I found a neat little App on Facebook last week. You input a picture of yourself and it makes your face look perfect. The magic filter makes your face thinner, your skin flawless, your nose smaller and your eyes and lips bigger, then it puts you on a magazine cover. I mean, you could put the ugliest picture of yourself in and you come up looking like a super model – see above, that’s me – er… well, sort of.
I sent this picture and a link to the App over to a friend of mine to try. “OMG we’re gorgeous,” she texted back. We had a laugh. It was just something fun and silly that girls do, I thought.
Later that day, I was talking to another friend, Isabel, about a book we had both read and I put her picture through the App and text it over to her.
She had quite a different reaction. Isabel and I have known each other since we were three. As children growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, it was a time of great technological advancement, as well as great strides for women. Isabel had something I didn’t have, (I’m going to use the F word here) – she had a feminist for a mother.
“That is not my face,” she said. “That is not me at all. I’m not interested in being someone else, thanks.” As evolved as I think I have become, I was blown away by her answer. All along I had thought this was just a silly, harmless little thing, but she saw it as something quite the opposite.
I can recall, in grade 9, Isabel was already reading books like The Beauty Myth, by Naomi Wolf and The Female Eunuch, by Germaine Greer. This is a woman, who at the age of 14 was sitting with a group of girls after tennis practice, and when someone asked, “If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?” Her answer, not surprisingly was, “I would change the way I thought of myself, so I could accept myself the way I am.”
“Have you seen the trailer for the new Amy Schumer movie, I Feel Pretty?” she asked me. I hadn’t and after I watched the trailer, it really had me thinking. Isabel will no doubt hate it for all its obvious Feminist Crimes, but I saw a lesson in there about self-worth that I’ve been trying to convey.
Here’s the trailer:
I came to an Ah-ha moment, years ago, about how we value ourselves. I realized, that my mother did not treat me as a person of value and because she did not, I never learned to value myself. What’s more, I taught other people to devalue me, because it’s what I knew and where I was most comfortable. Because everyone in my world didn’t value me, I punished myself. I treated myself as someone who had no value, who didn’t matter. When you don’t care about something, you don’t take care of it. So, I punished myself with food, with relationships, with sex, with alcohol and with self-loathing.
I had never learned how to be a person of value. I never learned how to have self-respect and as I’ve grown and healed along my path, I realized that this is something I had to grasp, something I had to teach myself in order to be healthy, and live a happy and authentic life.
So how do I do that? That’s the million dollar question and like most people I had read a ton of books and never really got an answer that was remotely helpful.
For me, it started with the realization that I mentioned above – that I was not taught how to value myself. Next was the understanding that no one can give you your worth, but you, that you were born worthy and that all you have to do is reach up and take it. This was a big milestone for me.
What came next was a filling in of the blanks, so to speak. I remember reading books by Geneen Roth, who writes about eating disorders and she said, “What you put in your mouth (or don’t) has a direct correlation with your level of self-esteem.”
Was I punishing myself with food?
“I wouldn’t eat that,” my mentor said putting down my can of chicken noodle soup. “Why not?” I asked. “Look at the sodium in there.” He made a face and walked away. He’s not one of those overtly, ‘look at me I’m a fitness guy’ kind of guys. He just takes care of his body.
A few weeks later, we all went out for dinner. His wife and I had steak. He, at 50, ordered salmon and steamed vegetables.
“Why do you eat like that? Why don’t you eat steak or pie or sugary stuff?” I asked.
“I want to feel good. I don’t want to be on any medication, as I get older. I want to be here for my children and I want to be healthy.”
So simple, so obvious. This is a person who knows that he has value. He knows that he’s important, that he matters, so he treats himself like he has value, like he’s important, like he matters. He gets enough sleep, he exercises and he puts things in his body that are nutritious and good for him.
Here’s what I discovered from watching him, if I want to have a healthy body I have to do what people with healthy bodies do. I have to put on the skin of a healthy person and engage in the same behaviors that they behave in. I have to walk their walk. It’s like method acting. You take on the persona of the person you’re trying to be. I’m not saying be someone else. I’m saying, engage in the healthy behaviors they engage in.
But Sav – what about emotional triggers, what about self-sabotage, what about our deep-seated beliefs?
These things will pop up. They will try to stop you and keep you where you are. Like I’ve said in previous blogs, this is your disease and it’s what your disease does. You have to be mindful of it and know its agenda. Know that you are not the disease, you are separate from it. When you know what it is, and what it’s trying to do, it takes away it’s power and then you can dismiss it. You have to battle your patterns, battle your urges, your thoughts and your tendencies. They exist because you’ve always done them. They’ve become habitual. So you have to cultivate a new habit.
We know that we learn by repetition. So, give yourself something new to repeat. Battle through the way you’ve always done things, battle through the well-formed neuropathways, battle through all of the destructive thoughts and feelings that try to keep you where you are and put on the skin of who you were meant to be. Talk their talk and walk their walk, repeat, repeat, repeat – until it’s your own.
You can wear the skin of a fit person, you can wear the skin of a person who knows they have value, you can wear the skin of someone who exudes confidence. Whatever skin you wear is up to you.
As you progress you will find that you become quite militant about what you allow into your life. My middle finger has become really powerful. I present it to everyone who tries to hurt me, disrespect me, or minimize me. That finger represents my self-worth, my self-esteem and my value. It says that I have drawn a line in the sand and this is how it’s going to be from here on out and if you don’t like it – let my middle finger point you towards the door.