I have been thinking about self-perception a lot lately, and how it is the root for a lot of our problems. I know that this is pretty obvious and not really a topic for a blog post, but I am wondering how we build the image of ourselves, and why it is mostly negative.
I, for instance, grew up thinking that I was a chubby child. In fact, I would have told you this until recently, when I went through old photos. I was not a chubby child! I did not inherit my Mum’s skinny body, but I was fine, really! I was always into sports, I was a healthy eater (perfect child food-wise, I even loved Brussels sprouts). Still, I remember begging her to cook “weight-loss-food” for me. She tried to explain that there is no such thing, but I guess all the slim-drink ads of the 80s had put it in my head. How did I get that self-perception? I mean, it must have been something that people said to me. I know I had the habit of sticking my belly out when I was standing (and I still do it when I am not paying attention), and maybe it just took some of the oh so funny pokes of Aunts and Uncles to put this image into my head.
When I grew up to be a teenager, I was very soon super conscious of my bosom. I remember being on the bus home from school wearing a rather tight jumper (it was blue and my Mum had made it for me), and one of the pubescent boys from my class pointed at me and shouted “Oh, something is growing there!” I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me, I was so embarrassed. And it didn’t stop there. Even when I was much older, grown men would talk to me in bars and then blurt out “Oh my, you do have big tits!” I was not able to come up with a smart reply other than “Oh geez, I hadn’t noticed.” What are people thinking? What are men thinking? Sometimes I just wanted to do the same to them, with my girls. I wanted to walk into a bar, eye some dude, elbow my girls and point at his crotch while shouting “MY! You have a tiny cock!” But you don’t do that, right? And I want to think that you not only don’t do it because you’re a girl, but because it is hurtful!
And no matter how often you tell yourself to just ignore it, some of it sticks, and it weaves into your perception of yourself. I always felt conscious about my weight and my bosom. It is only recently that I am ok with myself. Yes, I wouldn’t mind to lose a few kilos, but being hypothyroid, it is very hard to do. Plus, I just love food too much! I love wine too much! I exercise regularly, and at almost 40, I am fitter than I was in my 20s. But the last time I lost weight significantly was at the peak of my panic attacks – great cardio exercise! I obviously wouldn’t want to trade my weight for the panic attacks! And at almost 40, I am fine with the way I look. It took me 40 years!
The question remains: why do people do it to each other? Why do we think it is ok to point at other people’s “flaws”? The only reason is to make ourselves feel better, I guess. It’s a very crude way, though. But wanting to feel better, superior, seems to be human nature.
I am trying not to partake in this game, even though I don’t always succeed. It is so much easier to look at other people’s imperfection than at your own. But it is so shallow. It is so much nicer to turn the whole thing around! Compliment people on their good features! It makes them feel good, and that’ll make you feel good! Teach your kids that it is not ok to make fun of others. Teach them that it is not ok if someone makes fun of them! And, try to focus on the things you like about yourself rather than beating yourself up for your imperfection!
So here I go: I do have a belly and a big bosom. I would have been super popular in Botticelli’s time! I am learning to like my body, because it is the body I live in. And I am living a damn good life in it!