Self-Confidence: Loving & Embracing the Body You Already Have

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By Leslie Cerpa

“You’re seven pounds over the ideal weight for your BMI range. Here, take this chart so you can refer back to it. Maybe falling within the range could be a part of your New Year’s resolution. Other than that, you’re healthy.” -Personal Doctor at my yearly physical

Not exactly the words I wanted to hear after one of the most stressful semesters of my college career. My concerns with the statements above are the words “over” and “ideal,” and the phrase “falling within the range” because these words rely on the assumption that there is one set standard of weight that everyone should be. Because the “ideal weight” equates the “ideal beauty,” statements such as these only make people anxious about their bodies and foster insecurities. Because when you don’t fall within the ideal range, or you don’t fit, then you don’t feel like you belong.

Although the media often facilitates body shaming and body image anxieties, it also enables body-acceptance campaigns. The Dove® Campaign for Real Beauty started the conversation for a wider definition of beauty, a conversation that challenges beauty stereotypes by including women outside the standard stereotypical norms of beauty, and one that invites women to openly discuss beauty issues. Dove® has employed its campaign through advertisements and videos that show real women’s dissatisfactions with their appearances and their quests for beauty, ultimately proving how society’s beauty ideals are unattainable.

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The elusiveness of society’s beauty ideals also ironically manifests itself in our daily routines and in the interactions we have with others. We are often more willing to see our friends and others as more beautiful than we are willing to see ourselves as beautiful. We are so quick to judge ourselves for having “flabby arms,” “non-athletic legs,” “broad shoulders,” “large noses,” and “dark under-eye circles.” We wouldn’t tell our mothers, our sisters, or any of our closest friends these hurtful things. We wouldn’t call out their insecurities. We tell them they’re beautiful and stunning, and things like, “that blouse really brings out the color of your eyes,” or, “love what you did with your hair.” If half the time we refuse to believe what they tell us, how then, should we expect them to believe when we tell them they’re beautiful?

When I first saw the Dove® video “Legacy,” it struck a hard chord with me. Children are quick to pick up their parents’ expressions and not only repeat them, but also reflect them onto themselves. My mother is an intelligent, strong, and beautiful woman. However, I also realize she’s struggled with her weight and body image her entire life. I’ve seen years of her yo-yo dieting, effects of her own dissatisfaction with her body. When I think about my future children I also think about the type of person I want to be to allow them to grow to their full potential. In other words, I want to be self-loving and self-confident so that my kids reflect that on themselves as well. I’m not blaming my mother for my lack of positive body image growing up – she’s always told me how beautiful I am. I’m just shining some light onto the huge impact that having a negative self-image can have on other areas in our lives. There’s nothing teaching us to self-love, only magazines criticizing others’ insecurities and telling us “5 Ways to Flatten Your Tummy” as if THAT’S what’s going to make us happy.

If I am ever blessed with a daughter, I hope to show her how her strong arms enable her to carry her books to class, or help me with the grocery bags. I hope to show her how her legs do not have to be athletic to get her from Point A to Point B; how her shoulders give her a prominent posture and walk (or how they complement her hips and help her dance cumbia – as my mother tells me); how her beautiful nose is symbolic of her immigrant ancestry; and how those dark under-eye circles will be so worth it when she graduates.

The Dove® Campaign for Real Beauty invites us to see and appreciate the beauty in our bodies by presenting beauty as a source of confidence, not anxiety. Similarly, I invite us all to be a part of a revolution – start loving your body for all that it allows you to do. Our bodies are our icons. If we could just appreciate our bodies on this basis, then beauty is limitless.

Of course, it’s not easy – self-love takes hard work and time, but you shouldn’t let anything or anyone keep you from taking the first step.

“Love your body all ways, always.” - Me