Rip off the mask, tear down the walls. Show the world my beautiful, vulnerable self!

Posts tagged ‘compliments’

Undermining Self-Esteem for Profit

Knowing when something needs to be said

I’ve been mulling over posting about this for a couple of weeks, but after careful consideration, believe it needs to be said.

A couple of weeks ago, a member of the dance community decided I needed some beauty advice and proceeded to offer it, though I’d never asked for it, nor realized I needed her help.

But a little background, first. When I go dancing, I wear shorts for a couple of reasons. Aside from the obvious fact that it’s cooler, I’ve yet to feel comfortable or attractive in my extensive collection of skirts as the weight I’ve lost so far has yet to retreat from my midsection. Thus, a skirt tends to make me look like a barrel. I just don’t feel the shape is flattering or attractive.

Beware the well-meaning who offer unasked for advice

All women have areas of their body they like and some they don’t. Even the ones we look at and find beautiful. Trust me on this. There’s something about themselves they’d like to change. But at the same time, we all have something we just know in our hearts is fine or even perfect the way it is. It might be eyes, or hair, length of our torso or our profile. For me, thanks to having danced most of my life, it’s my legs. Even when I was carrying enough weight to be considered obese, my legs weren’t half bad.

Unfortunately for the self-professed beauty consultant, that’s the area she chose as needing improvement, or, in her opinion covering up. Her first attempt was to encase them in a pair of baggy black pants. She even added a wide belt to my afore-mentioned broad mid-section; a real fashion faux pas on one as short-waisted as I.

It wasn’t enough that I told her the pants and belt were a bad idea. She had to approach me a few days later to tell me how much better I’d look in a pair of cheap tights like the ones she was wearing. I tried to tell her, somewhat politely that I wasn’t interested in her help. She demanded an explanation to which I replied “all you need to know is that I’m not interested.” But she was as persistent as a fly at a picnic.

When I continued to refuse her an explanation, she stomped off in disgust, hurling back in a voice loud enough to drown out the music, “if you realized how awful your legs look! I’m a beauty consultant!”

Women supporting women; more important now than ever

Which leads me to the reason I feel the need to write this post. Many people and companies have been working overtime to help women feel better about themselves and to celebrate our differences rather than trying to force us all into impossible molds of preconceived beauty. The cause is facing an uphill battle against powerful foes including the weight loss industry and those who seek to help us reach perfection with a few nips and tucks. Sadly, these industries and people like the woman who approached me believe they have the right to bully others.

My question is, why would women continue to use such underhanded tactics to bring business to themselves? Why would they think it’s OK to attack another woman’s self-esteem for their own personal gain?

Isn’t it the job of a beauty consultant to emphasize a woman’s attributes and minimize her flaws through simple techniques like clothing choices and natural looking makeup techniques?

Turning a mis-fired shot into a campaign to help others

Though in this case, the ostensible consultant chose her target and the presumed flaw very badly indeed. In the first place, I’ve put a lot of effort into learning to love and accept myself, warts and all. And my legs are and always have been my favorite feature. Even my hyper-critical mother could find no fault there! The only people who have ever taken issue with my legs have been those who believe a woman should keep that appendage covered no matter what. I have also taken it upon myself to set those who believe it’s acceptable to bully others straight.

In this world where tearing down and demeaning women is becoming more and more accepted after years of effort to encourage fair treatment, it is imperative that every industry where woman have influence be conscious of treating women, not like objects which are simply on earth to please the male of the species, but as individuals with their own wants and needs, qualities and flaws. It is up to us to build each other up, not tear each other down.

Turning our backs on conformity

One way to do that is to discourage those who use such underhanded techniques to fill their bank account. We must turn our backs on them and their business practices which profit from women’s insecurities.

By the same token, we must support those businesses which seek to celebrate women and their differences. Celebrate the women who don’t need perfect bodies to celebrate their femininity. Who don’t need the approval of others to wear what makes them feel good. And we must help other women appreciate their own qualities and accept the flaws as part of what makes them unique.

And please, can’t we convince all of the women who parade around looking like plain vanilla, demure Barbie Dolls that they’re not doing anyone any favors? You with your figures starved to unnatural slimness, your beige, gray, and black clothing, your air of conventionality and conservatism. We know that once you’ve snagged your man, the real you comes out. So why play the game? It’s only going to attract the type who thinks they want that blandness, which forces you to at least try to fit a mold which really isn’t you.

Let your hair blow wild and crazy once in awhile. Stop covering up those falsely perceived flaws with makeup. Celebrate your individuality instead of stuffing it down so far, even its screams for mercy are stifled.

Setting strong examples

I’ve always been drawn to women like Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand who used what some might call flaws to stand out from the crowd. So what if your hips are wider than what society tells you is perfection? So what if your nose isn’t in perfect proportion to your face? Or if your hair blows in wild disarray around your face instead of hanging in a polite, straight stream unlike any waterfall I’ve ever seen.

