I hope you enjoy the process of learning to see yourself as beautiful. This post is very personal and a departure from what I usually write.
I have a big nose.
I have a big nose.
I have a big nose.
For years, I’d see pictures of myself and I’d only think “I have a big nose.”
“I have a big nose” took a downward slide to “I’m not pretty.” One day, “I’m not pretty” took a downward slide to “I’m ugly.”
For years, my mental script was completely opposite. As a young teenager, I thought I was beautiful. I loved my long hair, my big eyes, my strong features. My body was strong and healthy from hours of dance classes every week. To me, I was perfection.
One day, that changed for me. I started competing in scholarship pageants when I was 17 (Note: Let me say here and now that this post is not about pageants and, overall, I had a great experience doing pageantry… and I would do it all over again!). After a few years, I learned via an online message board that someone thought I’m not traditionally pretty. Someone else responded with a nastier comment – that I needed a nose job.
I was shocked and hurt, to say the least. I began to look at models on magazine covers and noticed that I didn’t look like them. “They all have small noses,” I thought. Then, I saw an episode of extreme makeover. Remember that show from years ago? The one where they give people one million gazillion plastic surgery operations plus a clothing make over? I remember somebody on the show saying that a “receding chin” was undesirable. Well, I have a “receding chin” – meaning that the tip of my chin sits a little behind my nose. And the thoughts kept coming. I don’t look like them. I’m not pretty like them. I’d entertain thoughts of getting a nose job or a chin implant… just a little off the tip, I thought.
And those thoughts stuck with me for years. When a boyfriend told me I was pretty, I didn’t believe them. No matter how beautiful my husband made me feel, I’d still have doubts. Although I was the right height and proportions for runway modeling, I shied away from it because I thought I couldn’t possibly have the right look. I constantly sought words of affirmation to make up for it, fishing for complements.
One day, the tides changed. Someone told me I would be a perfect high fashion model. I was shocked. I asked him “Nick, aren’t my eyes too big? Isn’t my nose too big? I don’t think my face is right.” He told me “Nobody’s face is just right- that’s why they’re interesting to look at. You learn your angles, you learn your make up – you’d be perfect.”
I couldn’t believe it. This one person’s comment began to change the way I felt about myself. For the first time, I began to wonder why I was letting other people’s opinions throw me around like a ping pong ball. I wasn’t a ping pong ball in any other area of my life, but I was letting my self love be squashed and raised with just a few words. I spent years figuring out what to do about it… struggling against negative thought patterns and the persistence of my meanness to myself.
Learning To See Yourself As Beautiful
1. Recognize that your thoughts are choices. Thus, you can choose to change them.
The first step to a healthier outlook is to take control. Although you may not know it yet, you’re in charge of your thoughts. You can change the way you think about yourself, your body, your face… about anything.
2. Don’t Do It Alone: Work with a good therapist, counselor or life coach.
Changing years of thought patterns is hard. Make it easier on yourself by asking for help. A therapist, counselor or life coach can help you make an action plan instead of simply wishing for change. They provide accountability – in other words, you have someone to answer to when you’re not doing “your work.” They’re also familiar with concrete, evidence-based tools that help change your thought patterns and your self-love.
3. Take care of yourself.
I believe beauty is a natural gift that’s been given to all humans. However, no one is beautiful when they don’t take care of themselves (by the way, it has nothing to do with body weight). If you’re eating bad food, your hair and skin are going to be gross. If you don’t eat right, it will show in your eyes, your skin, your body. If you only wear sweatpants and never put on nice clothes – or at least nice sweatpants – then you’re going to feel like a blob. There were many years that I didn’t take care of myself. I ate chocolate chip cookies for dinner, drank too much (hello post college years) and rarely ate veggies. It should’ve been no surprise that I didn’t look well, no matter how much I tried. Beauty happens from the inside out, both physically and mentally.
4. Find people you think are beautiful who LOOK LIKE YOU. You receive most of your ” visual” input from tv, internet and magazines. You see more different faces via technology than in person, walking around. So, your mental registry of what people look like is skewed to what you’ve seen in the digital world and not in the real world. You need to reeducate yourself and reset your mental encyclopedia of human faces. Spend time looking at faces of real people and not faces of models.
Remember that doppelganger day that happened on facebook? The one where you found a picture of a celebrity that looked like you and make it your profile picture? That was really educational for me. I realized that I think women who look like me are beautiful. Once more I was exposed to women who looked like me the more my thought process was reversed. One of my favorite examples is Gwyneth Paltrow – I caught a glimpse of her profile during one of the “Iron Man” movies – she’s got an above average schnowzer, like me, and I happen to think she’s one of the most beautiful women in the world.
5. Realize that the only complement you’ll accept is a complement from yourself. That’s the first step in learning to see yourself as beautiful. Until you give yourself permission to feel and be beautiful, you won’t be. It’s wonderful to have higher goals and to desire change, but you have to love who you are now at the same time that you strive to better yourself. There are tons of self-love and affirmation exercises that can help you change your thought patterns from positive ones to negative ones. This is a large part of how I got into doing life coaching. I’m working on a workbook for my web site to help guide people through this – especially people who can’t afford working with a life coach, themselves. If you can’t work with a life coach or a counselor then seek out books, videos or workshops. Actively look for materials – don’t wait for them to come to you.
6. Give yourself the same benefits as the supermodels. I think it’s great for women to see the glammed up version of themselves…. to see how different they look when they have the benefits of professional make up, professional hair services and great lighting… To see how great they look when they get to choose the 10 best photos of themselves out of thousands of outtakes. Perhaps this is unfeminist, but I think having a personal modeling experience brings a dose of reality to your thoughts when you take a look at other models/magazine covers etc. If you’ve been in front of the camera then you know that a lot of what you see is smoke, mirrors, hard work and luck. For me, being a model has been healthy for my spirit. It’s become a celebration of my beauty and artistry instead of a chance to tear myself (or others) down.
7. Realize that your children are going to look like you. So you need to deal with this, now – the last thing your child needs is to think “mommy thinks she’s ugly. I look like mommy. I must be ugly.”
I can’t say that I always think positively about myself. I have a brief moment of doubt every time I don’t get a modeling job I’ve applied for. Then, I snap to reality. I don’t think I”m beautiful anymore, I KNOW it. If a photographer or an artist doesn’t like the way I look and doesn’t want me to model for them then that’s their problem. They’re the ones living in a skewed, biased universe – not me. I may not be their idea of the perfect beauty, but I AM somebody‘s idea of a perfect beauty. And that’s enough for me. I am learning to see myself as beautiful.
Want to follow my journey as a fashion and fitness model? Visit http://www.facebook.com/LaurenSaglimbeneFitnessModel/
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