Only 4% of women around the world would describe themselves as beautiful, 72% of young women feel “tremendous pressure to be beautiful,” and over 54% of them agree that when it comes to how they look, they are their own worst beauty critics.*
Of course these numbers are alarming, but the emotional impact is even more traumatic. As women, we know that the conversations we have inside our head can be brutal.
This emotional abuse can lead to self-sabotage, addictions, depression, eating disorders and isolation. As a woman who has suffered from all of these, I often wonder what it's all for. Who is it we are really trying to impress?
Many people are taught from an early age to loathe and try to fix their bodies, and this issue isn't exclusive to females. But you don’t have to have a clinical eating disorder to have a warped body image.
Over the past year, I have looked closely at my habits to uncover how my self-sabotaging patterns have played into every aspect of my life.
This most obvious pattern was in my romantic relationships. I used to get involved with men who were emotionally damaging my self-esteem. What I see now is that I have consistently picked partners based on the level of love I thought I deserved. This meant that because I felt unworthy, unloved and less than pretty, my relationships could only reflect the same.
I realized my pattern of staying with people who were emotionally destructive was a mirror to the pain inside my own head. The first step I took to regain my health and happiness was to step away from the distractions. I immediately put myself on a dating detox, along with a health and relationship cleanse. What I really needed was some tender love and self-care.
I spent an entire year dedicated to removing the barriers that were keeping me from letting real love in. After this intense soul-searching experiment, I can see that self-love is not a true destination, but a journey. Like all aspects of life, it's about the process of working towards self-love as much as the final outcome.
Today I love myself more than I ever have, though I still have moments where my confidence is low or my mood is dark. That's a normal part of life. This euphoric and consistent self-love experience might be a reality for some, but with over 97% of women on the planet claiming to dislike their looks and feeling unworthy, I'd guess we're all in this together.
What if our constant quest to feel beautiful is really just a yearning to feel connected, a deep desire to feel seen for who we really are?
The fact is, we all want to be part of something much bigger than ourselves, but in our quest to connect to others, we often trip over the cracks of life and find ourselves back in our self-sabotaging patterns. What I've come to realize is that women see themselves less accurately than the rest of the world. We're our own worst critics. What if we cleaned up our self-talk, and started to respect and appreciate our unique selves?
Here is a system I’ve started to use; I call it the Four F-bombs to Ultimate Self-Love. It has helped me, and maybe it can help others regain balance and self-confidence.
1. FORGIVE yourself.
The energy spent on being angry, frustrated or enraged consumes us. In the end, it only hurts us and no one else. Most often the person we need to forgive is ourselves. If you're mad, forgive yourself and allow the healing to begin.
2. FACE your fear.
Many of our insecurities spring from deep-rooted fears. By getting in touch with our feelings, we can recognize those fear-based thoughts. Do your thoughts make you anxious, worried or cause you pain? Fear-based thoughts arise from a place of lack and not feeling “good enough.” By consciously raising our vibration and focusing on positive and healthful emotions, we can push through our fear.
3. FEEL your emotions.
I've found the recent tragedies hitting me harder than similar past events. As a former endurance athlete, I had an emotional connection that I never felt before, and my heart went out to those involved in the Boston Marathon bombings.
Without even realizing it, I was diving into a pint of ice cream, trying to numb myself and avoid the very real pain I was feeling. It took a moment, but I recognized that what I was looking for was not at the bottom of Cherry Garcia. We all have habits and vices that we turn to in trying times, but practicing those bad habits on a regular basis only contributes to our lack of self-esteem. What I was really hungry for was security. I felt unsafe.
Learning to recognize why we do what we do and becoming more aware of our habits can free us from the burden of feeling unworthy. Let your feelings work through you.
4. FOCUS on your superstar self.
We tend to focus on what's not working; the traits, characteristics and physical features that we don't like about ourselves. Instead of focusing your attention on what you dislike, turn your focus to what you are thankful for. Create a list of your awesome, superstar qualities, and post the list by your desk or on your bathroom mirror. Repeat it out loud to yourself each time you see it.
What do you think about this topic? Do people see themselves less accurately than strangers do? Leave your comments below.
If you want to cultivate more self-love, join Shannon Kaiser for the free online seminar "Unleash Your Inner Super Star" May 7. Sign up for free here.
This article inspired by Dove's social experiment. See full video here.
* Independent Dove Research
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