One of the things I’d like to continue working on this year has to do with body image. I’m two days away from turning 38 and I realize that I’ve spent most of my life being a silent critic of myself! My birthday present to myself will be to make conscious efforts to continue ignoring negative thoughts about any aspect of my physical appearance. I am so much more than that!
When and how did this start? I suspect it is related to the “well-meaning” comments from people close to me, especially women, from a young age. The comments usually concerned my appearance (“you seem to have gained a few kilos, maybe you shouldn’t eat this second slice of bread sweetheart”); their own appearance (“look how ugly my thighs look in this skirt”); or just other women (“at her age long hair is a no-no”). The glossy magazines of the 1990s with their flawless photoshopped models on the cover and their countless advice on how to look thinner/sexier/younger didn’t help either in allowing me to form a healthy view about myself.
Neither did the TV shows and movies where the beautiful young leading lady tries to win the heart of the sexy older male protagonist. I spent most of my childhood and adolescent life getting mixed messages from friends, school, family, and society in general: yes, I can be a smart accomplished woman, but I’d better look good in the process too. I can’t even imagine how tougher things were for girls of colour, girls with disabilities, or any girls that were even further away from the accepted beauty norm of Greece in the 80s and 90s.
This unhealthy foundation only got worse over the years, and it took many years of therapy and getting informed on the matter for my self-image to start changing. In many ways it’s still an ongoing process.
That is why I decided to start the new year with a book that addresses exactly this issue: More Than A Body by Lexie Kite and Lindsay Kite. “Your body is an instrument and not an ornament,” the writers tell us. I would have loved to have someone in my life tell me that in such a clear way when I was growing up. If you’d like to learn more about the book, you can start your search here and here. And then of course there are countless books and researches on the topic of women objectification.
Nowadays, I have many younger women in my life that I cherish and admire: my goddaughter, my friends and neighbours in Rotterdam, my mentee through Women on Top, my colleagues at work. I am happy to be part of their lives and to exchange views with them, and I’m always saddened when I hear them making comments about themselves similar to the ones I used to make about myself. Hopefully my experiences and the thoughts I’m sharing via this website will help them in their journey towards self-appreciation.