How Can Women Develop Better Self-Images?

I was just at the Y, and we are having a “Eating Disorder Week” there - complete with presentations about how young girls start developing distorted and negative self-images at very young ages. I think it is fair to say that we are pretty sure what the culprits are that are causing the horrible body images in North American girls and women (media, magazines, television, movies, diet industry, exercise industry, advertising industry to name the usual suspects), but what can women and girls do to develop better, more positive body images?

Aside from obliterating the entire advertising industry, how can us average women be better to ourselves and each other, to counteract all the crap we hear and see each day that makes us feel inadequate and unattractive? What can we do to get ourselves thinking about things other than our weight and bodies, and put things back in perspective?

Stop watching TV? Yes, I know that’s a simplistic answer, but it couldn’t hurt anyway. I do think we’re starting to see some progress here in terms of media imagery. I’ve noticed more advertising geared to young girls focusing on sports, volunteering, OTHER things besides appearance. That’s a step in the right direction.

I think we, as women, are so indoctrinated into the Body Image Ideal crap we’ve been seeing for years that it will take a conscious effort to make ourselves aware of the little things we do that subtly reinforce that sort of thing (sorry for the run-on sentence). We have to stop complaining about clothing sizes, stop bragging about and congratulating one another on weight loss, stop refusing dessert.

There are probably no simple answers, but if we make the effort to refocus ourselves, I’m sure we can.

For starters stop asking other people what to do to feel better about yourself. How the hell am I supposed to know? Next, ask yourself what makes ‘me’ feel bad about ‘myself’ and then ask why does that make ‘me’ feel bad about ‘myself‘. Once you do that, you can try to change whatever it is or realize that why you feel bad about it has nothing to do with yourself, but with society. Then you can try to change society so that it doesn’t make you feel bad about whatever it is that you felt bad about in the first place. If you can do all that, you might just like yourself a little bit more, but only a little bit. This goes for guys as well.

here’s a guy’s perspective for ya

who said you should improve self image ? to improve your actual physical appearance is a not-bad idea though.

frankly, after 2 years at the Bally’s gym with all the hot-ass chicks there, i do not even find most television stars up to the standard.

10 to 7 is the ideal hips to waist ratio ? i dunno, i see a lot of girls with more like 10 to 6 or even 10 to 5.5 and not much bodyfat to speak of. a few years ago if i would have seen this i would not even know what to think, but now i know ITS DA SHIT !!!

ye, ye, for an exceptional personality i too will overlook a bit of physical imperfection, but yo, for a body like that i will overlook a personality disorder :slight_smile:

Okay, if I was looking for asshole comments, Darwn48 and vasyachkin, I would have specified “respond with asshole comments, please” in my OP. I was actually posting a serious question, and hoping for some serious, thoughtful answers for what I perceive as a real problem for North American women.

Honestly, I used to completely despise my appearance. I was always fat, always wore glasses, always was a big geek. Wore huge t-shirts and stretch pants until I was in 9th grade (which would be about '96-97. :eek: ) I hated myself because everyone told me I was fat and ugly and the media told me I was fat and ugly and basically everyone except my mother treated me like shit because I was hideous.

Eventually, I just stopped caring what everyone else thought. I came to the realization that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, if I am happy with myself, then they can all go take a flying f*ck at a rolling donut, for all I care. If they have a problem with the way I look, there’s a simple solution – don’t look at me. I found cute jeans in my size. I cut off massive amounts of hair (it was down almost to my waist, and it’s tremendously thick and wavy. It was a nightmare anyways) and dyed it. Not because I cared what other people thought, but because it felt good, it felt right, and it made me feel pretty. I look awesome as a redhead (now if only I could get back to being one…). I got to college, still thinking of myself as not-so-great, just not really caring so much. After freshman year I finally got contacts (after wearing humongous thick glasses every waking moment since first grade), and that helped too.

But what really helped was just the teensiest bit of validation. Fall of last year I got my first boyfriend. Long distance, unfortunately, a friend of my then-best friend at school. The first time I talked on the phone with this guy and realized he had a romantic interest in me, and actually thought I was HOT, I panicked. My brain broke at the thought that someone actually found me attractive. So I instinctively tried to sabotage it. I told him about my glasses, my one snaggly tooth, my big smelly feet. All he said was, “Am I supposed to be bothered by this? Because I’m really not.” And when we finally got together after almost a month of thrice-a-week 2-4 hour phone conversations, he proved that he thought I was gorgeous.

I was still confused for a long time, wondering how in the hell this awesome guy thought I was so beautiful. But you know what? He was right. And once I accepted that, that’s really all it took. We’re no longer together, but he proved to me that I am beautiful, the media and other people’s opinions be damned. I can now look in the mirror and instead of going, “God, look at this zit. And those big dark circles under my eyes… and my cheeks are so puffy… and these pants make my ass look big.” I can look in the mirror and go, “Damn, I have pretty eyes. And my hair is so shiny today. This shirt is so hot on me. And check out that ghetto booty… sweet! I look good!” And that is fabulous. So sometimes, if you want to feel good about your body, just knowing that somewhere there is someone who thinks you’re gorgeous helps.

