Self-Image and Attitude

Have you ever wondered why some people turn heads when they enter a room? Because they arethe most beautiful or magnificent? Then, why don’t all people of the same category turn heads? And – a more difficult question – why do some people whom society would deem merely average also turn heads? The answer this time – it’s the presence. Attitude rules! It’s the confidence that counts. Their own perception of themselves breeds a positive attitude that is inviting and contagious.

My husband made a reply to me one day when I fell into the trap of comparing myself to another that has stuck with me. He said, “Don’t be so insecure. It doesn’t look good on you.” What he meant by this was to remember who I was. I was his wife, the mother of his children. Do not be so foolish as to think that he had chosen second best for himself. And, I am lucky because he reminds of this each and every time I fall into this line of thinking that I “so affectionately” call the Rudolph Syndrome.

If you remember correctly, Rudolph was given a special gift. He had the shiniest nose of all the reindeer. This could have made him feel “puffed up” or conceited, because he was special. But, instead, he allowed the other reindeer to cause him to feel ashamed of his gift. It wasn’t until the weather (the circumstances) caused a need for his gift that he truly felt special about it. The other reindeer “never let him play”, because he was different. They made fun of him! He allowed the others to make him feel less than the rest. When we begin comparing ourselves, we allow others to pull us down with them. What is your “Rudolph gift”? What is your teen’s “Rudolph gift? Is it the same or similar? It is our job as parents to find these gifts and make the most of them for yourself and your teen. Remember who you are! Whoever you are, you can count on being special to someone. 

One of my favorite stories is from my daughter. I am human and have all those other insecurities with which we all fight. But, one day, when she was about five, we were getting ready. She looked at me and said, “Mom, will I look like you when I grow up?” At that time, she looked so much like me that I had to be honest. I replied, “Yes, honey, I’m sorry, but you will.” She threw her hands up as if in a cheer and said, “Yes!” That was the biggest compliment I have ever received. She loved me enough to want to look just like me. 

This love is most important as Rudolph taught us. When Rudolph accepted his nose and loved himself, others did as well. Now, lest we forget, we know that Rudolph was a fictional character. Still, the moral of his story is so significant for us today. Because he accepted himself right down to what others considered his faults, he “went down in history”. We cannot love others fully if we do not first love ourselves.

Connecting Self-Care and Self-Image

As mentioned in Blog 4, “It’s easier to build a child than to repair an adult.” Yet, we are the children who become adults. To a great extent, our self-image comes from the physical and emotional input we received as children. Although media driven images and expectations certainly have an effect, messages from significant others have an even more dramatic impact on how we feel physically and emotionally about our bodies as adults. This is especially significant when we are spending so much more time with our families.

Our parents have the most profound effect on our self-image. If they like how we look and tell us so, we face the world with a head-start. If, on the other hand, our parents dislike our appearance, our body image will be tremendously influenced in a negative way. (Engel, 2006)

Barbara Streisand gave a good anecdote to support this idea as she recalled her childhood in an interview with Jay Carr (1996) in The Boston Globe. She tells him that “It’s actually my mother who never told me I was pretty. The words in the film The Mirror Has Two Faces are her words when I asked her what I looked like when I was a little girl. You know we play out the roles that our parents assign to us. I was the smart kid. I was the funny kid. My sister was the pretty kid. We play our roles until we come into a state of consciousness that says, ‘I will separate from my parents’ view of me’ once you get mature enough. That’s what’s wonderful about getting older. You’re not stuck in the mud of the pattern. You make your choices.” The final factor for this discussion is the major reason for beginning the blog with the topic of self-image and the associate self-care. That is, a major element that influences our self-image is whether our parents are satisfied with the way they look. Parents with a poor body image can pass on their negative attitudes and feelings to their children, causing them to dislike their own bodies. That’s why we need to address this issue before we can begin to help the children as our role as the school counselor places us in this position for many children in our care.

It’s up to the leaders in the school to instill enough confidence in each and every student so that they can have a positive self-image. It’s the messages that we receive that effect how we feel. The old quote, “Eliminate the negative, accentuate the positive” should be our mantra. That is, everyone has negative features and traits, but we have so many more positive one, so we need to concentrate on those. What we think we are, we are! Perception rules!

This brings us to an important realization. The pictures in the fashion magazines are to sell products, not images of less than adequate people. The pictures are manipulated by technology so that we will buy. The people behind the magazine do not seem to care how this makes us feel. So, don’t fall for it. Remember that no on is nearly as critical, or as noticing of our shortcomings as we are. If we don’t “notice” them or call attention to them, then others will not either. 

Our task is to be accepting of others, so that we can learn to accept ourselves and teach our children and teens to accept themselves! 

REFERENCES

Carr, J. (1996). Streisand looks in mirror, Sees a funny girl. The Courier Journal. Louisville, Kentucky. November 17, 1996.

Engel, B. (2006, February 24). Working together to create an abuse free future. Retrieved from http://www.beverlyengel.com/newsletter/2-24-2006.htm.