Say it with pride:‘I love my shape’
WELL-BEING - Mylene Mendoza-Dayrit (The Philippine Star) - March 21, 2017 - 12:00am

Here’s to strong women, may we know them, may we be them, and may we raise them.”

On March 8 every year, we celebrate International Women’s Day — a global day celebrating everything that women have achieved. It’s an ode to the social, economic, political, and cultural accomplishments of women throughout the world. It is also a day that marks a call to action for gender equality. 

International Women’s Day started in the early 1900s following various women-led strikes, marches, and protests leading up to 1914. Women demanded fair wages, the right to vote, and the right to hold public office. 

That was what women fought for back then. What about now? Today, women enjoy the right of suffrage and take home the same pay as their male counterparts. Does this mean the fight is over?

At its heart, International Women’s Day is all about women empowerment — an issue which is still very relevant today.

Taking it into the context of 2017, how can we really empower women right now? In the 1900s, women were held back from reaching their full potential due to external factors. Now, I believe that many women are still held back not only by external but also by internal factors.

Among young girls in particular, one of the biggest things holding them back is self-esteem.  Setting fitness goals for self-improvement is great but hand in hand with this should be self-acceptance and self-love. 

Today, women empowerment is more of an internal fight than an external one. It’s a battle against insecurity and unrealistic beauty standards. It’s a war against self-loathing and starving oneself. 

I hope to arm women with one mindset — one line that they can say with pride: “I love my shape.”

When was the last time you looked in the mirror and complimented yourself? Tough question, right? Now, when was the last time you looked into your reflection and nitpicked at your flaws or imperfections? Chances are, for most of us, myself included, that would have been this morning.

We are so bombarded with images and expectations of women from the media that we strive too hard for “the perfect body” when in real life, it doesn’t exist. 

Women come in all colors. We also come in so many different shapes and sizes. None is better than the other. 

We should exercise to be healthy and to be strong because we love our bodies, not because we want to look like somebody else. We need to appreciate our bodies more for all that they do instead of focusing too much on how they look like. 

“How we feel about ourselves as people directly impacts what we ultimately see in the mirror. Negative messages from others in our lives and from the media can make this a challenging proposition. Creating a positive body image requires being able to integrate our feelings about ourselves with the messages we are getting from others,” writes Dr. Elizabeth Halsted, a New York clinical psychologist in Psychology Today.

She advises us to ask ourselves the following questions: Am I critical of my personality? Am I a perfectionist? Do I compare myself to other people? Do I judge other people on their appearance? What messages about my looks have I received from family, peers, and my community?

Creating a positive body image is dependent on one’s self-esteem and emotional maturity.  If we have a low perception of ourselves, then our tendency is to rely heavily on how we look to create a positive impact on others.

“It is vital to realize that attitudes can be changed. We can learn to be less critical and perfectionist and to avoid comparisons. We can learn to resist stereotypes and to value the internal attributes of ourselves and others. We can choose friends that value our personality and are not overly judgmental. And we can let ourselves explore clothing that helps us to feel comfortable about our appearance. Remember it is our image in our minds, and we are in charge of creating it,” Dr. Halsted reiterates.

For the rest of International Women’s Month and beyond, let’s continue to support each other as strong, confident, empowered women. Say it with pride: “I love my shape!”

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