As for the rest of your self-image, if you don’t want to think about the whole appearance thing, just focus on all the other fantastic things about you. Yes, I’m fat. So? I am a damn good singer and writer, I’m smart, I’m occasionally witty, and I’m just a nice person.

Maybe this really doesn’t help at all… I don’t know. What I guess I’m trying to say is that women need to learn to ignore pressure and be happy with who and what they are. Forget the media telling you that if you’re over a size 4 you’re hideous and a piece of garbage. The media is bullshit. I’m fat, but I’m still freaking beautiful, damn sexy, and completely worth loving. Just be comfortable and confident and happy with yourself. That’s the most attractive thing in the world.

And on preview, vasyachkin, I have come to the conclusion that you are a shallow assholish f*ckwit.

Does this post make my butt look big?

I don’t see how my response isn’t serious or thoughtful, its the truth. What would you have preferred me to say, how about, try to form a support group for women who feel bad about themselves so that they can try and motivate themselves into believing in themselves. But then when said women left the support group the world would step in and just say so what if the support group thinks your fine the way you are your not in a world wide support group. You want to feel better about yourself, once again ask yourself what’s wrong with me, and try to come up with something that isn’t based on what someone else thinks.

hey featherlou, but look at my perspective, i am obviously a guy, i am 21 years old. when i was in grade school i was the fattest kid in the class, i started working out at age of 10 and dieting at age of 12. at age of 17 i cut my finger off with a dumbbell in the gym, i have dieted off 40 lbs TWICE, and finally a few weeks ago i started to use steroids as my body has already approached its genetic potential and i am inclined to go past it.

now, i know some people will find it disgusting how much i care about my physical appearance, and i actually in my real (as opposed to online) life have to downplay the actual amount of effort that goes into maintaining the shape :slight_smile:

now i see some girls are almost as dedicated to looking their best (not due to makeup or implants, but fitness and diet) as i am, and i absolutely admire that. to me it says that they’re both mentally strong and emotionally intense, otherwise they would neither find motivation for the effort, nor be able to sustain it.

can you really spend your life’s energy on somebody who has already given up on himself ?

so i am a fuckwit :slight_smile: hehe, fair enough, i was not exactly shopping for support here, i wanted to share my truth as much as you do not want to know it, now peace.

Interesting, featherlou.

I have a huge problem with my self-image. I don’t know how to change it. I’m pretty sure my friends know this, so anytime they say I look nice, I feel stupid and am sure that they’re just trying to make me feel better. If my mom says I’m pretty or whatever, well, she’s my mom. . . she’s supposed to tell me that stuff. When I get up in the morning, sometimes I think I look pretty. More accurately, I think my face looks pretty. Most days I will only wear a baggy sweatshirt and jeans - which is probably why I look like crap. When I go to school, I feel like people are staring at me in some sort of disgusted awe. . . and then I tell myself I’m not important enough for them to look at anyway, and it’s a nice little continuous cycle that pretty much just eats at me.

Anyway, it’s not something I know how to fix. Twice in the last year or so, a man has expressed interest in me. The first time, I didn’t know how to take it, and I didn’t believe it when he told me I was pretty, funny, smart, or any of the nice things, really. That whole thing didn’t go quite as planned (for various reasons), and it didn’t help the way I look at myself at all. Recently, another guy has expressed interest in me, and I don’t know how to take it at all. We’re developing a very nice friendship, but my first thought is always: “why me?”

When I was younger, (and I do love my father dearly,) my dad would tell me I’d be so much happier if I lost weight. I tried to make him understand that that made ME feel like he was ashamed of me, but he never did get it. And with dad, it wasn’t always just my weight, but almost everything I did, he thought I could’ve done better. Right down to report cards that were all A’s and one B. I could’ve done better. So, I’m pretty sure that has at least something to do with how I look at myself today.

My friends have recently told me that I’m too hard on myself. In some ways, I see this as true, but in some ways not. I feel like I’m not hard enough on myself a lot of the time.

Joey Hemlock posted these links in his live journal today, and got a lot of positive comments on them. Really positive, I should say.

They’re plus size models, modeling undergarments for Lane Bryant. It was pretty refreshing to see people with curvy thighs and tummies wearing so little in the way of clothing and see so many people say they looked so good.


Mostly, how I feel about myself just makes me sad. I hardly ever realize that other people feel that way about themselves, too, and when I do, I’m usually shocked. And I do have days where I feel like I look good, but the majority of the time, I’d rather be hiding in a brown paper bag.

I realize you may be slightly kidding here, vasyachkin, but if that’s how you really think about things, no sane woman will ever want you.

