A: When you look in the mirror, your "appearance," that outer you, is what you see first. We are bombarded with and marketed an "anti-aging" message that doesn't focus on anything but how to either stop or reverse the "damage" life has done to you. There are no ads that say, "Spread this cream on your body and be a beautiful human being." "Wear this girdle to squeeze away your short temper and jealous acts." We are groomed to be "prettier than her" or "not as pretty as her." There is no message to teach us to stop comparing and just deal with ourselves. There are only few voices out there teaching self-acceptance. Acceptance is different than apathy. It is important to strive to be your best self, your healthiest, most productive, joyful self. But that is going to be a different answer to everyone. There is no "one right look" for that. So it's a harder thing to sell.
Changing what you don't like about yourself can be empowering, and that's not a bad thing. Feeling secure enough to own what is weak and missing from either your body, mind or spirit and to commit to action to change it is a good thing. Feeling not good enough or "less than" is not a good thing. And spending energy trying to change in order to feel like your innate human value is higher is an endless trap. That esteem we women look for is not going to be in a bottle of cream; it's going to have to come from inside.
Q: How can women stop criticizing—and start embracing—themselves?
A: Well, one way to do that quickly is to get outside of your daily world. Do something different, like donate some time at a school or shelter that is not a part of your regular community activities. Bringing new people and perspectives into your life while you are giving back is a quick way to build up good feelings and feedback about yourself. When you are helping a needy child with homework or reading to a lonely person stuck in a hospital, you are not thinking about how many wrinkles you have. On a daily basis, we need to work hard to acknowledge that it's a total waste of energy to be mean to ourselves, to continually criticize. If you do want to change something, then take that energy and work toward changing it. If you don't need to change anything, then choose to be kind to you. Role model that behavior to your children and the other women in your life. Show, actually demonstrate, that it's okay to put yourself first sometimes. That your value is equal to anyone else in your family.