The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn, Is Just To Love… Yourself

istock_loveyourselfI love being a woman. In particular, I love the process involved when getting ready for a night out and can often spend hours excitedly deciding on what to wear, carefully applying my make up, straightening or curling my hair, adding accessories, choosing shoes that look beautiful (and will undoubtedly make me lose the feeling in my feet and give me back ache after about half an hour). I do this solely for myself – I like to leave house before meeting my friends or with The Bloke feeling good about myself and my appearance. Those nights are special, a break from the daily grind of normal life and I think that occasionally it’s an uplifting experience to spend a little bit of time pampering myself after working hard all week and I don’t think that there is anything wrong with this. However, most of the time I dress very similarly to the teenage boys that I teach every day – spending the majority of my time outside of work in sweats, hoodies and jammies with my hair tied back and no make up. I make no apologies for this – I have a stressful job and seem to spend a large amount of my time feeling tired and anxious and I take comfort every evening changing out of my suits and putting on something cosy. When I meet friends for a quick drink in the pub or go to the cinema with The Bloke, this is how I usually present myself, sometimes swapping my sweats for a pair of jeans.

When watching television last night, it occurred to me how many advertisements appeared in a very short space of time that were designed to ‘help’ women address the things that are deemed to be wrong with their bodies – dull, lifeless skin, bags and dark circles under the eyes, tired eyes, small eyelashes, thin lips, limp hair, frizzy hair, dry hair, hairy legs, hairy faces and endless workout videos designed to assist us in weight loss or the development of abs and curves.

It made me look at myself and think about all of the the things on my own body that were highlighted in those adverts and that I am insecure about. After gaining 60lbs in the last five years I don’t have a flat stomach (sporting more of a keg than a six pack), I have a large bottom and thighs, I have my father’s large chin, a pointy nose, my skin is oily in some parts and dry in others… I could go on forever. I took the opportunity to ask some of my female friends what they would change about themselves if they could, and the results were extensive:

  • Eyes too small
  • Small eyelashes
  • No waist – flat shape
  • Flat bottom
  • Bottom too big
  • Too skinny
  • Fat
  • Hair too thick
  • Hair too thin
  • Boobs too small
  • Boobs too big
  • Too tall
  • Too short
  • Acne
  • Skin too pale

It’s no wonder that last year the beauty industry in the UK employed more than one million people and was worth Β£17 billion. However, it isn’t wrong to want to make the best of ourselves. It isn’t wrong to want to spend time making ourselves look and feel good. It isn’t wrong to go to the gym, wear make up, dress in a certain style and regularly visit the hairdressers, as long as this is what makes you happy and helps you maintain a positive lifestyle. Nevertheless, I am always concerned when women (and indeed, men) are doing this for the benefit of others and stop liking themselves and their bodies when they do not match the so-called beauty ‘ideals.’.

Why do we feel that we aren’t good enough the way that we are? Who creates the rules that tell us how our bodies should look?

We could blame the beauty industry. We could blame the magazines, the media, the fashion designers. We could blame the film industry, the actresses, the models. However, I think that, as women, the only people that we can blame for our insecurities are ourselves. Instead of celebrating who we are and how we are made, we allow others to dictate what the ideal of ‘beautiful’ is.

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In the spirit of maintaining a positive outlook for 2015, I took the opportunity to look at my body and highlight all the things that I am grateful for:

1. The ‘Barnes’ hips. All of the women – my mother, my two sisters and I – on my mother’s side of the family have large, childbearing hips that we inherited from my grandmother, whose maiden name was Barnes. While one of my sisters has desperately tried to get rid of hers over the years by going to the gym six times a week, she has now accepted that the Barnes hips is part of her genetic make up and a link to her ancestry, and I’m proud that we all share the same shape – it’s probably the only thing that we all have in common.

2. My eyes. I have inherited my mother’s blue eyes and they are usually the thing that is commented on the most when meeting new people.

3. My slightly curved fourth toe. While some may balk at this and suggest getting it straightened, this is another feature that I have inherited from my mother and her father and over the years I have become quite fond of it.

4. Strong legs. After years of participating in sporting teams as a teenager, my legs have always maintained their strength with small definition in my lower calves, even when I have put on weight.

