Posts Tagged ‘self-image’
I wish I’d had a notebook (or a better memory) the day I heard a news story on women and fear. Googling failed to provide me the source or the statistics cited, but the article reported that the majority of women surveyed reported they felt fear daily–compared with a much lower percentage of men who regularly experienced fear.
I wondered what women were so afraid of. Are we talking fear of having lipstick on our teeth, or fear of being found in a dumpster? Was this specific fear of things like identity theft or generalized fear of economic uncertainty. Was it the fear that something bad would happen or fear that we were unprepared to deal with bad things?
Women generally feel more vulnerable in men, in part because we are usually not as big or strong as them, but also because we have been inculcated to believe we are defenseless against men and vulnerable without them. We expect men to protect us from the dark, being alone, strangers and things like bugs or spiders. Ironically, men are statistically more likely to be the victims of violent crime, yet women’s fear of violent crime is disproportionately greater than men’s.
The information age has had the effect of magnifying risks, making them seem larger than they are. The publicity given to breast cancer has caused women to be more afraid of dying of breast cancer, than heart disease, which poses a greater risk. With each week bringing news of more food safety risks, like recalls, toxins, pesticides, carcinogenic compounds, or the unknown effects of genetically modified foods, it’s a wonder women still struggle with weight–which incidentally is one of the things women fear.
Sensationalist journalism, media hype, internet urban legends and legitimate news provide us a steady source of new worries. But even without the modern-day horror stories, many struggle with irrational fears. Some fears may have a reasonable foundation, like the kind of post-traumatic fear that can haunt a women who has suffered an assault or rape, many of our fears are not as reasonable.
We tend to fear the unfamiliar. Car travel is more dangerous than air travel, but the mysterious physics of air travel cause more people fear to flying. From unfamiliar bathrooms, to ethnic foods, what we imagine is is scarier than what we see. What we imagine causes us to fear familiar things like spiders, dogs, or mice–even those which are harmless. Avoiding risks because of fear can be harmful, as it is when those who fear of dentists, doctors or needles, forego getting needed care.
Everyone experiences fear. Being afraid, doesn’t mean we are weak or gutless, it is a natural part of our survival instinct. However, our response to fear determines how much power it has over us. The well-known quote, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself ” was followed by a lesser known line, “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” The feelings of anxiety, uncertainty often cause more discomfort than the things we fear.
Fear can be tremendously helpful, if we use it to prepare ourselves for legitimate threats. Most of us don’t think our house will burn down, but having smoke detectors, a fire extinguisher and insurance provides a sense of being prepared for such an occurrence. However, for some fear becomes a comfortable way to buffer themselves from risks or facing the reality of life.
According to one source, top women’s fears include:
Fear of losing a man
Fear of losing beauty and/or gaining weight
Fear of losing a child
We can do our best to prevent these things, but there are some things in life we are powerless to change. If we allow fears like those listed above keep us from loving, being loved, getting married, having children, or if we allow worst-case scenarios to limit us, we are doomed to live small lives with limited satisfaction.
Some time ago, I had to do something I didn’t want to do. The fear set my heart racing. My throat was tight, my stomach nervous, but I knew it was something I had to do. It would have been easier to back down, but I didn’t. That single experience uncorked more strength than I though I possessed. Like the Cowardly Lion after receiving his medal, I wasn’t more courageous, just more confident. I think of that day as the day fear got small, because afterward it was easier to face my other fears.
A sweet girlfriend had a similar experience after finding the courage to leave an unhappy marriage. As she ended her marriage, she wanted to begin a better, bolder life. She had always been afraid of the Ferris Wheel, but was tired of allowing small fears to affect her life. Riding a Ferris Wheel may not seem brave, but taking back control of life is. I was with her, when she finally had the courage to do it. Afterward, she was exhilarated and empowered by having taken the first step to seeing the world from a new perspective, and ready for bigger challenges.
She knew it was silly to be afraid of a kiddie ride, and she knew that to have the life she desired would require her to be brave enough to confront the changes and challenges of living a new way. She was tired of living timidly, as you may be if you know you are being held back by small things. There are some fears we may not be able to eliminate without professional help, but if there are fears you think you are ready to conquer, here are some tips.
- Assess the real risk of what you fear. Be realistic in asking if what you fear is likely or unlikely. Ask yourself if the risk is greater than the cost of being held hostage by fear.
- Though you may not feel strong enough to face fears alone, trusted friends or family can serve as cheerleaders to encourage us or guide us through the baby steps needed to face our fears.
