& how to cure your own
With beauty and the alleged perfectionism all around, building a healthy self-confidence is a real challenge for many of us.
The concept and idea of beauty is nothing new. But the standards, the metrics are constantly changing.
During the Renaissance and Baroque, full and soft female bodies were the longed for ideal. And then – centuries later, during the 1990ies, we experienced the rise of the skinny supermodels. Another ideal of beauty we started to integrate into our belief systems, is the concept of being forever young. Smooth skin, full and healthy hair, a youthful and fit body. But even if beauty standards influence us and our own body image and self-confidence a lot – the root of a lack of self-confidence often goes much deeper.
The critical years to build self-confidence
Today, I am sitting here writing these lines, with the hope to inspire you to change the way you look at your body and the way you define sell-confidence. But it’s been an unbelievably long journey for myself to reach this point in my life, in which I can look in the mirror every day and love my body instead of judging it.
From a very early age, my self-confidence crippled and it all started with a father who left my Mama and me behind. The feeling of not being lovable or good enough manifested itself inside of me. I grew up feeling incomplete.
This feeling grew over the years, I would start to compare myself with my cousins and friends, who had “normal families” – and all I found were visual differences. They had white skin, mine was brown. They had straight and silky hair, mine was tousled and dry. They had blue eyes, mine were brown, sometimes green and in summer yellow.
By now, I love my color-changing eyes a lot, but back then I thought it must’ve been the reason my family was not like the others – I was not like the others.
Growing older, I kept on comparing my body to the ones of my friends. As a biracial woman, my shape, my skin color, my hair structure – it has always been different and will always be different from my white friends.
Nobody is born with the feeling of being ugly, unlovable or worthless – it’s another thing we learn. Children growing up with a strong background and in a supportive environment, they are more likely to be more self-confident from the beginning. I had a supportive family, and still, the first hurting I experienced by being the little brown girl without a father made me doubt myself, my worth and with comparison, my beauty.
There are many factors that do influence our self-confidence from an early age, and sadly, we cannot control our environment, the tenets we are exposed to on a daily basis and we accept as our own beliefs at some point – but we can grow up and decide it is time to step out of that vicious cycle and cure our self-confidence.
Fashion magazines are not always to blame – a different perspective
With my body growing into that of a woman, I was still very young and my friends kept their skinny bodies without any curves a bit longer – I was different again. And soon, I developed a new fear – the fear of never having a boyfriend, because I looked wrong, ugly, different from the norm. In my belief system, that was already the reason my father left. So, how could another man ever be interested or stay!
I started to go on diets, to work out like a maniac, to straighten my hair – everything just to look more like my friends. The sad thing about a disturbed self-confidence and relationship with yourself and your body is, that people only see the superficial changes – they see how you lose or gain weight, how you work hard on changing your looks, but they never see where it’s coming from.
We blame fashion magazines, advertisement and an unhealthy, even unreal, beauty ideal. And of course, having seen the models on magazines, it did not make me feel any better about myself, but more often than not, a lack of self-confidence is rooted in childhood trauma.
I experienced it myself and I can see it in the people I talk to – friends and clients. When it comes to a healthy body image, self-confidence and a healthy sense of the self, I find it too easy to only look at advertisement and the ideal of beauty. Whilst it definitely has an impact, even a big impact, on women and men alike, limiting tenets learned during childhood and traumatizing events in the early years need to be addressed as well, when we start to talk about this topic.
Inner and outer healing
At some point, I was tired of hating myself and I embarked on a journey to explore the hidden feelings I had: anger, disappointment and hate came up. I worked through my family story, I started to speak openly about what was hurtful and I asked questions. Very soon, I visited my father, we spoke and I learned more about him and his past. Once I understood his decisions and also my mother’s decisions, I realized, it had nothing to do with me – my inner child was able to heal from that point on.
Still, the years, decades, of projecting all my fears, my inadequacies and the feeling of being worthless and unlovable on my body, were not as easy to erase. I had to make peace with my looks, my body and myself – and that required a lot of healing work.
#1: Do the inner work and educate yourself on the facets of self-confidence. Look within and explore the roots of your feelings. You can do this by yourself with journaling, or you can work with an experienced mentor or therapist – whatever feels best for you.
I know the inner healing work, forgiving our parents, families – whoever hurt us in the past, is the most important step, but aren’t we all also a bit conceited at times?
To change the way we perceive our bodies and learn to love them the way they are, it is not enough to only forgive and it is also a long journey – sometimes even longer than healing on the inside. Educating yourself on the topic of self-confidence is a great way to start. You will see, that even if we project a lot of our confidence on our bodies, there is a lot more behind it. I’d like to recommend this article to start with!
#2: Take a photo of yourself every day. Do not think about it being “good enough” to share on social media, simply take it for yourself. It can be a portrait, or a photo of yourself being naked in front of a mirror, or even a close-up of a body part you dislike the most.
Seeing yourself, the way you really are, consistently, makes it normal – you will get used to the way you look and at some point, even love the way you look.
#3: Another useful thing to do is, to always remember what your body does for you every single day. It carries you through your life, it is strong, healthy and for that alone, it deserves to be loved.
I love you, always. n.