Q & A
Why did you feel that body image, self-esteem, and self-awareness needed to be explored in this way?
Poor self image is not just the province of the young. It affects women of all ages and is not limited to any socioeconomic situation, race, culture, or worldview, giving the book’s audience a wide age range. Too often, we believe we will finally be content when our body changes in some way. Actually, we’ll be content only when our mind changes, when we give ourselves permission and the tools to be content. Beautiful You provides the tools- vision, passion, purpose, resilience, productivity- for every woman who wants
to see beauty in a way that is true to who she is and not in the way the world hands it to her.
You say that negative body image is not women’s biggest challenge. Explain.
That’s right. A poor body image isn’t usually at the root of a woman’s negative feelings about herself. A poor self-concept and lack of confidence are often at the core of a negative body image. Negative body image is often just the manifestation of a poor self-concept or lack of self-awareness. If we had a better self-image and greater self-awareness, we would be less likely to allow how we feel about our hair or weight or whatever happens to be our hang-up consume so much of our time and energy. Having a negative self-image or a negative body image is like always having a gate-crashing critic watching the events of your life as they unfold. What I have found over time is that self-acceptance is what most dynamically changes our negative self-concept and body image. And you can only find self-acceptance through the hard but meaningful work of assessing where you are, seeing where you have been, and planning where you are going—while enhancing your life along the way.
Is the focus in Beautiful You, then, to have women do the work of assessing where they are?
Yes. Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance takes the reader on a journey that encourages her to develop a clearer sense of herself. The secret to success with Beautiful You is completing its guided daily practices. Daily practices yield new patterns of thinking, and those patterns ultimately yield new habits that will renew your sense of self in a positive, dynamic, healthy way. This book quiets you and moves you to find clarity; it encourages you to develop your own insights through compassionate observation and careful execution. By giving you the opportunity to consider, observe, do, and be, this book will help you recognize what is really beautiful—you, as you are.
Over time, once you have a clearer sense of self, self-confidence becomes a habit. Confidence is born from proof, and proof of your worth comes when you have cultivated and embraced your whole self. A positive self-esteem comes with knowing your truth, your reality, and arriving at a self-mastery that allows for resilience, pro-activity, and brilliance. And while this book’s journey might begin by taking you more deeply inward, in the end it will help you move beyond yourself and into the world, where acting on what you have to offer does so much more good than worrying about what you look like.
What is radical self-acceptance?
For me, it’s the notion that I am not fundamentally wrong because of my history or physical body. It’s the realization that I am fundamentally right because I am neither my history nor my body. It’s the choice to recognize my humanity just as I recognize and respect the humanity of others.
Why did you choose a year for this journey?
There is no quick fix to improving your self-concept. This book guides the reader through the slow, deliberate process of enhancing her life through her own personal empowerment. However she feels about herself, those feelings were not created in just one day—and addressing how she feels about herself will also take more than a day, and more than several.
Every day, you can find a story of someone who medicated herself with plastic surgery, weight loss programs, or new relationships in order to find happiness, only to find that she’s not that happy with the very thing that she thought would cure her.
Negative self-image is a beacon, calling us to explore what is really going on deep within. I want us to use that beacon to arrive at a place of understanding and clarity. I want each of us to break free from the idea that narrowly defined external beauty is everything, and instead embrace and see the beauty in our inner selves. By taking the Beautiful You journey, you alight on a path that will be good to you, that will allow you to settle into who you are, that will give you the tools you need to be your truest self.
Is there a group or type of person that you find most suffers from negative body image?
Poor self-image is not just the province of the young. It affects women of all ages and is not limited to any socioeconomic situation, race, culture, or worldview. And the reality is that the way we feel about our bodies, our dissatisfaction with our bodies, doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It bleeds out, affecting how we feel about ourselves and the life we are living, thus affecting our ability to relate to others. As a friend once said to me, there is a macrocosm in the microcosm.
You believe that a significant part of getting over our esteem issues is to engage in something else. What do you mean by that?
We too often invest in self-loathing— in everything from our weight to our hair, from our body shape to our skin color. The energy we put into all this hating, tweaking, complaining, and trying to erase takes our energy away from engaging in our world. Luminous, shiny hair doesn’t make you a better mother. A tan does not make you a better teacher. These things don’t change the world. It’s what you have inside you—in your soul—that has the makings of an everyday miracle.
It is far healthier- for ourselves and the world- for our senses of self to come from believing more in what we do than in what we are. Having positive self-esteem is in part about doing things that are worthy of esteem—engaging in acts that build esteem because they are admirable. Investing our time in completing esteemable acts can do much more for your self-esteem than trying the latest mascara or buying skinny jeans.
You say beauty standards are oppressive. Explain.
When we become consumed with our appearance, we are left with little room to think about much else. And when we are unable to become fully possessed of ourselves, when we are unable to recognize what makes us great or unique and instead wallow in what makes us—in our minds—“less than” or “different,” we are, in truth, oppressed.
Beauty standards are, in many ways, a political issue. As long as you can be kept obsessed, you can be kept oppressed.
What is your wish for women?
The body and beauty revolution is ours to begin. It’s time to give ourselves, and the girls and women around us, a wider lens through which to consider our beauty and who we are beyond our beauty.
We have to bite our tongues when a moment of self-loathing or criticism enters our minds. We have to encourage the women we love to talk about something other than their cellulite. We have to eradicate these limiting thoughts from our minds, because a change in our own minds leads to change in our media and on our planet.
The expectations we absorb can either encourage us or limit us. They can catapult us to possibility or keep us confined by our feelings of inadequacy. Negative body image
isn’t just the problem of the insecure girl. Having confidence does not mean that body-image issues will not affect you. If your child’s teacher is plagued by low self-esteem, it affects how she champions your child; it affects you. The way women have been reduced in our world affects all of us, directly and indirectly. If the women of the next generation are crippled by their lack of confidence, their leadership will falter, and their ability to make change will be compromised.
We have to champion all women. As long as one woman is crippled by feelings of inadequacy, then the world that we have created is inadequate. Supporting one another and freeing one another from the limiting messages that we internalize can be revolutionary. We make the choice whether to internalize these messages. We make the choice whether to build up or tear down. We can have power in our lives by not taking in negative messages, and we can empower other women by not sending out negative messages. When we begin to see women in all of their dimensions, we begin to eradicate confining stereotypes and worldviews. We start to see all women as complex individuals, and not just as part of a larger stereotypical whole.
We can choose to create a society that encourages women to be healthier and more whole, a society that unites us in our commonalities while acknowledging the depth of the individual. The more we challenge the limits we place on each other, the more open the world will be to all of us.