By Dr. Paula Bloom
Earthquakes. War. Famine. Yes, these are all events that wreak havoc on the human spirit. We have so much to be grateful for if we have a safe home, enough food and peace in our lives. Given all the tragedy in the world it seems superficial and self-indulgent to even talk about shopping. However, shopping is part of many of our lives and what affects each of us ultimately affects the world.
There’s nothing like bathing suit shopping to make you feel self-conscious. It is hard to remember how grateful you are for health, safety and loved ones when all you can focus on is the size of your thighs or the rolls around your waist. A few weeks ago I found myself in the bathing suit store. Under the fluorescent lights. In front of a giant mirror. Oh, and did I mention that a bathing suit model was trying bathing suits on in adjacent dressing room? Yes, a root canal (which at least provides some kind of pain relief) would have been preferable.
I’m a psychologist who, for a living, helps women improve their body image, take better care of themselves emotionally, physically and spiritually. I talk to clients, my children and TV audiences about the importance of self-acceptance and loving yourself. Stepping into the bathing suit store gave me some kind of amnesia about all I know to be true about what REALLY matters in life.
People often confuse low self-esteem with humility. I once heard that humility is not believing you are any better OR any worse than anyone else. Feeling worse than others means we think we are somehow SO different. Thinking that you have the worse body or that everyone is looking at the size of your tush is pretty grandiose.
Low self-esteem can make you very self-centered. Feeling bad about yourself makes you less likely to be of service to others. Have you noticed that people who judge themselves harshly are sometimes the worst critics, while those that show themselves respect and kindness do the same for others?
How is it that we can go from feeling good one minute to feeling gross? What this shows you is that body image and self-esteem is totally in our head. Our body does not change in that minute, only what we tell ourselves does.
A few weeks ago I began working out in a gym. If boot camp and personal training had a child it would be these workouts. Each class is in a relatively small group with a trainer. Talk about a humbling experience. In order to have the courage to even walk into the gym I’ve had to psych myself up and remind myself that each day I’m getting better. Focusing on the body being an instrument, and not an ornament, is helpful.
So, next time I go bathing shopping (didn’t buy anything during the last trip) I’ll try to remind myself that my body is capable of wonderful things. It has taken me through 2 healthy pregnancies (one birth was a 9lb, 11oz little boy without any drugs). My legs and feet allow me to walk in the woods on a beautiful Spring day and my arms and hands allow me to write this blog. I’ll even try to be kind to my belly and thighs. It’ll be a challenge and if I don’t succeed I’ll follow the old advice: If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Belly and thighs, let’s do this!