This is me.
An unedited photo (except for a quick boost in lighting) from a shoot I did recently for my job, where I serve as CMO for a brand of women's clothing. It was professionally photographed and I had both my hair and makeup done. (Can you blame me? If every ex-boyfriend in your life could Google you wouldn't you want to look as good as you could?)
As a woman, especially a woman in her mid-30s, I am barraged every day with messages that tell me that who I am is wrong. I'm too heavy and too short. I'm too pasty pale. My wrinkles need to be erased. My grey hair should be covered meticulously. My breasts should be perkier. And don't I want this super awesome new product that does something super awesome that I just HAVE to have for my super awesome life?
If I allowed the messages that were thrown at me on a daily basis to sink into my head -- I'd probably feel pretty cruddy about myself. If I let them sink in and then turned those same words into negative self-talk, I'd have a lot of ground to be frustrated with myself. So it's pretty easy to get how looking at this picture -- which puts my body at a slightly awkward angle and shows off my full shape without any place to hide -- could make me see everything that society wants me to think is wrong about myself.
Photo courtesy of AbbeyPost
Why are these things wrong? Well, who knows? A much bigger question than I am qualified to answer. Some might say that people (as a whole) need others to feel bad about themselves in order for them to feel better. Some might say there's a big, conspiracy in today's marketplace that links overall consumer confidence to the sales of pretty much EVERYTHING, including beauty products. Others could say that, in order for there to be an Ideal Image we aspire to become, there has to be an archetype we dread becoming. You could say a ton of things. Instead, I will simply say this: I think it is human nature (especially in women) to find fault within something before they find praise.
The problem is that all these messages, if we hear them often enough and give them enough power, can turn into negative self-talk. And negative self-talk wears on you. It colors our lives and, in turn affects everything we do or touch.
Every day, I make a conscious decision to let the messages I tell myself be positive.
Some days it's easier than others. And some of those messages come easier than others as well. But I chose to be positive. So much, and so often, that drowning out the negative has become decently second nature to me with the majority of stuff I take on.
And so I offer this transparent experiment up for other women. When you look at a picture of yourself (or when you stand in the mirror) and when that negative voice starts to sing its seductive song, talk over it. Turn off the negative and turn up the positive messages that celebrate you instead.
Does this mean you have to be totally satisfied with your body? Nah. Come on, get real. But, you only have one choice -- demonize yourself or support yourself. I chose the second.
Your body tells a story. Your story creates a person. And that person deserves to be happy, just as they are.
If you have a few minutes, or are so inclined, I urge you to try this simple experiment. Find a photo of yourself. Address, head on, the things you could be scared of. Look them in the eye, stare them down and stand over them like you are a combination of Beyonce and Martha Stewart, and every other powerful, ass-kicking woman you can think of. Stare at them... and then move on.
Deal with it. Everyone ages. Everyone changes. Everyone (even the most "perfect" of people) has stuff about themselves they don't love. Tell the negative to take a hike. Off a tall mountain. And jump.
Next, find something you like. Even if it's as small as your toes or the shape of your nailbeds. Circle it. Literally. Take a pen to that paper and mark up every damn thing about you that you can dig. Today? That may not be too much. Next month? Hopefully more.
My point is simple. Not easy, but simple. "They" can tell you whatever they want. But so can you. You can tell yourself whatever YOU want. Longer, louder and in a way more connected to your powerful brain than anything else can be.
In the war of self-acceptance -- you can win. And it starts with a single choice.
Ready to see the good and take the Positive Photo Challenge for yourself? Share your own picture, pointing out the parts of you that YOU love and upload it to Instagram and Twitter! Make sure to tag so others can be inspired.
On Instagram @PositivePhotoChallenge and at #PositivePhotoChallenge