- Be prepared to experience discomfort. Discomfort is a natural & helpful response. Remember the fight or flight response is our body’s way of preparing us to face threats.
- Don’t feel like you have conquer everything at once. Take small steps before giant steps. A fear of dogs is more likely to be conquered by getting exposure to poodles than pitbulls.
- Finally, remember that heroes and cowards both experience fear, but it is how we handle what we fear that determines whether we will be victorious over our fears, or victims of them.
The newness is wearing off 2011. It is no longer just the new year, it is the present and the start of the future. There is no time to waste, especially if you are one of the many who resolved this to be the year in which they will get thinner or fitter. With that in mind, it’s time to have a frank discussion about dieting and body image.
I don’t believe in dieting. My first was my last. At around 15, while waiting for leftover baby fat to reroute to places it would be more desirable, I became convinced I was fatter than all the other girls. At 5’9” and 118 lbs, it would have been helpful if someone would have told me not to compare myself to Olympic gymnasts, models or acrobats.
I have watched dieters my entire life. I can give you the rundown on most any of the diet fads of the last 20+ years. I can guess the fat, carb and caloric content of most foods, based on a single mouthful. I’m sort of like a walking, talking version of Eat This, Not That but despite my lack of experience, I am a self-proclaimed diet expert. Having watched countless diet failures, it is my life-long goal to never diet. This doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally resolve to drop pounds or tone up, but my conclusion is almost every diet will yield a net weight gain of at least five pounds. If you want to lose weight, for goodies’ sake, don’t diet–you’ll only end up weighing more than you do now.
Lesson One: Don’t diet.
Diets are a colossal waste of time for most people–the exception being those for whom they are medically necessary and/or medically supervised. It’s much easier to change your mindset and lifestyle, than to deprive yourself of food in the hopes that after a few months of deprivation, your body will forget how much it missed the stuff you kept it from. Make this the year you resolve not to diet, and you might have a chance of actually losing some weight.
Lesson Two: Accept your body.
If you’re still laboring with the burden of your body’s imperfections, get over it.
Just as I, the obsessing teen once attempted to live on 600 calories a day, it’s probable you are unfairly critical of your body–especially if your desire to lose weight has anything to do with being more attractive to men. Consider the evidence.
FACT #1: Women pay more attention to appearance then men.
Don’t believe it? Just look around and count how many men you see on a given day wearing ill-fitting pants, rumpled clothes or worn and faded t-shirts.
FACT #2: Women pay way more attention to details.
Seriously, most men barely notice a radical new hairdo. You think they notice a ripple of cellulite, when there’s so much else to distract them?
FACT #3: With few exceptions, the average heterosexual male dreams of making sweet monkey love to a woman on par with Megan Fox, Jessica Alba or the current cheesecake flavor-of-the-month.
(This includes those men with bad hair, big guts, and all those wearing baggy khaki cargo shorts.)
FACT#4: Those same men know Megan Fox isn’t fantasizing about them, and will therefore content themselves with what they can realistically hope for.
Men want women who satisfy their visual and tactile sensibilities. Women who are painfully thin aren’t nearly as smushy-nice to touch as those with a normal amount of well-apportioned fat–you know the soft curves above & below the waist. Which means the waist may be the only part of the body worth obsessing about.
C’mon, it’s 2011, most of us have seen enough naked (or nearly naked) people to realize the only perfect skin and bodies are either a) not of legal age or b)Photoshopped.
A little insecurity will do more to squelch your attractiveness, than a few extra inches. Sex appeal is a mindset–not a dress size and nothing is a less attractive than wearing a garment of self-loathing. Stop wasting time obsessing about your body. Strive to be more active and eat healthier, but don’t waste another year wishing for the body you may never have. Live in the present and set your sights on feeling and looking as good as you can.
As I entered the room, a longtime girlfriend asked the women there, if they had met me. Most of them hadn’t, so she proceeded to introduce me to the group saying, “This is Deb. You may not like what she says, but you’ll love her.”
Apparently, I’ve reached the point, where introducing me requires a disclaimer–could be worse. Fortunately, it was one of the better introductions I’ve had, and I think it sums me up well enough.
I saw a page on Facebook called something like “I like who I am and I don’t care what you think about me.” As I was trying to relocate the page, I discovered there are dozens with similar expressions of the same idea. It seems there are many who feel the need to assert their inner Popeye with the “I yam what I yam” sentiment, while claiming not to care what others think of them.
I think most people feel this way–at least until someone says someone takes a jab at them.
