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The Power Within Self-Image

August 5, 2010

It’s funny the things that stick with me from childhood.  There are times where full accounts of past events have left my memory but a conversation I’ve had with someone hasn’t.

Sometimes I think about my experiences while going to middle school in California, where everyone started becoming more aware of their outer appearances. You were only cool if you hung around certain people and had all the right clothes and hair. I remember everyone being so much more into their bodies too. All of a sudden girls considered themselves and others “fat” if they didn’t have a flat stomach or weren’t stick skinny. I remember my 12 year old peers putting themselves on diets or eating less at lunch because they didn’t want to get fat…*When I think about this now, all I can do is SMH*

I on the other hand, went about business as usual. Though I ate and dressed how I wanted, and followed trends in my own style, I can admit to the fact that I also started to compare myself to others and what they looked like. I remember being in gym class and have one of my friends ask me what was wrong with my leg. I looked down and didn’t see anything so I asked her what she was talking about. She proceeded to point to my calf muscle and I suddenly realized that that was what she was referring to. I said “that’s my calf muscle,” and she responded “ewww that’s gross.”


Mind you there was nothing wrong with my calves. It’s not like I resembled the girl version of Incredible Hulk or anything. But as you may have read in my Mother’s Know Best? post, I had a really active childhood. So of course my arms and legs were going to be toned and have some sort of muscle mass from years of barre work, and running 100’s and 200’s at track meets. As far as my memory could go back, my body was always toned and I hadn’t seen it any different. I knew I wasn’t rail thin and that my shape wasn’t the same as everyone else’s. But at that particular moment the fact that my “friend” verbalized it (not to mention the way she went about doing it), made me even more aware of how different my body wasfrom hers and other girls.  Gradually, self-comparisons began to flood my mind and some insecurity took over.


My legs weren’t the only things I didn’t appreciate back in the day. There were other things as well like my arms (for the same reason as my legs), and my thick hair. You would’ve thought that I’d have more unlikable things to hate about myself, but I was a product of my environment, and my environment consisted of typical middle school-minded, judgemental, mean, adolescents, who knew how to suck the security out of you. 

When I told my mom about the calf conversation she said “You have great calves, most girls wish they had calves like yours. You will appreciate them when you are older”. Of course I didn’t believe it to be true at the time but she ended up being right.

In high school, people would give me compliments about things that I considered flaws and I would find a reason to dispute them. I wouldn’t know how to just say “thank you” because I had not accepted or learned to like those things being complimented, for myself. It’s funny because I love my arms and wouldn’t trade them for anyone else’s. Now, I like my legs and actually wouldn’t mind them being bigger. Over time I really come to accept myself for who I am.

This Nike ad is the epitome of how I feel about myself most of the time.

Going through the struggles of accepting myself and any flaws I think I have, has made me become more aware of how hard girls have it when it comes to self-image. Girls play with perfectly proportioned, hourglass shaped Barbie’s (I can’t even front, I loovved my Barbie’s) when then they are younger. Then they start looking up to pop stars as teens. And back when I was 13, Britney Spears was all the rage….I’m talking pre head shaving-“Slave 4 U”-kids-marriage-midlife crisis-Britney. Now these girls have the leotard/fishnet stockings wearing, sex symbols of Rihanna and Lady Gaga…. 

How Britney looked when I was 13


This is what 13 year olds look up to now.

(I know Lady Gaga’s target audience isn’t 13 year olds but come on now, she still has some sort of influence over the chil’ren..)

Back then for some reason, I thought that by the time I was older, my insecurities would magically fade. And just when I thought my comparisons subsided, I discovered a whole new set of insecurities and reasons for self comparison at the ages of 18-21 while meeting new people when I went off to college.

I’ve realized that comparing yourself to others and having some securities when it comes to self-image, isn’t so unusual as an adult. For myself, being able to look back at the things I was insecure about before and coming to a point where I appreciate them took time, but was worth it. Knowing that I can now acknowledge that someone else is pretty, or has a shape to die for and still being able to look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day and feel blessed for being who I am is powerful. Now no one can tell me what is good or acceptable for myself but me.

Trust and believe, I still have my days when I go through it. Sometimes I am self conscious and still can’t take a compliment. There are days when I want my hair to be more like someone else’s, or times when I think of that one thing I would change about my appearance if I had the chance. But at the end of the day I know that I am the way I am for a reason. What I am not doing is condoning complacency for myself but acceptance (there is a difference). I hope that more females can reach that point for themselves as well.

I think this quote applies: “To wish you were someone else, is to waste the person you are.”

What things have you started to accept about yourself? Do you accept yourself?

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