Body Image: Why Am I Never Good Enough?

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Iman is a photographer who, through her unique process of coaching and photography, can show a woman what other people see when they look at her. She is passionate about teaching other photographers how to live and be a professional and making change in the world. She dreams of changing the way women look at their bodies and how the world defines beauty. She also thinks being an instructor on CreativeLIVE would be incredible. Iman battles Lyme disease and shares her unique view of dreaming while fighting for her health. Her post day is Wednesday. Iman Woods If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

It’s my life’s dream and mission to help improve body image world wide. We can learn to see ourselves as being beautiful rather than anything less. To help me accomplish this, I’m asking you for topics and questions that you’d like to see addressed. Please feel free to email me at My friend and alum, Rayne Wolfe says:

“I’ve spent a lot of years beating myself up over my weight. The funny thing is when I look back at photos of 20, 10, even 5 years back, I think I look cute. I look fine. I look like me regardless of what the scale says. I know this, and yet, when the camera comes out I’m beating myself up in my head behind my smile. WHY? Why this constant haranguing of myself? Good luck writing a column on that.”

Before I went too far in my body image whodunit thoughts, I wanted to check in with her to make sure that I was on the right track. Here is my message to her:

“Do you often compare yourself to others? To your friends… To celebrities? I think it’s something in our society that pushes us to seek to be younger than we are. So we are never happy with now. It’s only in retrospect that we can see we squandered the blessing of living in the moment.”

She confirmed that I was on track:

“You’re on base. It’s why I stopped subscribing to Vogue Magazine and now I get More Magazine, which is more empowering. I totally get it logically but struggle with it every day. Sometimes when I’m super hard on myself I pretend that I’m a famous actress (Charlize Theron!) and that all the extra weight is for a role. I think: this can come back off in 3 months so why beat myself up. The truth is if I ate better and used my gym membership it WOULD come off quickly. It’s so bad and tricky and really diminishes my quality of life every day.”

Does your negative body image hold you hostage?

Does your negative body image hold you hostage?

What Rayne is saying is very common. Many people struggle with it, so the body image problem I am addressing is quite complicated. I’m about to say some unpopular things. Comparing ourselves to stories about celebrities is comparing ourselves to a fantasy.

  • Celebrities live larger than life, but we are constantly trying to emulate their lifestyles. We rarely hear about a celebrity’s bad or mundane day.

At one point, celebrities were average people. And I’m sure at times they want to feel average again. But they have an army of people helping them be celebrities. There are personal trainers who push for the perfect body, chefs that prepare healthy and delicious meals, nannies to watch their children, and housekeepers to clean their homes.

For magazine cover shoots, high end clothing is tailored to the star’s body, hair and makeup artists to enhance each feature, and stylists to make sure every last thing in the photo is perfect. Professional photographers know how to pose and light the person to the most flattering advantage. After the shoot and before you see the images, they are edited, retouched and often times changed dramatically.

So we’re comparing ourselves to an ideal that is not a realistic possibility for YOU. Unless you’re an actor and part of the less than 1% who become famous.

  • Advertiser’s want you to feel bad enough about your body image that you’ll hope their product will fix you

    Advertisers hope you'll buy if you believe their product can improve your body image

    Advertisers hope you'll buy if you believe their product can improve your body image.

If it makes you feel bad, it’s working. 

The other monster feeding this insatiable body image beast is the advertising industry. Their sole purpose is to sell things. They hope to make you want to buy something from a place of inadequacy. Turn on the television and within moments you’ll see an ad telling you if only you buy this product, you’ll be thinner, more beautiful, your dreams will come true and you’ll be happier!

  • We see more ads a day than we see news stories or are exposed to education

We live in an age where advertising carries information in a way that dwarfs education and news. Interact with any child that watches television and you’ll see that products and shows are interchangeable. Walk a toddler through a store and they’ll happily recognize characters they’ve seen on TV.

Considering we will be bombarded by 5,000 advertisements a day, we must realize that we’re exposed to someone selling us something far more often than we’re exposed to someone trying to teach us something.

  • It comes down to YOU making the personal decision to be in charge of your own body image

    Strangled by the definition of beauty

    Strangled by the definition of beauty.

Until the balance between education and advertising tips towards education, the key to body image happiness is in your hands. At first, every one of the 5,000 ads will be an exercise to stay in control of your feelings.

You face a personal spiritual journey that requires expending effort to stay in the moment. Some people find this with meditation, some find it with being their loved ones. Others find it in nature. Learn what activities (or restful practices) help bring an inner calm and peace to you. No matter how short it lasts, you can fan a flicker of a flame into a roaring fire with time and effort.

Sit down with your daughter and go through her favorite magazine. Ask her to show you a picture which she finds beautiful. Ask her to name three things that make the picture beautiful. Most of the time she’ll choose a celebrity. She’ll comment on skin, hair and fashion. Tell her that a lot of work went into making the woman/girl look like that. See the paragraph above about how many people help a celebrity stay employable. Here’s a link of celebrities before and after Photoshop. Go through the photos and ask if she can see that a lot more goes into each photo than most people realize.

Practice: Question magazines as you check out in the grocery store.

  • You will never be younger than you are this very moment.

There is no magic fix for learning to love your body. At this moment, no matter your age or size, you should love yourself. Like diet and exercise, you will continually be tested to maintain your resolve to appreciate what you’ve been blessed with. It’s not about what you don’t have or had in the past. It’s about living in the moment and being grateful.


  • ImanWoods

    Heather, we can come up with a plan. I do self-esteem seminars where I show how an image is edited in detail. Let me know if you’d like me to send before/afters. I think I can Skype and show you my screen so they can see it in progress. 

  • Catherine

    I think the secret to this is finding your real passion and throwing yourself into it and suddenly you are too busy, and too happy to notice anything else.  When we think how we look will make us happier, richer, better we see that life is the same no matter how you look and you can be as lonely as anyone, but when you turn your attention to what you loving doing over what you think you like being, everything changes.  We all age, and there is nothing sadder than aging beautiful men and women trying desperately to look 25 with duck lips, fake tans and hair weaves.  Look at Betty White and how many people love her – she is Betty White, thank God she is not Betty White trying to be Paris Hilton.

    Great post, as usual.


    • ImanWoods

      Cath, I’m cracking up at the duck lips, fake tan, hair weaves. I think you’re so right about throwing yourself into your passion. It grows your inner beauty. And Betty White is GORGEOUS and is my HERO!!!

  • maria

    love this and you.  

    • ImanWoods

      Love you, Maria. I’m sorry I haven’t commented on your moving blog. I’m so proud of and for you.

  • Iman, I love this post. The pics of the celebs are shocking. People need to realize that what is displayed in teh media is so false. Thank You for this. It’s definitely worthy of being shared to my readers.


    • ImanWoods

      Thank you, Sue. It was shocking to me when I first started learning about all of this.