I was thinking about this, because de blog has passed the half-year mark. I knew that letting my opinions free-range might have consequences, and I’ve gotten a small-scale introduction to what that means.
The first six months have been very interesting, especially reconciling how de blog has changed peoples’ opinions of me.
I went to a cocktail party and was approached by someone who had become a reader, a woman I’ve known casually for years. She told me she was enjoying de blog and proceeded to comment, “Wow, you’re smart–and funny.” Apparently, she had previously thought me to be dumb and witless.
Some people like me more because of de blog, some like me less. Lots of friends tell me in very polite language, that they basically think I’m full of crap. They are usually reluctant to tell me why, which is about as compelling as someone grading your math test and telling you that though they don’t have the answers, they are sure yours are wrong.
I’ve only had a couple days when the feedback was bad enough to make me wonder why I was exposing myself to this–but if my opinions were universally adored, I’d stop blogging and run for office.
On that subject, I don’t know how (or why) some people run for office repeatedly–especially after being defeated. I always have an empathetic and morbid curiosity about the Wednesday morning after a Tuesday election. I always wonder if having spent tremendous amounts of time and energy only to get a very public and definitive message that you didn’t measure up wouldn’t be the ultimate in “not a good day”.
People who run for office must believe they can win, otherwise, why would anyone go through that? Public scrutiny, unflattering portrayals, one’s own words used against them, time & money lost and all the rest just to find out people didn’t like you nearly as much as you’d hoped.
I’d like to believe that those who run are so committed to their political ideas that they think it’s worth it, but its probably that they’re just too dumb to realize it’s a bad equation. Don’t know why people do it, but here is what I do know:
People have opinions. Reasonable people mostly have reasonable opinions. Some may not seem so reasonable, but our own experiences cause us each to see the world in our own unique way. The less opinions you voice, the more reasonable and therefore likable you will seem to others. There will be times when people don’t like you–at those times, try the spinach–it worked for Popeye.
Picked up a magazine at the newsstand. Magazines are perfect for those with a limited time or attention, because they are full of short bits. There are always photo spreads, tips for how to do things better and the ever-popular quizzes.
In school, nobody got excited over quizzes, but put one in a magazine and readers enthusiastically reach for a pencil.
Magazines for women routinely have quizzes on how to determine one’s style. This amuses me. If you have a mirror, your style probably isn’t much of mystery.
Seriously gals, you know your style, you know what you wear, you know what you like. You have ideas (which may or not be right) about what looks good on you. You know what kinds of things you wouldn’t even wear for the one-time-only-last-day-on-the-planet apocalypse.
Yet, the irresistible draw of answering a few questions in return for a snappy label continues to intrigue.
Is your style sporty? Is it more posh? Maybe it’s just scary . . oops, sorry, I got distracted taking the “Which Spice Girl are you?” quiz.
Back to the subject . . how we see our self becomes the determining factor in how we dress our self. We have labels in our head and an idea of the personality we wish to project. Some people are able to stick to one style throughout their lives with only slight variations, but the divas update their style with each new season. Ultimately, you will wear what makes you feel like you.
Woman can shop at the same store and still not look like they have anything in common. One year my sister and I bought the same dress. That is, they were the same until we put them on. She teamed her simple white dress with canvas espadrilles. I wore mine with black & white spectator pumps.
Same dress. Different girls.
It all comes down to attitude.
Women will announce that they can’t wear capris, skirts, prints, stripes, or ___fill in your own___.
Not everything works on everyone. Low-rise jeans aren’t as easy to pull off after a couple of children. String bikinis are reserved for a very small number. Lipstick colors like green, yellow and black are best left to those under 25, but there are many things women avoid, simply because they haven’t the moxie. It’s a confidence thing.
Red lipstick, the color red in general, hats, and short skirts are just a few things which frighten the timid.
I bought a raspberry bra several years ago–not nearly as practical as white, beige or the perennially popular black. Previous to the acquisition, I had been a devotee of a certain designer style bra. On a whim I bought a bra that was unlike any other I’d ever worn.
That bra changed my life in some small way. Someone asked me if it changed me because it made me feel like a fabulous sexy woman. Nope, didn’t need a bra to do that. There was just something about it that made me feel good. (If a kicky-fun bra was all that was needed to change our self-esteem, who would pay for therapy? Then again an hour spent with a therapist costs roughly the same as an hour spent shopping at Victoria’s Secret, so it’s probably a wash.)
Like wearing a designer original, perhaps it was knowing that at any given time I was the only woman in the room wearing that bra.
