Written January 2017 as I struggled accepting my changing mature body in the aging process. I was 56 years old.
Depression also comes from things we cannot control, like the body we are born into
Yes, we all have those days where we struggle with our body image.
I’ve known very handsome, muscular, great build, young and older men that have struggled with seeing their flaws. I have known gorgeous, beautiful young and older women whose flaws I could not see yet they struggled with their body image because, of course, that’s all they could see when they looked in the mirror.
Society doesn’t help
From the time you are handed a toy to commercials, TV shows, ads ran in any venue, videos, stereotypes, movies, books, posters, celebrities, Barbie dolls, G.I. Joe’s and countless other influences too numerous to mention. Society bombards us with images that subconsciously influence our perceptions and views. Somewhere along the way we believe we “should” look like this and not like that.
Others are not so subconsciously taken in. Like our race, ethnicity, even the history of our ancestors can be cause for us to be judged by the world at large.
Parents who from the time you’re born instill either negative or positive influences about how you feel about your image. They may not mean to, but they do. They are also influenced by society and their upbringing just as you are.
My father thought it was the right thing to do when I was 8 years old and told me that I couldn’t sit on his lap anymore for bedtime kisses and saying goodnight. He never explained except to say I was too old. All I heard was “something’s wrong with you” and the deep fear sat in that it was all my fault. What had I done? What had I not done? Was I not good enough? Was I not pretty enough? My core issues with my image were born that year along with my tendency to analyze everything, hence overthinking everything. My mother wasn’t emotionally available so there I was left to try to figure all those intense emotions out for myself. Not to mention what other family members put us through.
Rejection has such an impact on our body image. No matter who rejected us or for what, a job, a relationship, a promotion, etc. It can leave a terrible everlasting impact on our psyche.
Then there are friends. They can be supportive, caring and kind or they can be cruel, demeaning and hateful. The saddest part is when someone you’ve grown close to turns on you and shares your insecurities with others. The whole world seems to laugh at you, and you just want to fade into oblivion and never be seen again.
Oh, and what about babysitters, preschools, daycares, or just regular school? It can be such a daily ugly tormented living hell that people kill themselves rather than face the bombardment of hate and meanness that may exist there. I won’t even get into the craziness of what impact social media plays on your body image. I hope more generations to come of “influencers” will be more aware of their impact on their audience, especially the younger audiences.
Flaws. Real or perceived. Imperfections. Within our mind or theirs. Scars. Ones we’re given and ones we controlled. Birthmarks. Hidden or right on your face. Stretch marks. Overweight or from giving birth. Varicose veins. Wrinkles. Brown spots. Skin not quite as tight as it once was. The list can go on and on.
Norms or what we perceived as “normal”
I remember when I was little growing up that if anyone was outside the norm on hair color, clothes, or a myriad of other social aspects to which they may not be able to control they were subject to the ridicule, scrutiny and taunting of the elite above all the rest. Nowadays even your name all by itself will make you a target for whatever preconceived ideas people have. Reminds me of days before my time. When your last name would tell everyone if you were Jewish, Italian, Hindu or some “other” type of people they wanted to pass judgement on. Plenty were even killed due to their differences. Sad and unjust.
Throughout my life I’ve been very fortunate. I wasn’t gorgeous but pretty. I maintained a steady weight without even a thought until a few years ago. I didn’t have any major abnormalities. In general, I knew I was blessed even though I would have liked to have been a blond with big boobs, a big butt or longer legs. I knew I was very fortunate. The “world” made sure I knew. It also reminded girls who weren’t. A pic of me in 2021 >
I witnessed what those who weren’t went through. I went from hanging with all the popular, well to do kids to hanging with the underdogs that no one wanted to be around. I always championed for the underdog. I didn’t get the hate; I just didn’t get it. I detested the meanness, ugliness and downright hatefulness I had seen in my former friends, family and even my hometown as I grew up.
