By Ox Drover
One of the things we hear frequently on LoveFraud and in self help books we might read is to “love yourself.” This sounds like great advice, but the thing is no one ever tells me exactly how to do this.
Some suggestions for increasing my “self love” and “self esteem” given in various books and articles are to use “positive affirmations” such as “I am wonderful,” or some other positive self talk that I should repeat over and over inside my head until I eventually start to believe it.
Even though I might say these phrases over and over, no matter how positive and “self affirming” they may sounds, somehow I never seem to truly believe them. After saying them over and over inside my head somehow there’s a little voice that repeats “Yeah, RIGHT!” in a scoffing tone.
If anyone knows my faults, it is surely me, and somehow I just have problems saying and truly believing the large statement, “I am wonderful!”
One of the things that really bothered me of late is “getting old.” I look in the mirror and see my grandmother’s face looking back. I really hate to have my photograph taken because I look at them and see this fat caricature of my youthful self looking out of the photograph. I started on a calorie control diet to lose some weight, and looked at my skin which has more than a few dark sunspots and a liberal supply of “laugh lines” (read: wrinkles). I pound on myself internally for not listening to my grandmother and staying out of the boiling sun until I became bronzed when I was young. The sunscreen I slather on now does little good now that my skin is starting to resemble the Marlboro man. How can I like myself when I look the way I do and there’s not much I can do at this late stage in the game to improve myself?
Even if I lose the excess weight, all I will accomplish is to let the “air” out of the wrinkles that the excess fat smoothes out somewhat.
So because I was feeling pretty bad about how I looked , and really, there wasn’t much at 63 years old I could do, outside of extensive plastic surgery I couldn’t afford, I decided to work on loving myself the way I look today, rather than bemoaning the fact I no longer look like I did “back then.” If I could tackle that and succeed, I could tackle anything.
One of the things I used to do was stand in front of the mirror and pull the skin on my cheeks back, like a doctor would in a face lift, smoothing out the wrinkles and the line from my nose to the corner of my mouth, imagining how I would look after a face lift. One evening doing some rare television watching I saw a former “sex goddess” movie star, now probably nearing 70, doing a guest shot on a series. She had obviously had copious plastic surgery and she looked like a caricature of her former self, almost like a melted Barbie doll. Looking at her face, and at her attempts to continue to “look young” through the marvels of modern surgery —surgery that seemed laughable, I threw back my head and I laughed.
Sure, I looked like my grandmother at my age, and I had loved that face—on her, but I was going to learn to love that face on myself. I was going to learn to love myself, starting with my body. Not the body I would have when I lost twenty pounds, or the face that I would have after I had extensive plastic surgery, but the face I have today!
How could I go about learning to love my body the way it is, the face the way it is? Well, first of all, it wasn’t going to be accomplished by standing in front of the mirror and asking, “mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of us all?” I am no longer a beautiful young girl with creamy smooth skin, but that doesn’t mean my body or my face isn’t okay.
My body is a marvelous machine, wrinkled or smooth, my skin, the body’s largest organ, does an excellent job of keeping me free from bacteria and viral attackers, of cooling and heating my inner body, and evaporating sweat! It is well designed for its purpose. It does a great job!
People have always said my eyes are so expressive, and they really are! I can shoot a look out of them that my kids used to say would turn you to a pillar of salt like Lot’s wife if I were angry! They are still expressive but much more inclined now to smile and crinkle at the corners with laughter. They still see far away very well, but I have to have reading glasses up close, but that’s okay. My eyes really work very well and I like them.
My hair is still thick and heavy, and has always been a good feature even now that some of the strands are turning silver. The silver in my hair, which I’ve never dyed, almost looks like an expensive frost job! I wear it in a style that’s becoming, not trying to look like the sex goddess gone to pot with flowing tresses down to my waist, or cropped close and permed into a “poodle do” with a bluish cast, but natural. I really do like my hair!
My legs are still shapely, well muscled and firm from decades of walking and riding horses, I really do like my legs. They work very well and generally don’t hurt, all the joints freely function, and I can still kneel or stretch. I’ve really got great legs with slim ankles.
My back is a pretty good back, sometimes it has let me down a bit and ached after a hard day’s work, but I haven’t always been very good to it. I think I will try to be more accommodating to my back. I’ve worked it awfully hard all these years so I’m going to be better to it. I’ll do some stretching exercises before going out to work, and I’ll use my legs more to do the heavy lifting than misusing my back muscles. I really am fortunate to have such a great back, considering how inconsiderate I have been to it all these years. Yes, I can be proud of my back.