5. My shoulders. I swam for years and consequently have wide shoulders that look good in halter-neck tops.

6. My ears. They aren’t too big or too small for the shape of my face, and I occasionally like to wear drop earings to accentuate them.

7. My hands. I have always been told that I have perfect piano players hands with long, thin fingers, and even though my nails could use a bit of work (it’s impossible to maintain manicures when working as a teacher) I like the way that they look when I wear simple, silver rings.

Remember, the greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love… yourself.

For the New Year, I am issuing you with a challenge. Instead of thinking about all of the things that make you unhappy about yourselves, I would like to to focus on something that you like about your body, and post it in the comments below.

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

 

Image Credit 1: bobchoat.com

Image Credit 2: beauteousliving13.wordpress.com

115 thoughts on “The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn, Is Just To Love… Yourself

  1. Since moving to the Hobbit House, I’m appreciating being short! (Especially when I look at the constant plaster decorating the hub’s pate from forgetting to bend down enough to clear our little round stone gateway or the less-than-generous stairs–both of which are about 2-inches clear of my head.)

  2. We’re all perfect as we are. I believe that, sure we have preferences and dislikes but ultimately we’re wonderful expressions of the universe. What’s seldom pleasing to the touch is seldom pleasing to the eye. I am more intrigued by a dirty laugh and a keen mind than I am anything else, although as a man, I am responsive to certain attributes.

    I like my eyes, my hands, I like the fact that I am hairy and I have a pleasant smile.

    • I love that sentence – I am more intrigued by a dirty laugh and a keen mind than I am anything else – many of my male friends would agree I’m sure!
      I’m glad you like your hair – some of my more hairy male friends hate theirs!

      • Beauty is an inconstant thing, it’s differentiated by different cultures. It’s also something you’re born with or you can fake. I’m more enamoured by what’s beneath the surface because those qualities are more attractive to me.

        It’s ironic that I have it everywhere but my head but I embrace who I am.

      • Beautful sentiment. Isn’t that usually the case with hair – the less you have on your head, the more you have on your chest? The Bloke (and all the male members of his family) have full heads of hair, but none of their chest…

      • *Slips on labcoat* apparently testosterone causes the hair follicles to degrade and as a consequence, fosters the production of more hair on other body parts as well as muscle mass, testicle sizes etc
        An interesting aside, when you see alcoholics with long lustrous and thick hair, it’s because the alcohol has increased the uptake of estrogen too. *takes off lab coat* Sorry to derail, but I enjoy talking about masculinity and maleness. Really great post, Suzie.

  3. I like my green eyes. I get them from my Mother. I gave them to my oldest son. My hubby says they are what attracted him to me.

  4. You raise some interesting points (again) and we should all try to celebrate ourselves just the way we are, not the way we think we should be. It’s sometimes easier said than done though! OK challenge accepted….I like the fact that I can run and walk and ride my bike, and that my body seems to be coping well with the advancement of age, all things considered. I like the fact that my face is very expressive, so everyone always knows exactly what I’m thinking or feeling, just by looking at me!! This can be interesting at times 😊 thanks for making me think of some positives about myself, especially after my first day back at work in over 3 weeks!!

  5. This post is gold and everyone should read it! I’ve been trying to embrace loving myself more and this was exactly what i needed to read! I love my long, strong legs that let me run 15km, and that will soon be able to carry me for half a marathon!

  6. As you say, we need to learn to love ourselves and to accept our small imperfections as unique. People who are so do not go on the never-ending hunt for perfection.

  7. I’m most proud of my legs. I’m a cyclist, and it does indeed show with my rock hard legs…. (My GF says my legs and butt drives her crazy!) LOL. Great post by the way. I know (being 46 years old) that this is the body God gave me. I work to stay active and healthy, but I know I’ll never have the 6-pack of abs, or the “guns” all the magazines throw in our face daily. I’m ok with that. I’ll keep my legs though. πŸ™‚

  8. Good post that gets to the heart of the matter. Forget outside influences and learn to accept and love yourself as you are. If you want to change something, do it for you; not to comply to social norms or someone elses ideals.

      • Thanks. It’s just so difficult to do, isn’t it?
        The very foundation of advertising is to convince us mere mortals that we’re all in adequate in some way or other, and that their product or service is specifically designed to “fix” us.

