughter. It’s never too early to start pointing out to her that the media is presenting a false image of what one’s body should be.
Hey, I just had an idea. Let’s start a “Just Say No” campaign aimed at teen fashion and beauty magazines! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Stacy!
Stacy tying self worth to something other then body image is so difficult. And I too worry about my daughter. I always try and watch what I say around her and I watch a lot of British TV, they tend to have more normal looking people on their shows.
Greay post, Kass. Perceived body image can be such an evil beast, especially for teens. I lived through some very sad years where I didn’t feel my body measured up to the ‘ideal’ I put in my head. Even today, I’m critical of my body but mostly now I’m proud of its strength and ability. But that was many years of maturity and 3 children in the making. 🙂
I dated a guy, briefly, when I was a teen who checked himself out in every single mirror or reflective surface he passed. Yes, he was indeed very good looking, if the drooling girls could be believed. Ok–I drooled over him too. But it didn’t take me long to realize that he should be admiring me more than himself. And that was the end of that. hahaha!
Looking forward to having you over tomorrow. I’ll put the coffee pot on, make a fruit salad, maybe a frittata … oooh, how about mimosas!!!
Yum! But you’d better hold off on the mimosas until after I tell the folks about my ten top tips for maintaining mental health. Not good if the tipster gets tipsy! (resisting the urge to delete; that was bad) 🙂
Seriously, though, as you and Shannon are both saying, our body image should be more about our health and strength, so we can live life to the max! And even there, it’s a tricky balance to be realistic and not expect too much of ourselves, especially when you get to my age (but that’s a whole other post).
Looking forward to tomorrow, Ginger! Can I bring anything? Besides my ‘tips’ list, that is.
Thank goodness you didn’t date him for too long! Kids help us grow a lot don’t they. I think some of the most intense growing I’ve done has been in order to be better for my children.
Not real sure why my photo isn’t showing up when I reply. That’s not intentional. And just to clarify, the lady in the red dress in the post is not me. That’s Elizabeth Taylor.
Hey, you all might want to pop over to Emma Burcart’s post on Skinny Jeans at http://www.emmaburcart.com/2012/06/when-will-skinny-jeans-go-away/
Another way that our body image and self-esteem gets eroded; when we feel pressured to wear clothes that are fashionable but don’t really flatter our particular bodies!
Profound post. I felt fat and unattractive when I was a teen but when I look at photos of myself from those times (and see some clothes from the time), I’ve realized that I was really slim. I was just hiding it really well under baggy and unattractive clothes.
I’m more forgiving of myself now and know what looks good on me and what doesn’t. But choosing what to wear for any special occasion is hard now since I’ve gained weight after kids and budget is tight. Clothes aren’t everything but it really gives you a confidence boost when you know they make you to look good.
Ah, I think I finally got this thing to put my picture up. I’m a bit techno-challenged.
Reetta, I can relate somewhat. I don’t recall that I ever felt fat per se, but I didn’t really appreciate what I had in my youth. I thought of myself as just okay. But I look at pictures of myself in my twenties and early thirties, and I was downright skinny.
Even though I’m preaching here that our self-esteem shouldn’t hinge on our looks, nonetheless, it does give a girl a boost when you know you look good in an outfit. I’m a bit of a clothes-horse myself; I love to shop, but I don’t really follow the fashions. Not unless they come out with something that is becoming to my figure.
Here’s an idea that just occurred to me. Have you checked out any consignment second-hand clothing stores? I’ve found some real buys in ‘vintage’ shops, as they are sometimes euphemistically called. And you could take in some of your old things and put them on consignment. Might just break even!
Reetta i agree when I ware clothes that look nice and fit well I feel better about myself.
You are right, the way we feel about ourselves turns into the way we see ourselves. Because of the way my mother felt about herself and the messages she pushed onto me about my body, I always thought I was fat. I then got into shape in graduate school when I joined a gym. The funny thing is, a few months ago I was looking back at pictures from my childhood all the way through college and realized that I wasn’t actually fat. I was always a thick kid and got curves right away during puberty. But, fat? Not so much. It’s kind of amazing to realize that I didn’t see my actual reflection when I looked in the mirror. I saw those messages I received as a child. An image that wasn’t actually me. It feels so good to look in the mirror now and actually see myself as I am.
Oh, Emma, I’m so happy for you that you’ve unchained your body image from the messages from the past. And it never ceases to amaze me how our mental image of ourselves can affect what we actually think we’re seeing in the mirror. Anorexics, who look like refugees from a concentration camp, can look in the mirror and see themselves as fat!
And since when are women not supposed to have curves? That’s the way God intended us to be and I’ve got a flash for the world, men like curves! Curvy women of the world, unite!
Okay, got a little carried away there. Thanks so much for stopping by, Emma!
Emma what a great experience for you!
One of my best friends was a dietician who reported to me about a workshop she attended at a professional conference. The point made by the expert was that studies have shown that body image is affected very early on in childhood. For instance, those women who were informed by their parents that they had been “fat” or “chubby” babies tended to see themselves as fatter than they were. It matters how we define and describe our children. I love the way you incorporated this concept into the book. Thanks to Kass and Alica for the post!
Interesting study. Most definitely how we define our children to them, and to others in their earshot, has a great influence. And most kids naturally chunk up a bit just before they hit puberty (somewhere between 8 and 11 yrs old), and then they grow into that weight when they have a growth spurt a year or two later. That’s a very vulnerable time. Yes, we need to fight childhood obesity but we also need to be careful what we sear into kids’ minds about their bodies.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Julie, and sharing this information.
That’s interesting, I’ve told both my kids they were wonderfully chubby babies, and that babies are supposed to be chubby. Huummmmm I hope they took it the right way?