Above all, revel in all that makes you unique. Yes, there are women who will dislike you on sight, not because you’re different, but because you’re brave enough to be while they live in a bubble of their own making. They don’t envy your looks or your confidence. They envy your ability to ignore all of the overt and subliminal messages filling our lives, encouraging us to be something we’re not; something we were never meant to be.

Even more, find something in every woman you meet to compliment. We truly can help each other, one compliment at a time.

Otherwise, we’ll all eventually just be a society of Stepford Wives.

Our strongest weapon is gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful I learned to revel in my uniqueness.
  2. I’m grateful I need validation from no one to accept and love myself.
  3. I’m grateful I can be a voice for other women who can be blind-sided by “well-meaning” people who offer their assistance at the expense of someone else’s self-esteem.
  4. I’m grateful for friends who are as unique and self-confident as I’ve always striven to be.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance: self-confidence, integrity, beauty of all sizes, shapes and colors, health, joy, happiness, friendship, love (of self too!), peace, harmony, philanthropy and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Photo courtesy of J. Lightning via Flickr

Faulty Self-Perception

Insides Show Outside

In recent years, I’ve been accused of being “buttoned up” or “uptight”; even “conservative”. All adjectives I’d never have attributed to my tendency to live by my own rules. Sure, I typically wore my hair pulled back from my face and favored loose, baggy clothes to hide (or at least try to) my corpulent self. But that wasn’t being conservative. It was being comfortable, right?

Hair dangling in my face while I work is annoying, and dangling in wet, drippy strands in my face while I dance is disgusting. It never occurred to me that there might be an alternative. Besides, when I was younger, I’d told myself I was using my hair to hide in uncomfortable situations like crowds and places full of strangers.

Small Changes Yield Unexpected Results

In the last couple of weeks, I decided to launch an experiment. I started wearing my hair down, either a just-washed mass of curls or flat-ironed to eliminate the resulting frizz caused by pulling a brush through said curls. For some reason, I also started wearing lipstick regularly, usually a dark burgundy or brown, depending on my clothing.

What I expected was either nothing or maybe a passing comment or two about looking different. What I got was something else entirely; something unexpected and a little overwhelming. If you’d asked me before I began my experiment what I thought the results would be, what I’m seeing now wouldn’t have even made the top 100.

People I barely know are stopping to pay me compliments! People I know are using adjectives I’d never attribute to myself in a million years. The weight I’ve lost so far which, for the most part has gone unnoticed is suddenly visible and being remarked upon regularly. The change I’d made last summer to my hair color is suddenly new. What the heck? Just because I took the clips out of my hair and let it hang loose around my face or curl wildly, untethered and free?

What Does It All Mean?

My analytical side could no longer be contained. It had to step in and try to figure out what caused such an overwhelming flood of positive feedback. And I came to the conclusion that those earlier remarks had merit. Pulling my hair back was simply an outward expression of my need to be in control at all times. It told people I wasn’t allowing myself to just be in the moment, allowing myself to, as we used to say, “go with the flow”.

It seems I’m also more approachable. People strike up conversations with me out of nowhere. They introduce themselves to me and invite me to join in their wild, abandoned fun. I think I’ve shared more hugs in the last couple of weeks than I did in the previous year.

Who knew that letting down my hair literally would unleash so much more beneath the surface?

One Successful Experiment Leads to Another…and Another…and Another

The results of my experiment have raised a lot more questions. What else am I communicating by my actions and appearance? How else am I inhibiting myself and my progress, not only on a personal level but on a creative, professional one?

At one time or another, we all struggle with things like self-sabotage, negative self-talk and so many things which keep us from living life to the fullest. We might not be able to figure out what we’re doing wrong, and yet, I’m finding we need only look to our own outward behavior to find clues. How we present ourselves to the world is simply an expression of how we feel about ourselves inside.

I’ve learned there are many ways of hiding in a crowd. Certainly, letting a curtain of hair shield us from others is one way, but avoiding participating in conversations, sticking an electronic device in our face (all too common these days), or shielding so thoroughly that we are essentially invisible are all effective. Despite my propensity for relative minimalism (body type considered) in my dance attire, I’m finding it’s still possible to be relatively unnoticed in the crowd. Wrap that personal bubble of energy around yourself, and the illusion of anonymity is complete.

Clearing our Reality of Misconceptions

Funny, this all started with conversations about how I only got asked to dance by the men who already know me. Other women I spoke with who experience the same thing agreed that we just didn’t fit the “type” men who relied entirely on visuals were looking for, even as a dance partner.

Yet since I’ve let my hair down, the invitations have increased. Not an onslaught, certainly, but one here, and one there. So I’ve concluded that it isn’t as much about whether you’re tall or short, fat or thin, blonde, brunette, or redhead, or any other exterior factor. It has more to do with whether you’re approachable. Which leads me to conclude that men aren’t as simple as women want to believe (not all of them anyway). It isn’t just about what you look like. It’s also about how you make them feel about walking up and asking you to dance or just saying hello.

Learning a Lesson Gives Us Tools for the Next One

What I haven’t gotten down yet is being able to strike up a conversation after that initial dance, and unfortunately, that’s what leads to more invitations.