      • I think those ‘beauty’ product adverts are bloody evil. I don’t know how they get away with the crap they peddle. They can run 10 trials, and ignore all the results they don’t like, then state whatever they want as long as “82 out of 100 women agreed”… Who were given free products and asked to tick a box with words they’ve chosen. And then they make everyone feel shit about themselves bedore offering them a solution that’s ten times the price of some basic moisturiser that works just as well. And as for all that techno shit… Sorry for the rant. I hate these bloodsuckers!

  9. Great post! I have a lot of trouble with self-worth and body image. These “one-size fits all” stores they are coming out with these days are not helping either. Do you have these stores in the UK? My go-to answer for whenever someone challenges me to find something I like about myself, like you have, is my hair. It’s long, healthy and has just the right thickness. It’s also a unique colour. I think I need to work on adding to the list.

    • I think that UK sizes may be a little more generous in some places, but not in all. The one size fits all doesn’t apply to me. Thanks for highlighting something that you like about yourself!

  10. I understand the thoughts and applaud the initiative to think positive, but for some of us it is something we grew up with vs. having society make us think we aren’t good enough. That is a lot harder, even after all these years away from my toxic family members. It’s just convenient that sells stuff for us to try to improve.

    I will give it a try though. What can it hurt, right? ❀

    • Absolutely! I’ve always admired your honesty about your previous experiences with others and the impact that it has had on your self-esteem and mental health, and you make a really good point. However, I also think that you are a beautiful woman and a beautiful person, and the support and care that you offer to others undoubtedly boosts their confidence – it certainly has done with me. I’m glad you’re going to give it a try my lovely…

  11. Such a great post…very powerful. Over the past year I’ve really been working on accepting and loving myself, and posts like this just reaffirm my goal of being happy with me. I particularly love my red hair, not too orange, not too brown. I like my freckles and, weirdly enough, my feet haha.

  12. I love my blue-gray eyes, my muscles (thank you, Curves!), my overall build (small and strong), and my age (71). I wouldn’t trade any of that for anything right now. Even though the wrinkles keep avalanching a little every day! Retirement doesn’t hurt, either. I hoot and holler at the body and makeup ads for women. Great post!
    Elouise

    • Thanks so much Elouise – what I’ve often found is that as someone ages, the more confident they are in themselves… I was once told that wrinkles are a sign of experience…

  13. Reblogged this on Miscellaneous Dreams and commented:
    As I’m starting (trying) to turn over a new leaf this year, I believe that one of the things I need to work on is to love every part of myself more. Or at least see the beauty in my imperfections. Like all change, it’s hard to do this every day and I often still find myself criticizing and moaning over my appearance and my body. That said, this post written by one of my favorite bloggers on WP, has eloquently expressed the lesson that all women (and even men) need to learn! Whether you need inspiration, a reminder that you’re perfect as you are, or looking for an insightful read, I believe this post needs to be read by everyone.

    Enjoy!

    Ash xx

  14. I’m thankful for my strong arms, particularly on days like today when I can carry in a truckload of groceries in one trip. I’m glad for my strong legs (also of the wide hips & thigh variety) that have carried me through two half-marathons and countless hikes.

    I’m thankful to you for this post, and for reminding us all to love ourselves, even the parts we often deem unlovable.

  15. I love this post and think everyone needs to read it! ❀ So often, people are quick to point out all the things they dislike about themselves that they forget about all the positive qualities! I love my strength, my eyes, my flexible back, and the fact that I have a nice butt (yay for squats!)! πŸ˜›

  16. I love this Suzie. Thank you for putting it so eloquently. Likewise, my city is one which profits from and preys on the insecurities of women but you’re right, we ourselves are also part of the problem and should start with respecting and loving our own bodies.

  17. great post Suzie πŸ™‚ I like my round face and little nose. I used to hate having a ‘hamster’ face and got teased at school, but now I’m older I have accepted it and have come to love it. I still get teased for being a Moomin, but instead of getting upset, I embrace and get called Lexie-Moomin all the time! πŸ™‚ X

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  19. Great post. My first thing I was going to write isn’t for a family audience so I also like my skin. I’ve never been bothered with too many spots and it seems to be ageing well. It’s perhaps a little too white but it just means I don’t have to apply b&w filter to photos of me to make it look arty lol

    • Haha! I’m glad you didn’t go into too much detail with the first bit Steve πŸ˜‰ you’re lucky with your skin – some of the boys I work with suffer terribly from acne and it really knocks their confidence!