Okay, sorry I got all long and rambly here. To summarize, I don’t know how to fix it, but I know I often experience it.

no wait, one thing i forgot to say, it is SOOOO easy to lose weight, even for somebody like me who is geneteically predisposed to be obese, and once off a diet i can gain 30 lbs of fat in a month. the only problem is losing the fat while keeping the muscle at the same time (now THAT is next to impossible).

i am amazed that people who are not concerned with maintaining their muscle mass still chose not to lose weight :slight_smile: all it takes is dedication, nothing more.

Can I just say, those Lane Bryant models are effing HAWT with a capital HAWT.

Changing self-image is really hard. Probably the biggest change I’ve made in my self-image was to start accepting compliments. I used to always deny them … “Hey Blinkie, your hair looks nice today.” “Naw, it’s all stringy and ugly.” … then someone pointed out that what I was doing was rude in the extreme.

“I mean,” she said, “it’s like they’re giving you something that they don’t have to give you, and they’re giving it sincerely, and all you have to do is say ‘thank you’ but no, you have to shove it back in their faces. That’s really rude.”

After that realization, I made myself just start smiling and saying “Thank you.” Pretty soon I started really listening to the compliments I got, occasionally asking for clarification, and eventually I truly started believing them.

I haven’t quite reached the point where my self-image is confident and positive and beautiful, but I’m a long ways from where I was. Once I convince myself that being single for the third V-Day in a row doesn’t mean anything, I’ll be set.

In case you missed the point, this thread isn’t asking about losing weight. Ya dig what I’m saying here?

One way women can develop better self-images is to stop listening to drivel like vasyachkin’s posts. People who struggle to lose weight, and lose the struggle see or hear crap like that and what they really hear is this: Well, it’s so easy to lose weight, and if you can’t even manage that there’s something wrong with you. You must really be a fat, lazy loser.

The best thing to do, imo, is to focus on your good points, both physical, mental, and emotional. It took me a long, long time, but once those good things really and truly clicked on in my mind, I quit caring what everyone else thought. The people who made me feel bad about myself was asshats, and why should I waste my time or energy worrying about what an asshat thought.

Trust me, a blooming, confident fat woman is a lot more attractive than a thin woman who’s constantly worrying whether she’s thin enough, or toned enough, or feels she has to back out of the bedroom after sex so a guy doesn’t see her big butt.

ye i dig what you’re saying Jess, but i just can’t stuff this concept into my thick head :slight_smile:

ok gals, i love you all, it is quite amazing that you forgot to mention that men (not just me) are pigs, you really deserve some credit for that, i wish you all the best.

I’ve been trying to formulate a response from the Y chromosome side to counter vasyachkin’s steroid and youth induced idiocy, but CrazyCatLady pretty much nailed it.

The women that other women think they should look like are, usually, grotesque. I don’t want to get near somebody who looks like she might break if I hugged her, and speaking as someone who has bounced obstreporous drunks while looking waaay up into their faces I can tell you that confidence counts for alot.

Most of it, really.

How do you get that? Listen to the people who tell you you’re beautiful, or sexy, or smart, for starters. They believe it, and you should too. The morons who tell you otherwise are just that, morons. It’s not about you versus the cover of this month’s Maxim, it’s about you. I’m a big strong guy, but if I was constantly comparing myself to the competitors in the World’s Strongest Man competition I’d have a hell of a time believing that.

I hope that helps or at least doesn’t hurt.

I remember I was in high school and I was looking in the mirror one day - it was the first time I really looked at myself with a detached attitude. And for the first time, I saw that I had attractive attributes - not that I was anything like the supermodel du jour, but I wasn’t a hideous beast from a horror movie either. I think that was the beginning of not fretting over what other people thought about my appearance.

With my own daughter, I’ve always made sure she knows that looks aren’t important. She’s developed her own taste and style but she’s never been a slave to fashion. We’ve talked about how some kids have treated her - including the boy who told her he’d never be her boyfriend because of how she looked. I’ve tried to teach her to accept people for who they are - including herself - and I think she’s actually listened.

Maybe that’s what girls need to hear - someone close to them who will counter the nonsense that the media declares to be desirable and necessary. Parents who tell their girls that they’re fat and ugly are cruel beyond words. But I don’t see a magical answer to the pervasive mindset about the female ideal. Self-confidence and self-assurance don’t just happen, and without them, women will believe the nonsense that bombards them, to their detriment.

I find that people come in all shapes and sizes, and that there should not be any standard for what a ‘normal’ body could be. It seems like everybody (women and men) try to get themselves to some sort of generally accepted physical standard. Now, being in shape and staying healthy is a good idea no matter what, but trying to fit into a size (insert miniscule number) dress doesn’t seem that crucial. I like people for who they are; I don’t use some phony visual rubric to base whether or not I find them attractive looking.

There are guys out there who can find a woman beautiful just the way she is.

I don’t think vasychkin is totally off base, but I think he could be less of an ass about it. If you’re overweight and have low self-esteem because of it then maybe exercising and getting into shape might help. There are always going to be unrealistic images to contend with, and I’m not saying you should try to look just like them, but I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to advise someone to try to improve their looks.

Of course, that’s easy for me to say.