I am a combination of my mom and dad in the looks department. I have my father’s nose, his ears and his smile. I have my mom’s eyes, and, according to many people, we look like sisters, especially when I’m wearing makeup.
My body shape resembles my paternal grandma’s, also short and a bit curvy with strong legs.
I take pride in that.
I also take pride in how strong the women in my family were and are. They’ve taught me so much about perseverance, patience, kindness and generosity, about overcoming adversity with honesty and dignity (things that I’m still learning today).
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Nadeem Noor
You may be wondering what familial physical and character traits have to do with body image.
According to Margo Maine, Ph.D, and Joe Kelly, in their excellent book The Body Myth: Adult Women and the Pressure to Be Perfect, thinking about our families and the past can help us to live healthfully and improve our body image.
They suggest “scanning the past” by seeing what the bodies in our families are supposed to look like and “what our genetic heritage means for our sense of self.”
To do so, peruse family photos, videos or portraits. And while you’re time-traveling through your heritage, ask yourself these questions, according to the authors:
- What are the women’s body types like?
- What relative do I most resemble in body type or appearance?
- What relative do I most resemble in personal character and accomplishment?
- What stories of female accomplishment can I see or remember when I look at the images?
- What do the women’s bodies say to me?
- What do I feel about my own body as I look at theirs?
Maine and Kelly conclude the chapter with:
“We have a lineage of accomplishment, body shape and true beauty. Seeing photos of relatives we love or admire can help us love and admire the parts of us they passed down to us. Images in the family photo album can offer a far better reflection of reality than magazines or TV shows. Appreciate the bodies, beauty and accomplishments of our female ancestors. That can do a lot to help us appreciate ourselves.”
I couldn’t agree more. Thinking about your family and your ancestors helps you realize the bigger picture. That you are more than some ornament.
You are a legacy.
The shapes and silhouettes in your family may be as diverse as their opinions, personalities, professions and life paths. Or they may have many similarities running through them. They may share a common thread, physical feature or accomplishment.
Try to take pride in that.
Now that my dad is gone, I am especially proud of my resemblance to him (though when I was a toddler with little hair who looked more like his son, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses).
So I encourage you to take just a bit of time to look closer at your lineage and discover the beautiful shape of your past – however imperfect, jagged-edged it might be.
How was this experience for you? Did it help you view your body differently, perhaps in a more positive light?