Maybe it was wearing something that was as vibrant as I am.
Maybe it was the fuschia-red color, maybe it was the fit or maybe it was just knowing how often men forget that with women there is always way more than meets the eye. (And it’s not the stuff under our clothes.)
All I know is this simple necessity empowered me in some way.
Live a little.
Wear Vixen Red lipstick.
Wear scarlet, crimson or cranberry.
Work a fedora.
Show a little leg.
Be a new you–even if only for a few hours.
Grab your “fab” and work a look–after all, why should the other women have all the fun? Anything could happen!
The Clinton-era policy known as “Don’t ask. Don’t tell.” seemed to make sense–don’t ask if you don’t want to know the answer; don’t tell if you don’t want to live with the consequences. Unfortunately, Mr. Clinton didn’t always get things right in all his affairs.
Bill’s policy is probably more helpful to straight civilians, than it was to the men & women of our armed forces, because no matter how enlightened and empowered women become, they are still inclined to ask dangerous questions–landmine questions.
I’m not like everyone else, but there are a whole bunch of questions I’m not interested in asking or having answered. Below are a list of ten such questions.
1. Do you think she’s prettier than me?
Men like pretty women. Get over it. There will always be someone prettier. Get over it. I’ve long outgrown the “who’s the fairest of them all” game. Most women can identify pretty women as well as a man can. If there is a woman prettier than you, your life will not be enhanced by hearing it from the object of your desire.
2. Do I look fat?
If you look fat, knowing won’t help you face the world. Asking is dumb. You‘ll either get an answer you don’t like, or an answer you can’t trust. A smart man won’t tell you the truth, a dumb man won’t think fast enough to lie. Additionally, hearing the answer may cause you to console yourself with a quart of Haagen Daz. The following day, you will look fatter.
3. Do you like this dress?
With a few exceptions–most of whom are gay, men aren’t dress experts. If it shows enough skin, he’ll probably think it’s fabulous. He won’t be able to tell you what color it is, but he’ll convince you it’s stunning. If you really want to know if the dress is as cute as you thought, wear it somewhere there are cameras. Cameras offer unyielding and unbiased objectivity.
4. Did you love her?
Without knowing her, you can answer that for yourself. At some point he “loved” her enough to be involved with her. If she‘s history and you‘re current events, don’t cancel the future by dwelling on the past.
5. Did you sleep with her?
If you want to be riddled with doubt or insecurity, ask this question and press for details. That’s so yesterday. He’s with you now–it’s game on. Stop thinking about it, you need your head in the game.
6. Where do you see this going?
Initially, most men haven’t thought past the backseat or the bedroom. If you want to know where it’s going, wait & see.
7. Do you want to make love to me?
Puhleeeeez . . .is he gay? Is he celibate? If he’s not, this is a question you probably don’t need to ask.
8. Was it good for you?
97% of the time, the answer will be an unequivocal “yes“. If it’s not, there are other questions you need to be asking.
9. Do you love me?
If he knows he does, he’ll probably tell you. If he hasn’t told you, he may not be the guy for you.
10. Why do you want to hang out with the guys, instead of me?
Men like and need to hang out with their boys. One of many reasons? Guys don’t ask questions like those above.
Deb’s Note: Obviously, I’ve only addressed my short list of the “Don’t Ask” aspect. The “Don’t tell” part is up to the men. Smart men usually figure it out quickly.
Last week, I shared how I was inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and into the batting cages. Here is the rest of the story.
I was grown-up before I saw all my grade school report cards en masse. Every teacher commented that I was “prim”, or something like that. Their remarks suggested I was afraid to “get dirty” or avoided “playing“. Anybody who knew me then, or knows me now, will tell you “prim” isn’t an adjective to describe me. As for playing & getting dirty, they’re specialties of mine.
So why those comments? One word: Kickball.
The first time I was confronted by that rolling red ball, I tried to kick it, but it rolled under my leg, as I missed. I don’t remember the second or third time, but I began to fear the kickball and every other recess game.
I wasn’t prim, I was terrified. I didn’t want to fail, so I sought activities that came naturally, art, music, drama–anything that didn’t require a test of body mechanics.
In junior high and high school, a certain amount of sport participation is required, and I found a couple of things I did well–like hurdles & high jump, but mostly it was more of the same. My junior year in high school, some of my best girlfriends played Jayvee basketball. I had fun watching them, but not as much fun as they had.