  20. I’m a guy and can’t relate to the hair/makeup/beauty stuff, but no matter who you are it’s important to not get sucked into thinking that what we see in the media is “real people”.

    An experiment: Next time you are out in public, take note of how many people are “model quality”. Maybe one in ten? Maybe? If you consider yourself average, or even below average, have some peace knowing there are more folks like you than not. That’s not an excuse to be out of shape/unhealthy, but it is an affirmation that the real world is not what you see in the media.

    • I did your experiment Chris, and when I went out this morning there genuinely wasn’t a single female that I could spot that were of model quality. However, there was one man who could have been a fitness model that was walking out of the local gym.

      There is lots of make up around for men who wish to enhance their features if you ever wish to experiment… guyliner is very popular with some of the locals πŸ˜‰

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  22. I’m laughing a little bit about the “Barnes Hips” because this morning I was noticing that I am getting a “Barnes Belly”. In my case, the Barnes’ curse gave my grandmother and her sisters all big bellies at the tender age of 50. So, you see, some things don’t improve with age…the just pop up somewhere else!

  23. This is fantastic! So well-rounded. I like that you acknowledged it’s ok to want to look “nice” by dressing up etc, but that’s not what should define us. The first part of your post had me a bit dubious.. Looking great, going out, wearing makeup. As a stay-at-home mum, I rarely feel that “dressed up” feel, but I’m ok with that. Lately I’ve been looking at the stretched skin on my tummy and forgetting that my arms are super toned and I probably look the healthiest I have ever done!
    I’m going to start focusing on the positives too πŸ™‚

  24. This is lovely. I wrote this morning about shutting up the negative voices in my head (I call her the anti-cheerleader). Seems timely, yes?

    I saw you over on the #sitsblogging chat.

  25. What an awesome read! It so hard now-a-days to find people writing about the root of the matter which starts within the person. Yes industries around us give a specific idea about trumped up standards, but ultimately love starts from within! I personally love my eyes. They’re plain, brown, almond shaped eyes but I love them (I got them from my mom). As a young women who felt tormented most of her teenage years I found it very difficult to love the person on the outside. It was mostly because I did not look like everyone else (I didnt have long hair, blue eyes, clear skin, nor was I tall, or voluptuous) . What I was left with was witty personality, sense of humor, and a compassionate heart. I learned to love those things a let everything else fall in place. Years later I love myself as a whole, inside and out, but it definitely was a long process that started from within!

  26. I always feel guilty when I think about this. I am very happy with who I am and what I look like but if I ever say that to anyone, they immediately start feeling sorry for themselves and start to list their ‘faults.’ It makes me feel bad and that I should be following suit as there are so many people out there that do not like themselves. It’s sad really. This is a great blog post and one everyone should read. #WeekendBlogHop

      • I think so. Also, we live in such a negative world that I think people automatically speak negatively about themselves. I have many friends and acquaintances who often do not know how to react to positive things that are said about themselves or things. They kind of stall, then change the subject when faced with positivity as nowadays, I think it is seen as ‘boring’ to not have a problem. I read about a newspaper that printed all it’s stories in a more positive light for a day (same serious stories but worded differently), instead of being sensationalist and negative. They lost millions of sales/readers that day. I think that says a lot about our society.

  27. Brilliant post. We are all so critical of ourselves usually. Its like when someone compliments an outfit women will often reply this old thing or it was only cheap, rather than just saying thank you. I like my long eyelashes, also I’m fairly busty πŸ˜‰

  28. What a great positive post. You are so right too, we all have positive beautiful things within us and we should appreciate those things rather than focus on the negatives. I appreciate my blonde hair.
    Thank you for sharing this uplifting positive post.
    Amanda.

    • Thanks so much – really pleased you liked it! Totally agree – we all have things that we don’t like about ourselves but focusing on the positive will surely make us much happier!

  29. “Why do we feel that we aren’t good enough the way that we are? Who creates the rules that tell us how our bodies should look?”
    Who indeed?

