Body Image A Sense of Self
~Making the shift from Insecurity to Freedom of Expression
by Radha Sandy Gillen
- Societal Expectations
As a society, we place great importance on how one looks physically and rarely look much further, into the heart and soul of someone. And although we have been taught that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, we are also still very much conditioned by ancient societies that inextricably married physical beauty with love, passion, desire, worthiness, and usefulness.
So, we find ourselves in this modern-day dilemma of outworn, outmoded beliefs that hinder rather than help. We idolize a particular body type or physical attributes depending on fashion and fad.
Our definition of beauty varies from culture and country, and changes over time, yet seems to remain fixated purely on external appearances. We’re constantly judging and comparing our bodies with unrealistic expectations, not to mention giving our power away to those deemed more attractive. This results in creating a better than/less than scenario that erodes our self-esteem.
- Definition of Beauty
Beauty is not seen as our inner expression shining through, being reflected externally. It isn’t recognized as an integral part of our being, our inner landscape, our life force energy that radiates from who we are deep within. Inner beauty is not even popularly understood or explained, let alone as something to be felt and experienced as true beauty. Our society sees beauty as skin deep, valued for our display of fashion, hairstyle, possessions and physique.
Google’s English Dictionary provided by Oxford Languages defines beauty, in part, as;
- A combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight. “I was struck by her beauty”
- A beautiful woman. “She was considered a great beauty in her youth”
Merriam-Webster Dictionary similarly says;
- The quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.
- A thing of beauty is a joy forever… “She was a great beauty in her day”
These definitions give rise to a few issues, primarily that it’s associated with the feminine youth, which contradicts the definition that it is a joy forever or timeless, instead, it has its day. Other definitions allude to physical beauty equating strength, happiness, good health and reproductive prowess, as well as the ability to attract a more successful mate. Yikes!
- Redefining Beauty
We allow ‘society’ to influence how we feel about our bodies. We let the judgment of others form our sense of body image and determine the level of Self-acceptance we adopt. Naturally, our sense of approval then is more a sense of disapproval because it’s impossible to feel good about ourselves in comparison to the photo-shopped images of supermodels and celebrities.
When we compare ourselves with unrealistic expectations, we undermine our ability to feel we are enough, to love our body and being just as we are.
It’s time for a new definition of beauty, one that supports diversity, inclusiveness and acceptance, not solely based on appearances, but what’s inherent within. What we define as pleasing needs to expand beyond superficiality.
- Inner Beauty
The inherent, indwelling beauty that we all are at our core, holds the key to flipping the beauty myth on its head. Many haven’t even considered a sense of beauty as an inside job. As a society, we aren’t encouraged to go there. But as individuals, seeking more joy and contentment in our experience of life, we can make a literal shift away from the pain of comparison, competition, and the negativity of judgment inflicted from outside sources.
It’s time to heal the wound of body shaming and body-image bias. We must shift from viewing our body as a vehicle to the more sacred stance of it being a temple. Nurturing our personal ‘Spirit House’ initiates the journey to personal empowerment through the grace of Self-love. Who you are is so much more than your shape, skin tone, weight or outfit.
- Making the Shift
When we realize that we alone hold the power to choose the thoughts we have toward our body-image and sense of Self, our whole world changes. The suffering we inflict upon ourselves by trying to look a certain way, fit in and look good for others can only be eradicated by authentic Self love and deep acceptance. This is taking a step in the direction of real happiness. When you decide to nurture your inner beauty, a light goes on inside that radiates out in a brand-new definition of beautiful. You will experience a feeling of freedom when you drop the need to please others, hide yourself or be popular or somehow ‘different’ for others. Living life of your terms and adopting progressive definitions of your beauty is all powerful, in the gentlest of ways.
The environmental influences will undoubtedly always be present; however, you have the power to choose and regulate the extent to which these factors affect your personal satisfaction with how you look and more importantly, how you feel about yourself. Change begins with Intention. Joy and full Self-expression are the end game.
Reaching out for help if/when struggling with Self-image or body-image concerns, which are negatively impacting your life, is advised. Councilors, therapist and doctors can offer help.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me for more information on creative modalities that use art for healing this existential crisis and returning you to an empowered sense of Self.
Original Art by Radha Sandy Gillen