If you can’t love yourself…

Mar 21, 2014 | Body Line Analysis


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One afternoon, when I was in the 7th grade, it became so warm by the time we all went out for recess that my group of friends made a huge pile of our unneeded down coats out on the field. When it was almost time to go in, one of the boys put on several of the coats, until he was a massive puffball, and then wriggled mine over top and announced, “Now I know how it feels to be Rachel!”. I confess, I don’t remember his name, but I remember the comment, and probably always will. This occasion certainly wasn’t the beginning of my insecurities, and far from the last cutting and humiliating comment I would receive in my lifetime. Honestly, they continue to accumulate to this day. But this isn’t a pity party, this is the story of how I learned to chuck them in the corner like so many coats and move on with my life.

Nearly everyone has at least one pain point when it comes to their appearance. For me it’s always been mostly about my weight – for someone else it might be their nose or their skin or their age… anything really. I’ve even heard of women who are fixated on their thick ankles. Considering how socially acceptable it is to comment on every aspect of a woman’s appearance, it’s really not all that surprising though, is it? If you’ve had the experience of someone making that one comment that cuts so deep it makes you feel like you might throw up or pass out, you know why someone might spend a good deal of their waking hours trying to figure out how to avoid that ever happening again.


My friends, I know how scary it is, but worrying about that one thing is a waste of your precious, precious life. I’m not saying that to make you feel guilty on top of feeling bad about this aspect of your appearance – that would be highly counterproductive. I’m saying it because I really hope that you will see how important it is to get okay with yourself – your physical self. If you only love the you that’s a brain in a jar, you’re missing a massive piece of the puzzle. Did you know that doing certain poses for just a couple of minutes has a major effect on your brain chemistry? I’ve certainly been guilty of seeing my body as a thing that transports my brain to the mall, but that’s just not the truth of the relationship. Not accepting your body is, in fact, the same as not accepting yourself, period.

But how can you, really, if you don’t already? It’s not like you can just talk yourself into loving your body just because you think you’re supposed to, otherwise, you’d have done it already. I spent a long time stuck in this mind loop. I wanted to be okay with myself but I couldn’t let go of the mindset that somehow I was going to get another body, and then I’d like me. And then I felt bad for still wanting to look like something else. Which brings me to my first major breakthrough.



You know this story, and it’s certainly not limited to your appearance. I’ll be happy when I lose 15 pounds. I’ll be happy when I get the promotion. I’ll be happy when I can afford a bigger house. And it’s not just happiness that gets postponed. I’ll start auditioning again when I get back in shape. I’ll start dating when I can afford that boob job. Everything’s on hold for that one thing to happen, and then after that, we’re sure it’s going to be all puppies and unicorns dancing on rainbows. We play out the vignettes of our perfect future lives in our minds like a perpetual rom-com ending on steroids; we walk down the street and turn heads, dive into pools of money, and tearfully accept our award. Meanwhile, the present moment, should we deign to come back to it for a moment, seems pretty hopeless compared to the seductive yet highly improbable vision of the future in our minds.

The most irrational part of the “I’ll X When Y” mindset isn’t even the brain crack. It’s the underlying implication that the future can only be good by virtue of the present being inherently flawed. You may have deduced, however, that the present moment is always the one you are in, and therein lies the rub – when never arrives. The ONLY time at which you have the capacity to be happy, or indeed, to do anything, is right this very minute.

I only know one way off this ride, and it’s gratitude. If you want to stop waiting for that kitchen renovation to be happy, try being grateful you have a kitchen. A little bit of perspective goes a long way here, so let me tell you how I got some.


I haaaaate stuff like this. No one could possibly have wanted to do this less than me, or thought they were above it more. I feel SUPER weird even telling you I did it. But I have to say, the transformative power has been amazing. You may be sitting there thinking that you have nothing positive to say about your body, or at very least that this is going to be a very short letter. I might have said the same thing, but once I got started, I ended up handwriting 15 pages until I felt like my hand was going to fall off.

If you have legs that walk you down the street, eyes that see the sunset, a nose that smells the air after it rains, or arms that hold your loved ones, you have more than enough to be grateful to your body for, today. If function is all you can be thankful for right now, fine. I bet you have more in you. Maybe you have the softest hair, elegant feet, or the cutest little beauty mark on your left hip. I promise you, if you write it down, you will be one baby step closer to getting over that one thing. With so much to be grateful for, right this very minute, there just isn’t as much room for negative preoccupation anymore. It may be that you are in such a mode of judgement that this process will be nearly impossible for you.

