Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
I had the pleasure of seeing one of my favorite speakers, Bonnie Bing, this week at the Wichita Independent Business Association Women’s Leadership Alliance meeting. Bonnie always speaks her truth, and is hilarious at the same time. Besides that, I just love seeing her.
I’ve known Bonnie most of my life. She was my gym coach during one of the most awkward time in any women’s life – the junior high school years. From the time I was 13 until I was 16, she was in my life every school day at gym class. People often ask me what Bonnie was like as a teacher, and I always say, “When a chubby girl still likes her gym coach, that says something.” In gym class, and after, Bonnie has always been kind, patient, encouraging and supportive of me. She’s one of my role models, mentors and favorite people.
My shero, Bonnie Bing
I wonder how many women can say that? I suspect many were terrorized by gym coaches and others, causing them to feel ashamed of their bodies, dealing crushing blows to their self-esteem. This isn’t something that happens only to women who are plump. It effects almost all women, shamed for anything other than a photo edited ideal, including being skinny and “too pretty.”
So many women struggle with feeling comfortable in their own skin. Yet, the longest relationship that we will ever have, is the one with ourselves. It makes us avoid cameras and not be present in our lives. This really hit home for me several years ago, when a close friend died. I noticed that I wasn’t in any of the pictures of parties and events I know I was at, because I hid from the camera. It was as if I didn’t exist in this person’s life. It made me rethink how the rest of my life would be documented.
One of the most profound things I’ve gained from the Finishing School is how I see myself. I owe a lot of that to my former assistant, the women that helped create the look of the Finishing School brand, Jessica Wasson. In so many ways, this millennial has been influential in my life. Even though she’s nearly half my age, she’s another of my role models, mentors and favorite people. It’s because of her, I started making the short videos to promote our classes. I told her I hated to see myself on video, and she demanded that I do it anyway. She told me, “People like seeing you in person. Why wouldn’t they want to see you in a video?” If she wouldn’t have helped me break through that barrier, I would not have the confidence to take the Finishing School online this spring.
Jessica moved to Georgia last year to pursue a career in comedy. I miss working with her sassy ass.
I’ve learned that body image is the way we see our own bodies, and the way we assume other people see us. The interesting thing about this is, body image is our own perception, imagination, emotions and physical feelings of and about our bodies. The way we see ourselves is subjective. It’s not based on fact. It’s in our heads, and is much more influenced by our self- esteem then it is how we’re judged by others. While we have a tendency to obsess about certain flawed body parts, the world sees us as a whole person, including our spirit’s inner glow.
We don’t even realize how we’re letting all of this steal our power. We’ve been shamed into succumbing to frauds and illusions. It can hold us back from showing the world who we truly are. We must learn to stand up to the unrealistic expectations we’ve let society – and ourselves – put on us. It is completely, crazily, over the top unrealistic to think every woman can, or should, look like a model.
The first person we have to convince to change this way of thinking, is ourselves. We need to reframe and refocus how we look at the gallery of our space. This Valentine’s Day, let’s celebrate the love we have for ourselves, warts and all. I want you to love yourself as unconditionally as you do others, so my Galentine gift to you this article I wrote: 12 Tips for a Positive Self Image.
Self-love is about acceptance and seeing yourself as the gift you are. Today you can choose to be in love with yourself and respect your body. You can listen to it and honor what it needs. You can see your body as a tool, and a teammate that helps you live your full potential.
You are more beautiful than you realize.