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What is a Bad Self-Image Doing to You?

A lot more than you might think.

A recent study commissioned by Dove found that a staggering 89% of women in Australia choose to cancel plans, job interviews, and other important engagements because of how they feel about themselves.¹

Psychologist and author Dr. Emily Hancock conducted interviews that revealed girls’ self-esteem peaks when they’re 9 years old, “then takes a nose dive.” She also found that 50% of college women at an Ivy League university admitted to eating disorders. A separate study noted that 25% of older high school girls reported they did not like, or even hated, themselves, leading to behaviors that put their health – and life – at risk.²

Sadly, these statistics represent a very real epidemic among females who are constantly bombarded from media and peers with expectations about how we should look and what size and shape we should be in order to be liked and accepted.  

But advertising and peer pressure aren’t the real problem. The real problem is that we buy in… we believe the lies that society pushes. And when we don’t measure up, we turn on ourselves and may even come to despise who we are. 

Just how deep can this problem go? Here’s a real-life example. My husband Mike, a psychotherapist, once heard a lady say she hated to write her name, and would only do so when absolutely necessary, because to write her name reminded her how much she hated the person the signature referred to. 

If you’re a woman, you know how hard it is to steer clear of this societal trap. You may even feel like you’ve done okay at it. 

One way to know is by honestly answering a question we often ask clients who struggle with self-image concerns: How does it feel to be you?

Stop for a minute and ask yourself that same question… how does it feel to be me?  Do I like who I am? 

The sort of messages you tell yourself when you feel like you’ve failed, when you’re under pressure, when you’re embarrassed will also give you a clue. Do you hear things like, “I’m so stupid,” or “why can’t I ever do anything right,” or “If I only looked like…?”

If you’re generally miserable, anxious, afraid, or just feel completely empty inside for no explainable reason, a damaged self-image is taking its toll on you. It’s robbing you of the chance to be yourself and enjoy your life… and of the courage to really go for what you want out of life.

Nobody – no matter who you are – has to settle for this. You don’t have to keep missing out on what you could do and who you could be, because this is not what you were born for. You don’t have to keep suffering with this most private and personal of all pains. There’s a much better way to deal with negative feelings about who you are than going through life just trying to keep everybody faked out.

And I’m not just “blowing smoke up your psyche,” as Mike likes to say. I know what I’m telling you here is true – and I know it for a very personal reason. Let me illustrate with a story about someone I know intimately. Me.

My parents were really good people – and good parents. But they were also very conservative religiously. And I mean very. Which among other things meant that, being a girl, I never wore pants. (From their way of thinking pants were for boys.) 

So, off I would trundle to school in my skirt or dress. To keep my legs warm in the winter, Mom put pantyhose on me with knee socks over them. While all my schoolmates were rocking it casually and in style,  I looked like something from a Jane Austin novel. 

Dresses… pantyhose…knee socks. Third grade.

It’s no mystery why I got laughed at by a few of my classmates on a regular basis.

It hurts to get laughed at no matter how old you are, but it’s especially painful when you’re a kid and you want so badly to fit in and feel accepted by your peers.

And being a kid, I didn’t know what else to do with the shame I felt. So I turned it into a statement about me

In my third-grade mind, my clothing became a metaphor for me. In time I was convinced that I was a misfit… I was not only ashamed of how I was dressed; I was ashamed of me

I became more adept at hiding my shame as I grew older, but high school just exacerbated the problem. 

I landed in high school in the early ’70s. You might imagine how my wardrobe stood out like a sore thumb in the midst of the hippie revolution! In the era of bell-bottom jeans and halters and minnies… I was rocking culottes. 

If you don’t know what that is… and why in the world would you… let me help. One dictionary describes them as “women’s knee length trousers cut with very full legs to resemble a skirt.” (Feel free to say “Yikes!!!”) I’m sure there was no culotte rack in the junior section of the department stores. But that wasn’t a problem because Mom made all my clothes. Where there’s a will….

And, of course, it’s high school, so there were plenty snickers there too.

About now you’re probably wondering why I didn’t rebel. Legitimate question. I was an obedient firstborn, not the kind of kid that bucked the rules. I had a strong need to please my parents. Besides, they were good parents in general, and I loved them too much to damage our relationship over my wardrobe.

In spite of my weird outfits, however, I was actually well-liked by nearly everyone. (I inherited my dad’s “naturally friendly to everyone” kind of personality which I guess just won out most of the time).  I was salutatorian of my senior class (about 200 graduates) and voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by the same. I even had a handful of close – normally dressed! – friends.

But in my mind, I never felt like I fit in. I didn’t speak up or draw attention to myself because if I did I thought people would immediately notice that I was “really different.” So I protected my real feelings by acting like everything was good. But the truth about me was that I was deeply lonely inside.

One day in the late Fall of my freshman year in college something happened that began my rescue from the island of misfits I was living on. (You’ll hear about it in the course.) 

Because someone cared enough to show me how to heal my broken self-image, I was able to move from feeling like a sad and miserable outsider to a girl who loves, embraces, and appreciates everything about me and my story that makes me unique.That was 42 years ago now. And as we say here in the South – the change took!  

We are transformed to a better place not just for our own benefit, but also so we can show someone else how to do the same. That’s why I’m sharing my story with you. What I went through as a kid – and what I’ve been blessed to learn since – has given me a heart for those like me who had their own version of a painful experience in childhood… one that came to shape their belief about who they were, and still are. 

My experience is the reason I know you don’t have to continue living with unnecessary silent suffering and sadness. It’s your God-given right to enjoy life loving, embracing, and appreciating everything about you that makes you unique. Like me, you can come to know how great it can feel to just be YOU. I want that for you. And I want to show you how!

The next chapter of your life is not yet written. You are the one with pen in hand, the one with the power to change how your story develops from this point forward. You have the choice, right here right now, to dynamically reshape your self-image.

We can choose to disregard and try to dismiss or distance from the problem, but we end up paying for it big time in the long run:

1. Our quality of  life suffers.
Our general disposition, how we feel about life, our personality, even our ability to succeed or fail… are all largely determined by our attitude toward our self. In fact, as long as we’re content to live in a state of self-rejection we will always have a nagging sadness within us. 

2) The quality of our relationships suffer.
It’s very hard to experience a sincere connection with another person while trying to stay in hiding… which means we miss out on the wonderful gift of someone loving us simply for who we are. 

 3) We miss our ONE chance to live the only life we really have – Our Own.
When we’re convinced that we are unlovable, unacceptable, etc., we try to become somebody other than who we really are. We go to great lengths to be somebody we believe others WILL love and appreciate. But sadly, in the process we give up the only opportunity we have in life to be the person we were created by God to be!

 

The important question now is… if any of this describes you, are you ready to do something about it? 

I’m inviting you to join me for a very special VIP launch of Enough’s Enough! – our 21-Day Self-Image Revolution email coaching course where we show you step by step how to free yourself from the pain of an inadequate self-image.

The primary goal of this course is to help you move beyond the pain you’re now experiencing to a place where it feels good to be you. And all you need do to get started is accept my invitation to come aboard.

When you do, you’ll receive the entire course – 21 lessons in all – as well as VIP treatment in terms of support and guidance from me. You have my word that you’ll get the very best of our 25+ years of personal and professional training and experience during these 21 days.

So if you’re ready to say YES to who you can be – who you want to be – just click the button below to find out all the particulars about what this course offers you!

I can’t wait to meet you!

Personal Growth, Growth Resources Online, Susan Ruth, Life Coach

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