I’m not pointing a finger, society tells women it’s okay to refer to both ourselves and the girl behind the checkout counter as “fat asses” and so on. That kind of hyper critical behavior is the default – it requires a concerted effort to do and be otherwise. Sometimes, what we need to make such a shift is to take the whole thing one step away from ourselves and get a little distance. Meaning –


We do it as easily as breathing, abuse the fact of the privacy of our thoughts. We focus on all the wrong things about a person, her big nose or thick legs, and forget to see the person as a whole, or as a person at all. There’s often an implication of inherent responsibility for the offending feature, which is varying shades of ridiculous, when you really think about it. If the environment is somehow competitive, such as at a night club or a gym, the atmosphere between women of sizing each other up to find every flaw can make the air almost ripple with tension and anxiety.

Winter that I am, my perfecting eye makes me excellent at finding fault in virtually anything. It’s part of what makes me so good at what I do, but I have a responsibility to wield that gift with discretion and compassion. Any energy I expended criticizing the wrong thing was at best wasted and at worst highly destructive. So here’s what I want you to do. Every time you catch yourself thinking something negative about someone else’s appearance, forgive them, and then come up with a positive counterpoint, all within the safe confines of your mind. Force yourself to find something beautiful about each person you meet. Stretch your idea of beauty, learn to appreciate different faces and bodies as you would different landscapes in nature.

Adopting this practice will most certainly effect your relationships with others, but perhaps most importantly, it will effect your relationship with yourself. One day, you will wake up and look at yourself through these new compassionate eyes you have molded by all that practice on everyone else. And suddenly, the things you judged about yourself, and most especially that one thing, will fail to have the significance they once did. You just won’t be able to raise the frenzy of anxiety you once did, because you’ve learned how to truly see beauty – not just the absence of flaws.

Loving yourself isn’t about never feeling insecure, just like courage isn’t about never being afraid. I have learned from my brilliant teacher Christine Scaman that at some point, one must either “do it scared or don’t do it”. The thing about doing it scared is, each time you do, it gets a little less scary, even if the fear will never go away entirely. In the same way, each time you face down insecurity with love and acceptance, you get a little less insecure.


I was asked to write the story of my my personal journey as it pertains to style, as a sequel of sorts to the one I wrote about my color journey, and someday I may. I would honestly say that most of the work on my style journey was done here, with my quest to love and accept the one and only body I will ever have in this life, and what I learned along the way. If you come to your Personal Image Analysis having put in this kind of work ahead of time, it will just feel like confirmation of what you already know. Even if (maybe especially if), you never have an image consultation, you need to bring love and acceptance of yourself, and most especially your body, into the dressing room with you in order to make rational choices about what enhances you.

I would go so far as to say you need it to make fully rational choices about your life. I know beautiful women who can’t see themselves that way who stay in disastrous relationships, petrified they’ll never find another one. Who postpone starting their dream business, because they can’t imagine putting up their own picture on their website, or how they’d be a role model for anyone. Enough. You owe it to yourself to make peace with the body you have. You owe it to yourself to do everything you can to step over whatever hurdles stand between you and being fully engaged in your life. This ain’t no dress rehearsal, honey.



  1. Dear Rachel, I absolutely love your posts.This one makes so much sense, it’s liberating.
    Through the limited capacities of a computer screen, I see stunning beauty, inside and out – thank you for your wonderful writings.

    • Thank you so much, Franca, that means so much to me. I put a lot of time and love into my writing, in hopes that it will reach a few people and help them just a bit. 🙂

  2. You are an excellent writer with thought provoking things to say. I have seen too many women hurt by thoughtless and intentional criticism (myself included). There is such a small defined area of what is acceptable beauty. No wonder we can’t all fit in to that tiny box. But, we can look instead at the whole person and see the beauty that is particular to that person. Some may wish to see the unfeminine in me. They are looking wrongly. I am female and therefore I am feminine. I am my type of beauty others are their type. We are hundreds of different heights, sizes, colour and endless variations. No wonder we don’t fit into the magazine type of beauty we are presented with. I will go so far as to say I think it’s unhealthy to read many women’s magazines. I’m very glad you are doing the work you are doing Rachel and expanding women’s minds and self-acceptance one lady at a time.

    • Quite so, all women are feminine and beautiful, and few are represented by the media. Consequentially, there is too little appreciation for the innate beauty of the human race, and particularly women, on the whole. We are not taught to see each person as a work of art whose design features are as limitless as the imagination. We are taught to see her as a better or worse facsimile of one or two acceptable models of beauty. Perhaps we do all like roses (or most of us, anyway), but what a shame it would be if there were no other kinds of flowers. Thank you for your support, Pat, I so appreciate your comments.

