As children and even as adults, we yearn to identify with the caretakers who provide security and strength. We see them as role models and internalize aspects of who they are into our own sense of self. Girls who experience early positive interchanges in their relationships most often become women who go forward into adulthood with a strong self-image. Regardless of one's physical features, this sturdiness provides a cushion against the complicated messages culture throws our way. These girls grow up to be women whose internal perception is less likely to undergo radical swings as aging occurs. They age, as did their mothers, without anticipating the process with fear and dread.
On the other hand, a caretaker whose eyes reflect indifference, jealousy or antagonism toward her child, leaves her feeling insecure and self-critical, no matter how attractive she may appear to others over time. If a child's mother has not viewed her with tenderness and pleasure, it is difficult for the child to believe others see her lovingly, even if they do. Young girls with these kinds of mother-daughter interactions tend to become women with a shaky sense of who they are and how they appear to others. In the end, they fail to feel attractive regardless of how good they look or how attractive others perceive them to be. And, they often dread becoming, and looking like, their moms.
You can use an understanding of your personal history to make sense of feelings you have now and learn how to influence the feelings your daughters will come to have about themselves as women. Examine your relationship to your mother (or your maternal figure), how she viewed herself and how others viewed her. Therein you will find the roots of your self-image.
Remember, human nature leads us to repeat history unless we take active measures to change the patterns we learn and absorb. If you know from where you came, changing the course of your future is possible. Insight requires awareness. Change requires effort. Who knows? If you can liberate yourself from your past, you may even find more compassion for your less-liberated Mom and take her off that psychological hot seat once and for all.
Face It: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change by Vivian Diller, PhD, with Jill Muir-Sukenick, PhD, and edited by Michele Willens, is a psychological guide to help women deal with the emotions brought on by their changing appearances. As models-turned-psychotherapists, Diller and Sukenick have had the opportunity to examine the world of beauty from two very different vantage points. This unique perspective helped them develop a six-step program that begins with recognizing "uh-oh" moments that reveal the reality of changing looks, goes on to identify the masks used to cover deeper issues and ends with bidding adieu to old definitions of beauty, so women can enjoy their appearance—at any age!
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