If you are going through a challenging time in your marriage, or just got separated or divorced, chances are that your self-image and self-esteem may have taken a serious beating.
If you have survived a verbally or physically abusive relationship you probably feel the way your ex intended to make you feel. Worthless, useless, broken, unattractive and just simply shattered.
How I know? I was there myself. I was a young mother, overwhelmed with emotions of fear, loneliness, and I felt like a total utter failure. I remember my brother in law once telling me, “you have to get yourself together, look at you, you look like crap”. I was hurt, but it was a wake-up call for I did take look at myself and the person looking back at me in the mirror was not someone I knew or recognized. I used to like to take care of my appearances, dressed stylish and enjoyed wearing makeup (I was even a free-lance make-up artist at the time). But during that time, it became an afterthought and I started neglecting myself more and more. After that comment I started making an effort to put myself together a little more, and I noticed something incredible. When I was neglecting myself I was thinking and acting like a victim, I had no energy to do what I needed to do for myself, to stand up for myself, to face my soon to be ex at the time and fight for what was rightfully mine.
Once I started taking care of myself again I had more confidence and a new energy started flowing through my veins giving me the pulse I needed to become a victor rather than stay in victim mode.
Someone once asked me: “why do some people feel attractive even if they don’t have model like looks, whereas others who are very good looking such as models and actors don’t necessarily feel this way?” The reason is because physical beauty is only a part of what makes a person feel attractive. Beauty is both a physical as well as a psychological experience and it is based on three qualities:
- How we actually look (genetics)
- How we take care of ourselves (health and grooming)
- How we feel about how we look (positive self-regard)
In order to really have a positive beauty self-image you have to have all three qualities. I am sure you have met people or have friends who are very good looking (genetics), yet they don’t feel attractive. That is because they most likely lack one or two of the other elements needed to have a healthy beauty self-image or self-esteem.
So how can you work on rebuilding your self-esteem, start feeling more attractive and learn to love yourself again?
Here are three tips and exercise I want you to try:
We live in a time where the media has a tremendous impact on our beliefs. Many people tend to think that beauty is based on a reality created by others. The truth is that you have the power and ability to define and create YOUR self-image based on YOUR own criteria rather than following the reality created by your culture like the rest of the herd.
Action Step: Write down three physical features and three aspects of your personality that you like the most. You might find it challenging to come up with any, so try and think of the ones you are least critical of. Here are some examples: I work hard, I like my eyes, I am honest, I am great mother, I like my hair….Now put your list in order of importance and elaborate by writing one sentence about each aspect on your list.
Discovery: If you are like most women you will notice an interesting thing. Most likely your physical features ranked lower from the ones about your personality. This exercise places physical beauty in perspective and helps remind us that the core of our self-esteem is based on our personality characteristics more often than our physical features; even if our culture has us thinking differently. Physical beauty is just one aspect of our identity, attractiveness is SO MUCH more.
Looks matter to most people, but there is a big difference between attractiveness and perfection. Although no one ever looks perfect all the time, unfortunately the media has created the image of perfection. An image that is FALSE. We ALL have our bad hair days, blemishes, bloating, and pimples, but airbrushing and Photoshop can magically make them disappear. Learn to accept yourself with your imperfections because we all have them.
Action step: this exercise is focused on your physical features. Write down three that you believe are most appealing to you. For example: your thick hair, your blue eyes or straight teeth. Describe each feature in a sentence like, “My straight teeth are attractive, especially when I smile”.
Discovery: remember NO ONE has perfect features, but everyone has at least a couple of attractive ones. These can contribute to the core of your self-image. You can learn to use them for confidence and to improve your beauty self-esteem. For example: I always hated my nose, but many people have told me that I have attractive eyes so I focus on bringing out my eyes by wearing makeup colors that make them stand out. If you have straight teeth, keep them healthy by taking care of them so you feel good about yourself when you smile. If you change your perspective between perfectionism and beauty to a more realistic definition, you will be able to improve your beauty self-esteem.
We are our own WORST critics. Few people find as many faults with their appearances as we do. We can change the way we talk to ourselves by replacing negative thoughts and inaccurate “internal negative dialogues” with more positive ones. This is something I work on all the time.
Action step: Look at yourself in the mirror and then listen to the words that come into your head.
Ask yourself: Is the tone critical? Do the words remind you of someone or sound similar to those your mom once said? Your dad? Your schoolmates? Your ex? Then really question the validity of these words. For example I have a client who hates her curly hair, because her mother always used to tell her that she wishes she had straight nice hair. Is curly hair really unattractive? Do the extra few pounds that you are carrying around mean you are FAT and undesirable? Now rewrite these dialogues as if you would be talking to your friend or your daughter. If your daughter asked you how she looked, what tone do you think you would use? Does it sound anything like the tone you use towards yourself? Now look in the mirror and use the tone you would use for your daughter in your own inner dialogue.
Discovery: we can shift the way we see ourselves by practicing consistent, supportive internal dialogue. You will be amazed to see how much you can change when you replace all your negative chit chat with more loving and positive accepting conversations. Instead of being critical and trying to fix yourself, you can try and look the best you can, and accept yourself for who you are. Use your own kinder mirror as a constant source to build your beauty self-esteem and you will look and feel a lot more attractive.
Let me know what you discovered by doing these exercises and how they have helped you.