I remember how flat my abdomen used to be, back before I had children, and it’s not that flat now, but it really is a pretty good belly after all. It works well, it’s never let me down or made me seriously ill. Sometimes I don’t give it enough fiber and it complains to me when I mistreat it, but I think it has a right to tell me if I am not being good to it. Actually, there’s still a smattering of a waist there in spite of the fact it’s a bit over weight, but overall, I can’t complain about my abdomen. Actually, I think I like it pretty well and I don’t know anyone I would trade bellies with. Yep, my belly is A-ok.
The thing I have always been the proudest of in my entire self is my mind and my memory. Testing high on the “Bell Curve” of the intelligence test has given me a verification that “I’m smart.” Not just an opinion about my intellectual ability, but an actual objective piece of data. That always felt good. I generally made good grades in school and was at the top of my class if I even gave a modest effort to succeed in school, or in my job. That gave me a bit of pride, though I did realize that this was nothing I had done for myself or achieved for myself, but was a God-given attribute like my health and stature, it was more the result of my genetic make up than anything I did or didn’t do.
After my husband’s death in a tragic accident, to which I was a witness, I lost my mind. I lost my ability to remember things in minute detail. I panicked at realizing this, and even when my psychiatric physician and my therapist assured me that “it will get better, it won’t always be this bad,” I had great difficulty believing them. I was “not as good” as I previously was, forgetting many things, having holes in my memory for things I previously would have remembered without any effort. Finally, I complained about this so much that my therapist administered an IQ test, in which I still scored even a bit higher than I had ever scored previously. My mind is still good, and there is objective evidence of this. However, I know it doesn’t work the same as it did before the aircraft crash, before the ultimate stressor. I do have short term memory lapses, but that’s okay. I’m still me. I’m still smart, and what the heck does it really mean that my spelling has gone to hell, or that I can’t remember if I took the meat out to thaw for supper? Will the world end because of this? Does this mean I don’t have the intellect to make a rational or logical decision? Does this mean that I am “defective” and “no good” or “worthless” because I reach for a word, a simple word and can’t find it even though I can see the picture of a tree in my mind but can’t find that word? No, it doesn’t mean anything. I am still me. I still have a good mind, just different than before. I like my mind, my intellect, my ability to problem solve and even though it makes new learning more of a challenge, I still grasp large concepts, though I may no longer easily remember the name of the author. I have a good mind. I have a good intellect. I still like my brain even though it isn’t the same as before.
My “heart” both figuratively and physically, I like both of them. My physical heart has beaten well and steadily for 63 years now, and my physician has tested it and declared it a healthy heart. I depend on it to keep on beating well for more years into the future. I’ve tried to be good to it, by getting exercise and though I have mistreated it by smoking, I have decided to stop doing things that will injure my good heart, so I have stopped smoking cigarettes. I eat a “heart healthy” diet low in bad fat and other things that might damage it. I am happy with my heart.
My emotional “heart” is also something that I like. It is a compassionate heart and empathetic to others in pain. It is a generous heart, and one that will share the blessings of life that it has with others. In the past, my emotional heart has sometimes given too much to others and not enough to itself or to me, so I have talked to this heart and discussed a way that it can still be a generous and compassionate heart, but to also care for itself first. If my emotional heart gives all the blessings to someone else, it will not survive, so my emotional heart has learned to care for my body and itself first, so that I may continue to share with others. I like that about my emotional heart. My emotional heart is a good heart.
Looking over my body, mind and emotional heart piece by piece, I find that I like each individual unit just as it is. It isn’t perfect, it isn’t young any more, but it has matured with some grace and in many ways is far superior over all to the body, mind and emotional heart I had as a youngster. The packaging may be a bit wrinkled, but I wouldn’t change my body for anyone else’s, and I wouldn’t give up the maturity that I have gained with life and living.
So, I have found a way to learn to love myself, one part at a time, to enjoy living within the skin that protects me from the elements, and to savor the good parts of myself. I’m learning to love myself in a positive way rather than just chanting “affirmations” that are so vague and positive but have no real substance to my inner spirit who dwells in this mortal temple. I like my temple, I like my body, I like myself. I’m unique to me. I’m special. I’m one-of-a-kind, and I’m okay!