In-between being little and growing into the awkward pre-puberty stage (there are so many awkward stages as a human being) I experienced my own issues with body image, self-image and self-esteem.
Things you cannot control. I learned to love myself despite myself. Flaws and all. It’s just that some days are better than others. Some days are easier than others. Some days are fewer and farther between now, thank goodness.
Then changes happen, again. Time takes place and priority over our lives. We find work, college, partners, or we have kids, careers or travel. We don’t even notice, not really until, well until we do notice. Time has changed our image. We look in the mirror and don’t see what we want to. What we used to see. Where did that wrinkle come from? A gray hair? What in the hell is that hair doing coming out of there? Oh, for freaking f***s sake why didn’t someone tell me I looked like that?
Aging and menopause
Would someone for jiminy crickets’ sake tell me why no one warns us of the aging process? This should be a standard conversation somewhere along the lines of growing up. Why isn’t there a, oh let’s call it a vultures and wasp talk like there’s a birds and the bees talk? Because this sh** can really bite at times when you didn’t know what to expect. Here I am in my mid-fifties feeling like I want to have sex every morning, noon and night, it’s like I’m going through a second coming of age. The kicker though is that certain things in my body may or may not work like they did back then. Menopause! Oh, yea that’s a talk to look forward to. NOT! It has made me feel like a blubbering idiot at times. Other times I can laugh at it. Hormones all over the place. By the way, men do go through menopause too. It’s a human condition. Not a curse.
Today was one of those very human days for me. I sat in a parking lot for 45 minutes crying, upset with myself for crying but trying to give myself some room to grow and acknowledge that changes are taking place in my body at this age that I cannot control the way I wish. I have to learn how to love myself through this. I don’t like not having control.
Control and trust
What? A woman that wants to be in control. Yes. I am a strong, independent (been on my own since the age of 15) grown a**, stubborn, intelligent, loving woman who loves to be in control of everything in her life. Except where my intimacy is concerned with my partner. It is what makes my trust so precious, I willingly give it. I need to let go. I need to not worry about what’s going to happen. I need to trust. Just trust that he will love me, take care of me and I will not have control. Just be. It’s scary for me yet it’s also very spiritual for me. To relinquish the control and learn to trust someone is both freeing and uninhibiting. Like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.
I saw myself in that full-length mirror today while trying on lingerie and honestly did not like what I saw. Oh, please do not misunderstand me. I love who I am. I am a very loving, giving, honest to a fault at times, feminine creature who enjoys laughter, music, art, literature and traveling. I have always had a deep passionate fire that has never been satisfied. I am talented, intelligent, funny, even if it would be considered (as my daughter would say) being a dork or a nerd.
I love me.
I just don’t agree with the package I came in. The image in my head doesn’t match the image in that mirror. Practicing acceptance has been an ongoing thing.
I remind myself that I am much more than my skin. I am much more than my hair color. I am much more than my age, the size of my boobs or the lack of any curves. I am much more than those scars, birthmarks, stretch marks and all the other things the world would judge me by. Listen to the song by India Arie titled “I am not my hair.” YES, people judge you based on one thing like your hair! And how!
I wanted to hold back today. I didn’t want to share what I saw in the mirror. I sent out thoughts of the person I was currently seeing. I didn’t want to seem like a cry baby. I didn’t want him to think I was too needy. Suddenly, I got a text. It just said “nice.” In response to a text I had sent earlier. That’s all it took. I told him about the heels I tried on. It had been so long since I had heels. He laughed and reassured me. I needed to hear his words. I shared more from my heart as I bawled and wiped my eyes. He replied, “I love you.” I was so grateful for that small assurance. I took some deep breaths. Wiped my eyes and blew my nose. I felt like he was championing the underdog.
I am so grateful that I had people like that along my path on this journey. I still need them! I hope you choose to champion an underdog along the way.
What has been your experience with this? Please let me know how you work through your body image issues and handle the grief, if any, it causes you.
I hope you will share your experiences and thoughts with me either in the comments below or send me an email.
All the best,