  3. Traveling regularly for my job gave me ample opportunity to practise that exact same technique of noting something unique and praiseworthy in the ‘anonymous traveller’ squashed opposite meon the Tube. If you dismiss people externally, you are less likely to give credibility to their inner personae. Everyone is worthy. Which is why I am so interested in this colour and image quest, for others as much as myself, it is much more than skin deep.

    • I think I got it together here, Cate! In all aspects of life, I find it very important to remember the worthiness of each person. In business online, for example, there can be a tendency to focus so much on how many likes you have and how many people are on your mailing list, it becomes less important that each one of those likes or subscribers is a human being. Good to practice on a crowded subway, where people of all walks of life come together and are generally a bit cranky at being crammed in there! 😉

  4. Beautiful.

    • Thank you, Heather!

  5. It takes courage to write as you have, and more courage and intelligence to be aware of (and reject) the reflex, as in mindless and heartless, labelling of beautiful as it applies to women. These labels are a form of brainwashing brought about by the external conditioning that surrounds us. Media has been helpful to women, compared to where we were 50 years ago, but has also been of great hindrance to us. As Pat says, these definitions of beauty sell magazines, but they pursue a self-perpetuating agenda. They don’t empower us enough to make up for keeping us evaluating ourselves according to their tiny standard. You’ve chosen to wake up in this life. I have nothing but admiration for that.

    • Thank you, Christine. I know you know how important it is for a person consulting people on their appearance to break through the tiny media standard and open their minds to the unending variations of beauty that exists. We have a responsibility to try and show a little piece of that to the client. Otherwise, you get the “covering flaws” philosophy of dressing, or doing hair and makeup even, which invariably leads to the client looking at least more boring and at worst, much worse than they did to begin with.

  6. Beautifully written and perfectly to the point, Rachel! It’s amazing how those small cutting comments stick with us forever. As a child, sitting on my mother’s lap and hearing someone comment that I had “those Snyder thighs.” My father’s girlfriend remarking that I had his nose and him responding with “Poor girl.” And of course a mean-spirited boy in the 7th grade who felt the need to inform my boyfriend of my “giant schnoz”! Ah, memories. Of course, I quickly aspired to obtain a nose job and lose 10 pounds of thigh.
    “I wanted to be okay with myself but I couldn’t let go of the mindset that somehow I was going to get another body, and then I’d like me.” For so many years, that was me. And then something changed. Was it having children, seeing my loathed features on a perfect little creature and finding them beautiful? I don’t know. Loving your body can feel like a form of heresy, no matter your actual shape or size. How dare you! But most days, I do–even my distinctly German nose.

    • You make such a good point, Kate, about how it can feel so… against the rules to love your body. It’s like some kind of feminine decency is supposed to keep you in a permanent state of negativity towards your own body. It seems to be the modern version of modesty, I guess. We don’t cover our bodies in as much fabric anymore, so it seems we’re expected to cover them in shame and doubt in order to maintain the status quo. That should be the next step, once you’ve arrived at the point where you love your body… just periodically, mention it, especially to other women. Like it’s just normal. Wouldn’t that be something?

  7. So beautifully written.

    • Thank you so much, Heather!

  8. Rachel, i’ve already shared your amazing words with a number of people in my life, and they react strongly too – you so capture it!: “….worrying about that one thing is a waste of your precious, precious life” “I only know one way off this ride, and it’s gratitude” ha, i could just quote the whole thing. And “brain in a jar” – hadn’t realized so clearly that is exactly how i lived my late teens and 20s, after my pain moments (particularly being barked at in the high school hallway….hmm, that is the first time i have straight up said it). I did find self-acceptance and peace as i grew away from that time, putting it behind me – i am LOVING getting older! – but the power of those moments is insidious, and i think kept me from finding beauty in myself. Learning and then living my season was the turning point, and now with bodyline exploration, so many windows and paths have blossomed in front of me. And the new way of looking, though season and image archetype, is not just about me – it does mean truly seeing everybody as striking. Amen! (it made laugh to see translations offered on the “Amen”s you got on fb : )

  9. I’m really late in finding this post, but now that I did find it I had to comment and to share it on Facebook. It is a powerful piece of writing, thank you! I tailored clothes for a living and restyled them too in a former career. (Now I work in support of the tailoring stylist who does what I did before.) The biggest challenge I find when fitting clothing on clients is to fit someone who is uncomfortable in their own skin. A good fit can help them feel more confident if they are ready to embrace the chance and see the beauty within. So I second what you are saying here Rachel and add… Give yourself this gift of love early on. And nurture it for a lifetime. No one else can do it for you. "Love your body, love your clothes, strike a pose." It is called self-respect. Thank you Rachel for writing this!

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