My natural tendency would be to retreat again and beat myself up for not being able to accomplish the whole package in one fell swoop, but I’ve learned in the last few years that most things are accomplished with baby steps. So the hair will stay down, the lipstick will stick and I’ll watch some of my friends and acquaintances who are good at striking up conversations. I’m good at watching people. It’s time to put that skill to use as a learning tool instead of just a place to find characters for my stories.

With Each Lesson Comes Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for experiments which yield unexpected but highly motivating results.
  2. I am grateful I’m learning how to accept compliments instead of just giving them.
  3. I am grateful for the upcoming Thanksgiving feast, even if the guest list is a bit larger than we’d planned. Feeding people is always such a joyous thing, and overflowing my house will put lots of love in my walls for awhile.
  4. I am grateful for reconnecting with my family and the members who’ve been added in the 20 years I’ve been away.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friends, family, health, harmony, peace, connections, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, joy, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Blessed Be.

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Photo courtesy of Mitya Ku via Flickr

Healing the World One Hug at a Time

It Starts With a Hug. Where it Ends is up to You.

While writing my morning pages today, I reflected on the wounds humanity has inflicted. I thought about the Native Americans who feel the pain of wounds inflicted on Earth. My thoughts then drifted to our current hostilities, the divisiveness that plagues our nation and even the world right now. I thought about the healing properties of a simple hug and thought how cathartic a global group hug would be.

As an introvert, the idea of hugging a stranger or even someone I don’t know well is pretty frightening. But I know I’m also meant to help with the healing process. If I can start hugging people I don’t know, wouldn’t it set an example? Wouldn’t it show those more inclined to hug both strangers and friends how easy it is and how much good it can do?

A Person’s a Person, No Matter How Small, Large, Light, Dark, Intelligent…

A hug transcends our differences, be they ethnic, cultural, political or any other artificial belief that all of us are anything other than Divine Beings having a Human experience. Beneath the outside covering, apart from the beliefs we’ve learned or acquired along the path which constitutes our personal journey, our hearts beat in the same manner. Our blood flows through our veins, our muscles respond  to the same stimuli, and we have the same basic needs; food, shelter, love, acceptance. The last two, we can give each other as simply as giving a hug.

Hugs are positive energy all rolled up into a nice, comforting, loving package. But why stop there? Have you ever noticed how a person’s demeanor changes from a simple smile or kind word?

A kind word, a gentle embrace, our world becomes a better place

Lately, I’ve found myself noticing something special about a person and making a point of telling them. I’m overwhelmed by how much people light up from a compliment and how their pleasure washes over me as well.Yet, what really surprises me is how paying a few compliments comes back to me almost immediately. The other night while dancing, I paid compliments to a couple of people, just because I felt compelled to do so. It might be a new hair style, or a color that looks especially good on them, or an outfit. It doesn’t really matter what it is. The wash of pleasure they exude is amazing. What I did not expect was to have people pay me compliments a little while later, thereby causing me to exude that same wash of pleasure. It wasn’t that I had done anything different than I’d been doing lately. I know the joy I’d received from the random compliments I’d paid fed my own inner glow. No amount of makeup, time spent fixing my hair, pounds lost, or new outfits improves our appearance like feeding that inner glow.

Giving to Receive

I’ve read many times that to receive you must first give. But it’s only now becoming clear to me exactly what that means. It has nothing to do with giving money to charity, or even time to a cause you believe in. It has to to with giving a small piece of your heart with love and sincerity. Charitable work certainly does that, but it’s the result, not the action. You can just as easily give because you feel obligated. but the inner glow of giving from a place of love won’t be there.

What I am trying to say in my usual convoluted manner is that we’re living in a time when people are withholding their love, their hearts all too often. We hide behind our electronics. We encase our hearts in concrete. We ignore the world and the people around us for our own personal agendas. We’re becoming little better than a world of robots, interacting with each other superficially, needing a violent encounter to make us actually feel something.

Wake up to the loving Human you were meant to be

But we aren’t dead yet. As long as we’re still essentially upright; as long as we’re still living and breathing in this world, we can reverse this dehumanization. We can counteract the virtual autism that’s swept the world, encasing us in a hard outer shell that’s only breached by outside stimuli of atomic proportions.

Step away from the computers. Put the phones down. See the people around you. Even the non-empathic (and frankly everyone is empathic to some degree) can feel pain or joy from others if they crack their own shell a bit. I read somewhere recently that a crack doesn’t mean you’re broken, it means you’re letting the light in.

Isn’t it time we all let some light in?

Above all, there is gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the lessons I’m learning and the insights I’m gaining.
  2. I’m grateful for the words which come to me, and the ones I know must be shared.
  3. I’m grateful I created a platform long ago which can be used now to encourage cooperation and healing.
  4. I’m grateful for the positive influence of friends and acquaintances.
  5. I’m grateful for hugs.
  6. I’m grateful for smiles.
  7. I’m grateful for abundance in all its forms.
  8. I’m grateful for light at the end of a seemingly long, dark tunnel.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Photo credit: Ian Riley via Flickr

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