I recently had a discussion with my mom about self-confidence. I admit that I have little patience for people who are too concerned about what other people think of them. In some ways, I am probably too unconcerned about others’ opinions of me. Part of this is I think my own denseness and part of it no doubt comes from the constant teasing from my classmates when I was in grade school. I was ridiculed on a fairly regular basis for being: 1) Mexican; 2) poor; and 3) fat. I actually didn’t start gaining weight until I was about 7th grade, so most of my grade school years, there was nothing I could do about being a poor Mexican (not as kid anyway) and after years of listening to the put-downs, I just started ignoring them.
At my workouts I see quite a few women (usually) who wear t-shirts and shorts to get in the pool or they insist on wearing a tankini or swim skirt because they don’t want to show their bellies or their upper thighs. They want to be covered as much as possible. I admit, the first swim suit I had was a tankini, but that was mainly because the only suits they had at the store were tankinis. The ones I’ve bought online are two pieces: a bralette with a high waisted swim short. Those are the suits I like best (the tankini was really annoying). I’ve had a couple people make remarks about how I’m trying to flirt with the guys going in and out of the sauna (just friendly teasing) and a few other comments about how it looks like I’ve lost a ‘lot of weight’ after no doubt noticing my saggy skin.
The saggy skin was what really started this conversation with my mom. I made a comment that my legs are starting to look like the patients on TLC’s Skin Tight and she asked me if I was close enough to my goal weight to have skin surgery. She commented that I will probably need at least two surgeries, one on my legs and one on my chest, torso and arms, which will include a breast lift. Honestly, I am in no rush to have surgery of any kind and I am not nearly close enough to consider surgery. (I still have about 100 lbs to go!) and I told her, after she mentioned it a few times, that I will not be having my breasts done under any circumstances.
Many of the patients on Skin Tight are practically traumatized by their saggy skin. There are some (mainly guys) who are more concerned about the inconvenience it causes and the risk of infection more than their appearance. Many of the patients are extremely self-conscious about their appearance, describing themselves with words like ‘freak’ and ‘monster’ and I think my mom is a little confused that I am not much concerned about how I look at all.
Vanity and appearance are important to my mom, and she does not understand that it isn’t important to me. Beyond looking neat and clean, I don’t spend a whole lot of time on my appearance. I’ve been told by more than a couple men that I’m not ‘girly’ enough and that it’s ‘not attractive.’ My vanity is pretty much confined to my hair: I like it long, but even then, I don’t spend a lot of time styling it. When I was 16, I had one gray hair on the back of my head. It was very noticeable because the rest of my hair was very dark and my mom kept insisting that I pluck it out, which I didn’t. As I grew older, I started getting a little bit of gray around my temples and face and she started making comments about coloring my hair. I did color my hair a few times, but that was more of a lark trying different colors and not related to ‘hiding the gray.’ I commented to one of my stylists that I kind of missed my gray hair and he quipped “no worries, your friends are back!”
My point here is that what I look like has never been tied to my sense of self or self-esteem. Maybe it was all that teasing in school (and life in general) that led to my being thick-skinned (and maybe a little dense), but who I am is not what I look like and it never has been and never will be. This is the point of a lot of books, movies and plays: who you are is the person inside and the outside covering is just the vehicle for moving that person around. Some of us are cute little Fiats and Minis and some of us are giant F-150’s and SUVs. The only difference is that we are fairly limited in our body choices: there are some things we can change and some we can’t. The problems happen when people start obsessing over things they can’t change about themselves. Do I wish I were taller? Yeah, being short is kind of a pain. Do I worry about it? Not really- I can’t change it. Even things I did lament over as a kid (I wanted blue eyes like my dad), I grew out of them. Now if I want blue eyes or any other color, all I have to do is buy the colored contacts. I can have different eye colors each day (or two different colors if I want!) but I don’t. It’s too much trouble and I know my eyes are brown.
I don’t mean to tell you that what you look like doesn’t matter. Taking pride in your appearance is a good thing; I believe it speaks to our self-confidence. I think liking how you look is a good thing, but when you are more concerned about what others think of your appearance than your own feelings, I think that isn’t a good thing. I’m not talking about your spouse or significant other: I mean strangers or coworkers and people who are not so important to you. As long as you are happy with your appearance, then what other people think is pretty much irrelevant, but the bottom line is that our appearance will change over time, “by chance or Nature’s changing course untrimm’d.” We need to be more concerned with how we feel about ourselves than what others think of us. Having self-confidence and being secure in ourselves is more attractive than our hair style, color or anything else about how we look. We spend too much time and effort trying to impress others with our appearance when what really matters is what’s inside. Everything else fades with time, whether we want it to or not.