Normally, my contributions to Notes from Home are based on personal experience with the topic of choice, so when Roxanne selected “Body Image” for this month’s e-zine, I knew it could be hard. I couldn’t imagine what to write. After all, I was finally okay with my shiny bald head. Now in my forties, it has been years since I last ordered a case of Kevis, Extra Strength hair and scalp lotion for more youthful, thicker, and fuller looking hair.
As proof that I was beyond the reach and influence of media, fashion, and what GQ portrays as handsome, last week I was asked by my kids what I would give up to have my hair back. My honest reply was, “nothing.” They didn’t believe me, but a feeling of satisfaction washed over me. I had arrived!
Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” While that sounds harsh, I believe there is a lot of truth to his statement and decided to ask myself some tough questions related to my own beliefs and ways of thinking about body image. What I found was that the “arrival” I thought I had achieved, unfortunately turned out to be a shaky truce. I have a long way to go, darn it. Let me give an example.
Last month, one of my sons needed a physical to be on the track team. He has always been short of stature and I’ve worried about that over the years, but when the doctor’s report noted he was not even on the percentile charts for height and weight in his age group, I panicked for him. Old insecurities from my own adolescence resurfaced. Anxiety about him feeling “less than” someone else because of his height, gripped me. I worried that there would be a girl (or a dozen) in the future that he was interested in, who wouldn’t give him the time of day because he wasn’t at least 3 inches taller than she was.
When I looked deeper I realized that I’m not worried about his height exactly. I’m concerned about his self-worth. I only want his happiness and somehow, deep down, I have this belief that if he was taller, he would feel better about himself and would have greater confidence to tackle lives challenges with. Am I crazy?
If I am, I’m okay sharing this because I think most, if not all of you reading this, will relate with me in some way. Whether you are a man or woman most, if not all, of you will be able to find something you are trying to fix in yourself or someone else because you think you’ll be happier, or they will be more successful if you do. If you can identify the subtle (or not so subtle) ways your judgments of yourself and others are colored by stereo types, you can now deliberately change that. Your life can brighten significantly over night with a new perspective. With this new awareness, you can stop transferring your own insecurities onto your children.
To close I want to invite you to click on this link and view a short video. You will see a powerful experiment where women describe themselves to a forensic artist who draws them and a stranger who has just gotten to know the woman takes a turn describing them to the artist. Who do you think is more critical in their assessments? See for yourself
I invite all of us to be an alternative voice that rings loud and clear above the media and those wanting to whip up insecurities to sell fashion, diet products, or promises of a more glamorous life. Let us lead out and teach our children that we love ourselves and we love them just the way we are, in whatever shapes and sizes these wonderful bodies happen to be in.