5 Steps to loving your image
Remember what your parents taught you? You're perfect as you are. That was the ideal anyway. Sometimes though, the message gets lost in the translation of what we see operating in the world around us.
If we are perfect, then why are there so many people in the world pointing out what is wrong with us and how we can improve with this or that product? And why do we see all these other beautiful size zero women posted on magazine covers that don't look anything like us? Aren't they the perfect ones?
These negative messages get lodged inside of our minds and bodies and we forget that we really are perfect the way we are. But what does that mean anyway? How can we feel good about ourselves when we see a different "model" of perfection represented as the ideal?
Use clothing size as a guide
Remember that a clothing size is just a made-up number to help people of different sizes find what fits them. Sizes are just meant to be guides to clothes that fit well, not a standard to live up to.
Make healthy comparisons
While it's hard not to compare ourselves to others, it only does harm to other women and us. The only healthy comparisons to make are against our own standards, which should make sense for who we are physically and emotionally.
Don't try to look like someone else
Instead of trying to look like someone else, try looking more authentically "you." Being perfect as we are doesn't mean we can't change aspects of our appearance -- it just means we make those changes out of a place of love and acceptance for ourselves as we are now.
Surround yourself with the right people
Surround yourself with others striving toward the same goals of self-acceptance as you. You can help each other monitor the way you speak and feel about your body in aim of creating a healthy and accepting sense of self. Help each other recognize what makes each of you beautiful and unique.
Once you can truly love how you look right now, then any changes you choose to make to your image will simply be fun and empowering adjustments to tweak the outside you that you present to the world.
Have fun with the image you present to the world and know that you are in control of certain aspects, but not others. If you're a size 18, don't strive to be a size zero, which will only cause you emotional and physical harm. Strive to have a healthy and fit body for the size that you are that reflects the true beauty that you already are.
Sheila Hageman is an author, teacher, speaker and mother who blogs for The Huffington Post. Her memoir, Stripping Down, February 2012, from Pink Fish Press, is a meditation on womanhood and body image. Check out Sheila's latest reflections on the bare essentials of life on her blog www.StrippingDown.com, on Twitter @SheilaMHageman and her website www.SheilaHageman.com.