Grace, one of our blog readers, left this comment on a recent post, “I was wondering if you could possibly talk about ways to gain confidence. I saw a video on the site that said being confident makes her sexy, and I wish to be, but I am not very confident, and have a low body self-esteem thing. Could you help possibly?”
Help is here! Many women experience low body self-esteem. There is a cultural myth that says you have to look a certain way to be okay. When we don’t measure up to our image of perfection, it’s easy to judge ourselves and lose confidence. We think we’d be happier if only we were thinner, heavier, taller, shorter, or in some way different than what we see in the mirror. We can be pretty hard on ourselves for the way our bodies function too. You might get angry with your body’s metabolism, or skin that is too oily or dry, or a bladder that leaks at the most inconvenient moments.
I got on the phone to get some tips from my friend Laura Fenamore. Laura is a body image specialist. She struggled with low body self-esteem as an overweight, uncoordinated child. Any physical activity represented pure fear. “The kids called me Fat Fenamore,” Laura said, “At 24, I weighed 220 pounds, possibly more, I don’t know because I stopped weighting myself. I was too disgusted.” By learning to love her body, just the way it was, Laura lost 100 pounds and has maintained a fit, healthy body for over 20 years. “It all starts with the way you think,” Laura said, “You can’t change anything you’re at war with. You need to stop being at war with your body. You need to stop being at war with food, or the scale. They are not your enemy. Acceptance has to come first.”
It can be hard to find self love and acceptance. Laura’s self-judgments were so harsh that she couldn’t find any part of her body to love. Finally, she decided that she could love her pinky fingers. That was the beginning of her transformation into a confident, self-approving woman. “The first step of acceptance means letting go of resistance and saying, ‘This is where I am,’” Laura said, “If you are overweight and feel ashamed, it’s where you are right now. Why and how is sort of irrelevant. You need to accept yourself warts and all.”
The next step Laura teaches is how to take responsibility for your actions and choices. “If you’re going to make the decision to overeat wouldn’t it be so much better to accept it rather than beat yourself up about it? That just adds anxiety,” Laura said, “It’s easier to make different choices from an empowered place.” Though diet and exercise is important, it’s the last thing Laura focuses on. “I didn’t exercise to lose my weight,” Laura said, “What I did was walk. I started walking while listening to inspirational audios from people like Tony Robbins and Mary Ann Williamson. Next, I would jog a block. I worked my way to the gym. Now it comes natural. I’m up at 5 a.m. I take 6 a.m. classes three days a week, and do something physical every day. Now, I love it.”
“It’s easy to make excuses. ‘I can’t work out because of ...’ The truth is there are realities that make it challenging AND you can work it out,” Laura said, “There is a way if you’re committed.” Not all women with body self-esteem issues are overweight. No matter what particular body issue you may have, here are four quick tips Laura offered to gain confidence and start feeling better about your body:
1. Don’t compare yourself to others.
2. Notice who you’re hanging out with and seek out positive people.
3. Ask for what you want and need. If your family makes fun of you when you leak after a big sneeze, make a direct request for them to stop. You might not always get what you ask for, but you stand a better chance of getting what you want by teaching people how you want to be treated.
4. Make a list of your role models. Then, write down the characteristics that you admire about them. You may find that it’s their character, not their bodies, that you admire most.
Every woman is worthy of self love and acceptance. Every woman deserves to feel confident. Getting there is a process, not an event, and anyone can start right now.
What about you? Do you totally and unconditionally love and accept yourself just as you are right now? If not, what are you afraid might happen if you did?