By Johanna Carney, Staff Writer
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see ‘thunder thighs’, love handles, a beer belly? Are you happy with the way you look? While everyone has a ‘bad hair day’ now and then, and most of us would like to change at least something about our appearance, how we feel about our bodies can have a big impact.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, “people with negative body image have a greater likelihood of developing an eating disorder and are more likely to suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, and obsessions with weight loss.”
Of even more importance, though, can be the effect our own body image has on our next generation. When a child or adolescent sees us examing our reflection and adding up our supposed shortcomings, what conclusion can they draw? Will he assume that even though we are ashamed of our own bodies, he should be proud of his? Or, will she learn that the mirror is to be used for finding flaws, that she will never measure up to the ideal of a perfect body?
Do you know a girl or woman who covers her mouth when she laughs, or makes sure to never smile fully for fear of showing the teeth she is self-conscious about? When that happens, we all miss out; no one is more beatiful than when their face is lit up with a huge smile.
What about the young man who could be the next Michael Phelps, but refuses to wear swim trunks for fear of calling attention to his big feet? Again, we all lose when that happens.
How can we, as parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, mentors, and role models of all types help youths to grow up self-confident? How can we help them to see that everyone is beautiful, and to see their own individual beauty as a source of confidence?
We can start by acknowledging that truth to ourselves. We are beautiful. YOU are beatiful! Those supposed ‘flaws’ that we see in the mirror are part of what makes us who we are.
Sadly, we spend so much time trying to ‘fix’ what we see in the mirror, that we often fail to take notice of what is perfect about us already.
What if, instead of tallying up our imperfections, we see our bodies as they actually are? I have a flabby belly, sure. But that belly stretched out enough to carry baby boys two times, and they grew up to be two of the most amazing young men I have had the pleasure to know. How could I be ashamed of that? My hands are not pretty, but they have the callouses and scars of someone who works hard every day of her life. That’s something to be proud of. There are spider veins on my legs from running, but those legs can carry me for miles and miles on the weekends, and my calf muscles are impressive! While, according to the charts, I could stand to lose twenty pounds, I’m still impressed by what my body is capable of doing.
I could go on and on. I bet you could, too. Why not do that out loud? By verbally taking stock of what we love about both our inner and outer selves, we can boost our own self-confidence. Perhaps when we begin to see ourselves in a positive light, we can project that confidence to the next generation. And then we all, young and old, can see the mirror, not as a source of anxiety, but as a true refection of the awesome human beings that we are!
“When we lose twenty pounds…we may be losing the twenty best pounds we have! We may be losing the pounds that contain our genius, our humanity, our love and honesty.”