Freshman year at college, some dorm pals needed a player for their football team. Mazzarelli (aka The Mad Italian), convinced me to play. I didn’t really understand the game, but they explained “first and ten”, and told me what to do. They laughed at me, nicknamed me “Limbs” and were grateful for my blundering contribution. I was part of a team, and we had a blast.
That’s it, the complete dossier of my sports experience. I did a great job keeping space between me and all things athletic. I never allowed myself the chance to fail, and in that, I never allowed myself the chance to succeed.
Failure doesn’t scare me anymore. Despite plenty of failures & mistakes, I have very few regrets, but I still regret that Jayvee basketball team. I should have played. It was a long time ago, but I still wish I had. I’ve told Embee, CeeCee, MarMart and Little Fox, I wish I’d tried. It’s my only fond memory of them, I’m not in.
That was my then.
This was my “now”.
I’d phoned the batting cages to ask when they were slowest, and was informed that weekends are always packed. Dang, I was hoping for as few witnesses as possible, but crowd or no crowd, I was committed.
Threw on the most athletic clothes I own, yoga pants. I haven’t had athletic footwear since the early ‘90’s, but I had to put something on my feet. I have cute boat shoes, sporty flip-flops, shoes for camping, shoes for snow, high heels, and Crocs. I’m most comfortable in sandals, so I grabbed my favorite Ralph Lauren flips, and a pair of Crocs just in case.
Despite having spent plenty, to keep my kids in stuff like batting gloves, bats and helmets, they were no help outfitting me. Consequently, upon arrival at The Bullpen Baseball Academy, I was relying on the owner Jay Sundahl to equip me. I presented myself to the always-enthusiastic proprietor, and explained I’d never done anything like this before. He was clearly amused, but also kind and helpful. In a few minutes, I was stepping into the number one cage, holding a bat and wearing a Bullpen logo helmet.
Jay wanted me to succeed, so he instructed the guy manning the pitching machine to feed me some slow ones. I stood there waiting. The first pitches were breaking too low. I realized the impossibility of hitting them and shouted to the man behind the mechanism, “It’s too slow” A slight tweak, and the balls started breaking closer to home. Perfect.
I wasn’t afraid. I stepped up to the plate, and recalling Missy Watson’s advice, I took a few deep breaths. I tried to concentrate on keeping my eye on the ball and following through.
When I’d imagined this moment, I was making contact, but that’s not exactly how it happened. The first ten pitches taunted me. I made contact with a couple, but barely. I told myself I was sure I could do this. (At that point, I wasn’t sure–certainly not as sure as I’d been 15 minutes earlier. ) As the third set of balls began to launch, I was ready.
Over the next few minutes, my whiff rate was going down; my contact ratio up. It was a rush. I was hitting them and was beginning to “get it”. Laughing at a couple of foul tips which went over my head and behind me, I started to get a feel for swinging too late. Hitting solid but not well, I began to know where I needed to stand to have the ball find the sweet spot. I shouted back to Jay, “This is a blast!”
Then it happened. I hit a couple that were good . . then a couple more.
In my head, I heard Missy Watson’s advice to “swing away”. I also heard that “thwack “sound, with one big difference. This time that sound was coming off my bat. Hey, that would have been a hard-to-stop grounder. Wow, that one would have run right down the alley between first and second. They weren’t all great, they didn’t have to be. They were good enough to make me feel amazing.
Is this how it feels to be Missy Watson? I doubt it. She’s been doing this so long, she probably doesn’t think twice about solid base hits.
I hit until I was afraid I might hurt myself. I took a short break, then I hit some more. At the end of an hour, I was transformed.
I thanked Jay for the best time I’d had in years. Always a coach, he was complimentary to this rookie. I tried to pay him for my time in the cage, but with an amused smile he announced it “on the house“.
It was a learning experience.
- I learned, no matter how sporty, flip-flops won’t pass as athletic footwear. Crocs might, but only because they have closed toes.
- I learned the necessity of batting gloves; and that $14.99 spent on them is money well-spent.
- The most important thing I learned is I could have been, the thing I thought I wasn’t.
That hour changed my life.
Now, I know I can and will do things I never dreamed possible. For my entire adult life, I’ve wondered “what if “–what if anyone had encouraged me to play sports. That hour, answered my question. Would I have ever have been a girl-jock on par with Missy Watson? Probably not, but with training, I could have been good enough to play on her team.
Bullpen Baseball Academy, I’ll be back!
Deb’s Note: Big thanks to my friends for their encouragement, to Jay Sundahl for not laughing, and to M. Watson for inspiring me.