I can remember my awkward childhood like it was yesterday.
I was a chubby kid, who had to buy his clothes from the “husky” section of the clothing store. It was the 50s and I could not understand why my three brothers got to choose from all sorts of cool fabrics while my choices were limited to brown, gray and denim.
I was a pretty good runner, but because of my size I always had to play as an offensive or defensive lineman in football. In the 1960s the big guys played linemen, the little guys played running back. This was long before 250 pound fullbacks.
In high school I really wanted to wrestle but the only weight class I had any shot at making the team was 145 pounds. I weighed 185 at the end of football season. So against my parent’s wishes I went on a strict weight loss diet recommended by my coach (protein only) and made the team. I was ecstatic, but my parents were less than pleased. My parents thought that I’d lost my mind and looked anorexic (this was before anorexia became a thing).
My self-esteem and my confidence skyrocketed. Thus began my love hate relationship with my body.
I have probably lost over 40 pounds, five times in my life. I have thrown away more diet pills than a small pharmacy. Right now I am doing it again, but this time it is for medical, not cosmetic reasons (high blood pressure).
Only recently I finally quit equating my body with my sense of self.
It wasn’t easy, I still remember the pain of being chosen last for a pickup game, being rejected by girls who preferred slim body types, being considered obese on the BMI scale and my feet constantly hurting.
The torture that I’ve put my body through over the years in order to have a “nice body” amazes me.
It all started in high school with losing 40 pounds in two months to make weight for wrestling. I have also run five marathons, even though it was torture for my body and my feet. I forced myself to run six, eight or 10 miles every day to “slim” down. I went on all sorts of weight loss diets and lost weight for a while, but could never keep it off.
I felt like the “biggest loser” in many ways, not only for being overweight, but also for not being able to permanently lose the weight. I did not know that 90% or more of the contestants of the Biggest Loser virtual reality show, gain their weight back fairly quickly.
I thought I was the loser and not in a good way.
Our society can make us feel that way, whether we don’t look right, or have the right clothes or have the right “stuff.” We are looking to have the perfect figure, the perfect companion (soulmate), the perfect career and the perfect life.
The irony is that the perception of perfection is all in our head.
We already have everything we want inside of us, if we are only willing to look to find it.
I realized this secret recently when I was looking at my high school yearbook online. I looked at my senior year photos and was surprised to see that I actually looked pretty fit, although I remember feeling fat and out of place at the time.
This realization clued me in that beauty has nothing to do with what we look like, it has everything to do with how we perceive ourselves.
Here are some key practices to seeing ourselves as beautiful.
1. The mirror.
For most of my life I avoided looking in the mirror. I was afraid of what I would see. I had to change my mind about that and say to myself, “I am beautiful” while I was looking at my reflection. It is perfectly acceptable to want to be healthy and make changes to reflect that, but it is not acceptable to criticize what we see in the mirror. What we see is our own creation and we have to take responsibility for it. We are only victims if we think we are. If we want to change what we see in the mirror, take responsibility to eat healthy foods and get exercise. With patience, you will eventually see what you want to see.
2. The mind.
We have to remember that what we perceive is what is going on in our mind.
If we are critical of our body, that is because we are probably overly self-critical anyway. We have to start loving (liking) our body and simply look for ways to be healthy, not try to fit into someone else’s definition of beauty. Quit looking at photographs of others, that have probably been photo shopped anyway. (I have never seen all of these gorgeous bodies in real life.) The reason is, they don’t exist anywhere but in our mind. Every time I meet someone famous I usually think to myself, “Wow, they don’t look anything like their photograph.”
So stop looking at celebrity photographs and wishing you looked like that. They don’t really look like that either.
The only person who gets a vote in your life is you. What us think other people think about us is none of our business and probably isn’t accurate anyway. For the most part we are conditioned to worry about what everyone else is thinking about us and that is nonsense.
I have a dear friend who was on a perpetual diet several years ago. She ate a salad and some sort of cracker that looked like cardboard for lunch and supper. One day I was trying to be a smart a** and said, “still on the cardboard diet?” She responded, “Focus on your own path.” That was probably the best advice anyone has ever given me and it applies across the board.
I have, “Focus on your own path.” tattooed on my forearm. When I focus on my own life and leave everyone else alone I am much happier. I am especially happier when I don’t care what anyone else thinks about me.
Only you are responsible for what you look like. We see what we want to see.
During my high school years, I wasn’t that fat after all, I just thought I was. When concerns like high blood pressure, arthritis and the other medical issues caused by obesity come calling, there is no one else who can fix that but ourself (including all of the medication that doctors prescribe).
Do research, eat smaller portions, don’t eat crap and get off the couch. There are a lot of powerful natural ways to lower our blood pressure and get to a natural, healthy size. We don’t have to starve ourselves, be patient.
Just start admitting to yourself that you are beautiful.
The good news is my blood pressure is down from 170/100 to 105/65. This is pretty good for someone who is creeping up on 63 years old. I am losing weight still, because I have a target weight of 185, which is what I weighed at my heaviest in high school.
My perception of beauty has radically changed since then, and I consciously say to myself about everyone I meet, “This person is beautiful.”
This includes the guy in the mirror every morning. Beauty truly is an inside job.
Author: James Robinson
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock