A nude self-portait.....I hesitated for a moment while I pondered the thought of painting myself naked. Although I loved the idea and needed to do it for a project I wondered what I might think of myself. Would I like what I ultimately saw or would I find myself in a groundhog-like teenage moment of despair wishing I somehow looked differently. I had a sudden flashback of when I stood looking in a mirror wishing I was fifteen pounds lighter. I was 17 at the time and all I knew based on all of the magazines I had read, ads that I had seen and popular girls that I had envied, that I needed to lose weight. That was the only message I remember most clearly about my body during my teen years.
Very often, I will give a reading to a parent of a young woman and see all the self criticism and judgement in their aura. The sad part is, that that energy, that focus, is usually transmitted to their children. Whether they realize it or not, we, parents have a lot to do with our children's self image. If we are binge eating and then cursing ourselves the next morning because we've gained weight, you can be sure someone is listening and it's usually your children. Even though you think that message was meant for you, children are very sensitive and empathetic and tend to personalize those opinions you have of yourself for them. This is true of any child, boy or girl.
Even though this is true, children have more opportunities to experience self-love now more than ever before, especially if their parents are supportive. Websites are popping up all over the internet about self esteem especially for the pre-pubescent child like: girlsstandstrong.com. The Dove company has a great website: selfesteem.dove.us. they have numerous activities and downloadable books like: "Mindful Me Activity Guide for Girls" or " Free Being Me" all with an emphasis on body image and self appreciation.
I have all boys (3) but believe it or not they too have their own issues. They want to be more muscular or bigger but their concerns aren't filled with the anxiety I had as a teen, those goals aren't of primary importance. My sons are more balanced, they workout when they can, they stop eating if they feel full (even if there is a delicious dessert available). They aren't as focused on what they look like because that has not been THE emphasis we choose to focus on. However, if they were to have more significant issues I would use websites like: psychcentral.com "Boys have self-esteem issues too". There are other websites that include both sexes like: kidsempowered.com or livestrong.com that have great guidance and support.
I am fortunate that my sons have a maturity and teach me things I didn't have in my self-image tool box when I was a teenager. Things like forget everyone else's opinion of who I am or what I look like, do my thoughts fit in with my goals(?) and "Am I happy about what I am doing and who I am with?" These are the things that they focus on and I appreciate the message. I have added their very mature and focused questions to a few of my own.
It is true that growing up and being an adult allows us to consciously discern our worth by entirely different barometers. I still like to get my hair done, I check my weight weekly and put on makeup every now and then. However, if maturity has shown me anything it has shown me that I need to be happy with myself, my body and my mind. Whether I'm wearing makeup or not, whether I am the perfect weight for me or not, I always ask myself the same questions: "Do I feel good about how I communicated with people I came in contact with today? Did I do the best I could possibly have done for my clients? Was I able to convey how much I love my family and myself? Was I considerate of my health today, did I eat well, was I physically active, was I able to give myself ample time to rest as well as work? Did I appreciate myself today, was I honest with myself? Did I use my mind for positive messages to myself as well as my family?" These are the barometers that have meaning and significance to me now.
Similar thoughts have taken root in our society. I taught a Barre class and was cuing physical movements as well as saying things like "Thank your thighs right now!" or "Take a look in the mirror, watch your form, stare into your eyes.... now say 'I AM GORGEOUS!'", "Love and Honor Yourself as you are right now." I usually get a giggle here and there, some are too self conscious to actually do it but I'm happy I planted the seed. After one of my classes a woman came up to me and thanked me she said "I just want you to know how much I appreciate what you are trying to do in your classes. I'm getting my degree in teaching and part of my thesis is about teaching young women to love themselves and appreciate who they are." I believe we are on a healthier self-image path.
This is my philosophy to love and honor yourself where you are. This is true for myself, my family, my friends and my clients. It's a philosophy that has never failed me or anyone I know. Whether we are attempting to lose weight, get more fit, organize our homes or reach a coveted career goal, we are all doing the best we can in the moment and we should recognize and speak to that fact. LOVE AND HONOR YOURSELF; if we can get that, if we can truly embrace that thought, the rest is effortless.