    I have a beautiful smile. I’ve been told so on numerous times by people who had no reason to lie about it, or were saying so just to charm me… πŸ™‚

  30. You have echoed so much of what I have been thinking lately myself. This past year I had struggled with some intense (and unfounded) body & image issues. I had to get to a point where it was like, okay, do I want to feel like this forever? Or can I train myself to love this skin I am in, because this is what I’ve got? It took a lot of conscious effort to reframe my mindset, but I am happy to say that I am making HUGE strides.

    I had noticed that every time I looked in a mirror I would look right at my belly and think, “Ugh, my belly is so gross and disgusting.” Who wouldn’t feel bad if they were hearing that every day. So, whenever I noticed that thought, I made myself stop and touch my belly and say to myself, “My belly is sexy and womanly and I love it.” That probably sounds a little cooky, but after a few months of that, I really started to reframe my perspective and I actually felt more loving towards myself and this skin.

    Anyway, thank you, wonderful message!

    • What an awesome comment – thank you! I absolutely love your message – the more we get into a habit of thinking positively about ourselves, the easier it is to really start believing it – it doesn’t sound kooky at all!

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  32. Great post! I know this is working backwards, but I think I have gotten harder on my beauty as I have aged. When I was younger I cared about how I looked, but I knew I was beautiful. Today, I still know I’m beautiful, especially where it counts, but I have days where I’m SO hard on myself. You are so right the ads and images, I never knew what conturing was and now I’m learning how to.
    I may learn some new makeup tricks, but makeup cannot help whats most beautiful to me and that’s heart. I think I have a lot of it. I cannot lie though makeup does help bring out my eyes, and I love my green eyes πŸ™‚
    Congrats on the feature today!
    XOXO

    • Thanks so much! Really pleased that you enjoyed it and I’m really impressed with the things that you came up with about your eyes. I need to learn a little more about eye make up!

  33. Awesome. I love the quote. I have been doing a body image series and I totally agree with what you said here. At my house, it was the Lloyd legs, or the Lloyd build. That wasn’t always a compliment, especially to a girl (referring to short and stocky!). I agree. We need to love ourselves!! Glad I found you at SITS!!

    • Thanks! I love that image – the ‘Lloyd Legs.’ We should start of franchise of some sort – for those with the Barnes hips or the Lloyd legs and market it using those names! Thanks for stopping by from SITS!

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  35. Wonderful post. I really enjoyed it, your writing is very engaging. I was told at an early age that I was beautiful, smart and could do anything I set my mind too. I now know that my parents instilled in me a confidence to appreciate myself no matter what. I never thought I was beautiful but I do feel that I had an attractive personality and I love myself. My paternal side the women are tall with rather large boobs, small ankles and a flat bottom. I seemed to have missed two of those traits (boobs and bottom). πŸ™‚ There are also Barnes on my paternal side.

  36. I really needed this today. While goin through negative times, and when other people make us feel negative about our bodies, it’s so difficult sometimes to remember our great features. I need to keep these things in mind.

    I am proud of my eyes, which I inherited from my mom. My thick hair, from my dad’s side of the family. And my smile. I want to smile despite the negativity I encounter in life.

  37. Great post. Thanks for sharing and you are so right. I feel the industry has to feed our insecurity (and does) so we keep ‘buying’. I scares me as a woman and as a mom of a little girl that they have such an influence. That they manage to get our confidence to such a low point. That we actually start believing that everyone has to look more or less the same…

  38. Great post! Am going to post it everywhere! I like my dimples – and my son’s, too. Am always attracted to people with dimples and think it sort of lights up their faces.

  39. It’s great to see so many things people like about their bodies instead of things they hate! I’ve struggled with body image since having a baby, but am pleased that I’ve lost my extra weight even though I’m a different shape now and I also love my hair which hasn’t gone grey yet!

  40. Hey Suzie, thanks for being a shining ray of sunlight today for me. It is so easy to allow yourself to become vulnerable with worry about these things. This seems to be the perfect remedy for it though, replacing the self-loathing with self-love. In that spirit I take up your challenge.

    What I love about my body –
    Golden skin tone in summer
    Strong legs
    That I fought off cancer and have big scars to show for it
    My crows feet

    Much love to you

  41. Reblogged this on Content Catnip and commented:
    This has to be the most inspiring post I’ve seen in a while. Young, old, female, male or transgender. Loving yourself starts from within. It’s a timeless message that so often gets lost in the hubris and rush of our daily lives.

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