What do you think of when you see that word?
One small word that shatters people every day. One small idea that turns people into their own worse critic. What do you consider self-image? A word, a statement, a characteristic, a life choice? For some, it’s simply how they think about themselves. For others, it’s their lifestyle.
By that I mean, the people who center their lives around what they see when they look at themselves. People who try to look their best every day and every second of every day. People who never look away from every mirror they pass to make sure nothing, not even a hair, is out of place. People who define themselves based off of the opinions of others. People who beat themselves up when passing strangers because they assume the worse is being thought about them without a single word being said. People who hear the hundreds of screaming voices, in a room filled with silence. If you haven’t gathered by now, this isn’t just about self-image.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to look presentable at all times. The problem lies within the percentage of people who develop serious issues and disorders from the concept of self-image. Eating disorders, depression, etc… Being confident is one thing, pretending to be confident is another.
A friend of mine is absolutely beautiful. She has no problem getting dates, has a perfect body and so many other great qualities. I was speaking to her one day and asked, “What could possibly be so hard for you in life? You have the perfect body, guys love you and your gorgeous.” Only to find out, she was secretly hiding an eating disorder. For years she had hidden this secret from friends and family. See, we never used to be friends. We became friends a few years ago due to common related issues developed within each other. She was someone who I went to school with but didn’t really respect. We never spoke but I watched the way she acted with others and fellow classmates. She wasn’t exactly the nicest person in high school so when she asked for my help in college, I wasn’t sure I wanted to help her. Deciding to put the drama and feelings aside, I looked at the message she sent me and decided to reply back. There were two reasons I messaged her back that day.
1.) My goal in life is to help people and what kind of person would I be if I turned someone away in their time of need. Plus, she was basically a stranger. I have never spoken a word to her nor have I even made eye contact.
2.) As I read her message over and over again, I realized she was just like me. She was someone trying to reach out and get help even if it was from a stranger. What if I was the only one she was able to ask for help? I was a stranger but maybe this was something she couldn’t tell her friends or family.
When I finally messaged her back, we talked for weeks about our issues. We shared our entire stories, word for word spilling out every thought about our inner demons and damaged pasts. After that day, I vowed to try my best to never judge a book by its cover. The point of this story is, before she was my friend, she was simply a gorgeous girl who seemed to have everything. She worked so hard to look her best everyday but not because she was confident or just wanting to look nice. She did it every day with the intentions of trying to feel better about herself. To try and feel good if even only for the 6 hours we attended school each day.
Another problem I had trouble understanding was something that happened the other day. I posted a new profile picture and unlike my other pictures, which are usually with the help of good lighting and positioning, this one was a authentic candid of myself talking from the side of my face. Out of all the pictures I’ve posted, everyone liked and commented on this calling me gorgeous. This genuinely shocked me. I couldn’t understand how people could like this picture out of a quote on quote “selfie” picture.
It’s funny because I always try so hard to take a nice picture but I will scroll through my phone after to see I’ve taken over 100 pictures. Yes, that sounds drastic but that’s the point I’m trying to make about self-image. No, I’m not constantly taking pictures of myself but when I feel like I look really nice and decide to take a picture, I end up hating all of them. So, when I finally decide on posting one, my concern was with how many likes and comments I was going to get. Instead of focusing on the fact that I believed it was a nice picture and that was that. I let the opinions of others take control of who I am and let the way I feel about my self-image be viewed through their eyes, not mine.
What I recently discovered is that you are at your best in those candid moments. When you aren’t so focused on being perfect and making sure everything is put together. I recently went to visit my aunt in the nursing home and I’ve been going there for about three years. As I was walking into the room, a women passed us and said, “Oh look it’s the Occhipinti girls.” I have never seen or met this woman. Then as we were walking out another lady stopped and hugged me saying, “it’s nice to see the Occhipinti girls again.” Again, I have never spoken or seen this woman. It turns out these women have seen us around the nursing home and knew us without us even realizing it.
It’s important to also know that what we do matters and can impact the lives of the people around us; strangers or close friends/family. We may see ourselves a certain way but people may see us completely different. Knowing strangers recognize me and think of me and my sister as people who are kind hearted and try hard to be good people, means the world too me. There are days when I beat myself up over the smallest thing and then I am reminded randomly by someone how I am seen through their eyes. That in itself is a blessing.
People are going to have bad days and feel negatively about their appearance but it’s important to remember that people’s insecurities matter and making people feel good is a nice way to spread some love and maybe even make you feel better. When you are feeling down, try complementing someone else. It sounds weird but sometimes giving back or being nice to someone else can make you feel better than you think. The next time you see something you like about someone, tell them. Share in a moment when you are being real and genuine with someone else and see what happens. You never know what can happen with a smile and a small compliment. You made just make someone’s day or even your own.