I never feel beautiful, and on most days I don’t even feel attractive. And I know I’m not alone. I’m guessing that you struggle to feel attractive too, and that you probably can’t fathom feeling beautiful. Why is that? Well, here’s one of the main reasons. Our culture bombards us with messages that say, “this is what beautiful looks like, and you don’t measure up.” Then the images just start rolling and never stop – images of young, thin, blonde, buxom, sexy, perfect women.
And we agree that we’ll never measure up to those images, so we retreat into feelings of self-doubt, ugliness, or even self-loathing. And then those feelings begin to affect the way we live and the way we interact with people. Sometimes they keep us from doing things we really want to do or getting to know people we really want to know. It’s crazy and yet it’s entirely predictable too, because the culture tell us over and over that something is wrong with us.
So let’s talk about some ways to break this cycle and start embracing and enjoying the way we look, to actually feel more attractive. I know it’s important to consider the deeper aspects of this topic too, especially the spiritual meanings of beauty and worth, and I’ll share links to some excellent resources at the end that do just that. But for now, let’s focus on practical steps – things we can actually do, starting today, to move toward saying, “yeah, I like the way I look.” Here are 7 things we can do:
- Understand that the women we see in magazines, advertisements, and television shows do not actually exist. They are phantoms, created by tricks of makeup, lighting, and Photoshop, not real women! Yet we compare ourselves to them, and decide that we don’t measure up. You’ve probably heard Cindy Crawford’s famous line, “I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford.” Because the real Cindy Crawford (who is a beautiful woman) doesn’t look anything like the woman we see in magazines or on television. The same with Heidi Klum – she’s beautiful, but she looks a lot more normal in real life than the woman we see on TV. So don’t compare yourself to women who don’t exist!
- Recognize that the way you see yourself is not the way others see you. Most women look in the mirror and immediately zero in on their perceived flaws. They focus like a laser on their (supposedly) limp hair, dry skin, dark circles, bulging waistline, and any and every facial feature or body part they deem lacking. But that’s not the way we look at other people, and it’s not the way they look at us. (Yes, a few small, petty people do, but we don’t need them in our lives anyway!) Most people look at us as a whole person, a combination of our appearance, personality, and actions. Their impression of our attractiveness takes into account the way we present ourselves, the kinds of interactions we have with them, and the way we make them feel,. Their image of us is multi-dimensional, while our image of ourselves is often one-dimensional. If you haven’t seen the Dove Real Beauty Sketches, or even if you have, please go and view this one and this one right now. They show so clearly the dramatic difference in the way others view us vs. the way we view ourselves.
- Emphasize one thing you like about your appearance. Even though we’re incredibly hard on ourselves, we can usually identify one thing we like about the way we look. I know, for example, that I have nice blue eyes. Maybe you know that you have pretty hair or lovely skin or a good figure or a beautiful smile. Hopefully you like two or three things about yourself, but one is enough to get started. Pick one of the things you like and emphasize it. Make up your eyes, get a great haircut, wear a touch of makeup, wear clothes that fit your body – anything that makes you feel good about your best feature.
- Work on one thing you don’t like about your appearance. For most of us, this is a long list. We hardly know where to begin! But just pick one thing to work on. Maybe your hair is graying – like mine – or you’ve never liked the color. Color it! Maybe your skin feels dry and looks dull. Get started on a skin care routine (it doesn’t have to be expensive), drink a lot of water, and eat more fruits and vegetables. Maybe you wear sweats or yoga pants most of the time and feel like a frump. Start wearing clothes that fit and make you feel good. Again, this doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. And if your weight is the major thing you don’t like (as it is for so many women), take charge of it and begin working to lose some. Even a 10-pound weight loss can make a huge difference in the way you feel. Focus on making one small, practical change that helps you feel good about yourself and the way you look. Later, you can make another, and then another.
- Begin doing one thing to take better care of your health. The state of our health and the way we treat our bodies are closely tied to the way we look and the way we feel about ourselves. If you try to get by with 5 hours sleep a night, your eyes and skin will show it. (Not to mention how bad you’ll feel!) If I eat primarily fast food and processed food, my skin and digestive system will let me know. (Not to mention how bad I’ll feel!) If we spend days on end without regular exercise, our physical and mental health will suffer, which always influences the way we feel about ourselves. So begin this week doing one thing to take better care of your health. Determine which health habit is most affecting the way you look and the way you feel about your appearance, and begin working on it. If you’re not sure where to begin, I suggest making sure you sleep 7-8 hours most nights. After that, begin exercising regularly, sitting less, and moving more. Walk 30 minutes per day (or the equivalent of another activity) as a minimum. Then, begin eating more real and whole foods and fewer processed foods. (You can find healthy eating tips, meal plans, and menus at The Real Food Experience.)
- Stand up straight, speak with confidence, treat others well, and act like a confident woman. So much of the way others see us, and the way we see ourselves, is perception rather than black-and-white reality. We all know people who seem very attractive, but if you really analyze their appearance (the way we analyze ourselves!), they’re actually quite average. The difference in most cases is the way they perceive themselves and the way they treat others. Confidence is attractive, as is treating others with kindness and respect. (That doesn’t mean letting people walk all over you, which is the opposite of self-respect.) So act confident, even if you don’t feel it. Stand up straight, walk tall, look people in the eye, speak with clarity, and generally act like a woman who believes in herself. This can be a “fake it until you make it thing” – you don’t have to feel confident to act with confidence!
- Believe your husband if he says you look good. If you’re fortunate to have a husband who says you look beautiful or pretty or hot, decide to believe him. More than likely, that’s exactly how he sees you. He’s not trying to flatter you in order to manipulate you or get you into bed – he thinks you’re beautiful, pretty or hot! Yeah, he probably knows that you don’t look like the women in magazines, but he doesn’t care. (And he may realize that they don’t actually exist.) So choose to believe him – say “thank you” and accept the fact that he likes the way you look.
How hard is it for you to feel good about the way you look? Have you made any strides in feeling more attractive and self-confident? Please share your tips, strategies, and struggles. I would love to hear from you.
More Encouragement for Embracing Your Beauty and Feeling Attractive
Julie at Intimacy in Marriage – The Secret to Stopping the Body Image War
Elizabeth at Balm to My Soul – Victoria’s Secret: What Have You Done to Our Bodies?
Chris at The Forgiven Wife – The Source of Your Beauty
Killing Us Softly with Jean Kilbourne (video)
Try by Colbie Caillat (video)
Sharing with Motivation Monday.