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Why Are Women So Hard On Themselves?

Why Are Women So Hard On Themselves?

Last week I shared a photo of me from 1981 on Instagram and Facebook. It only showed me from the underarms up but I had makeup on and I’d obviously curled my hair. I was leaning over the sink, just finishing giving my 2 months old his bath in the kitchen sink. Remember those days? No fancy plastic tubs in our house… the child went from the kitchen sink to the bathtub.Jennifer Connolly of A Well Styled Life at 24

Anyway, I commented that although I knew I was terribly sleep-deprived, I bothered with my appearance because that’s just the way I roll.

One commenter asked me if spending time to look “well turned out” was worth it, at the time.
Another said she was overweight after the birth of her children so didn’t make an effort.
This got me thinking about how different we all are.

I answered that yes, it was absolutely worth taking the time to fix myself up because that allowed me to feel better about myself. I had yet to shed my 65-pound pregnancy weight gain, but taking some small steps for my appearance helped boost my confidence.

This act of self-care is a shield against the darts life can throw at us. Even the ones we throw at ourselves. And why are we women so hard on ourselves?

Many women commented on how hard they had been on their younger selves and wished they hadn’t been. They thought they were too heavy then…except now they are much heavier, so why didn’t they appreciate themselves more then? And what will they be saying to their current self, in five, or ten years’ time – looking back?

Do we take shots at ourselves as a defense mechanism, before someone else gets the chance? Do we think that by lowering ourselves or making ourselves smaller – we’ll be encouraged to do or be “better”?

One woman commented – “why was I in such a hurry to grow up? Why didn’t I celebrate more of my youth?”

This has me thinking, about how we talk to ourselves, our daughters, each other. About the importance of positivity and loving ourselves for who we are, and now. Taking steps – whatever that looks like, to take care of ourselves. And not putting it off, or hurrying past.

What are your thoughts?

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50 Comments

  1. Linda L
    August 16, 2020 / 6:20 pm

    Late to the talk because we ventured out on a road trip north to Oregon. So glad we did because at our age we need to enjoy life when we can. Get up, get dressed, make your bed and go to work was the mantra I was raised on. Even now with the quarantine I wouldn’t think of not dressing and putting lipstick on. It’s not for others that I do this; it’s for me. No one in the grocery store really cares what I look like. People aren’t looking at you and evaluating your wardrobe. I was never very thin and although my weight has been redistributed, I weigh what I did in high school. When I look at old photos I wished I smiled more and so now when the camera is out I get my best grin on.

  2. Sue
    August 15, 2020 / 3:51 pm

    I think how we dress, do our hair or makeup are all part of our creative instincts. How we fix up our home is part of our nesting, protective instincts. I’d like to think I explore and exploit them to my benefit, being satisfied I’ve done my best with what life has given me.

  3. Carla
    August 13, 2020 / 3:34 am

    This was a very thoughtful piece, and very pertinent. It is making me think about why I’ve slowly stopped making the effort these days. Sure, I can blame it on the isolation of the pandemic, but is that what it really is?
    Back in March when I first started sheltering in place I bought some makeup online and the one thing that came out of it was bringing back some eyebrow to my face. Small thing but it made a huge difference if only to me.
    I have gained more weight since March than any of my normal fluctuations. This post may have given me permission to forgive myself for it and that in turn will give me some motivation to make small steps back to a more healthy weight without beating myself up.
    Your posts are upbeat, intuitive, inspirational and spot on. Now if only I could feel safe going shopping for some new clothes. Your posts offer such great ideas but shopping online is SO frustrating.
    Thank you, Jennifer, for being so supportive of us while you have so much going on in your own life. 💕💕

    • Jennifer
      Author
      August 13, 2020 / 7:07 am

      Be gentle with yourself Carla. If you don’t feel safe shopping outside, shop your closet and play with accessories to bring yourself joy. These are tough times for everyone. Be your own kindest friend.

  4. Heidi Davis
    August 11, 2020 / 2:47 pm

    I’m an elementary school teacher and recently heard some great advice from our school counselor. She said, “when we talk to ourselves, let’s be sure we talk with the same love and concern we’d talk to a friend”. Wow. Remind yourself to do this the next time you are about to tell yourself something. Your inner voice will be softer and kinder. And after all — if our friends deserve this care, don’t we deserve it from ourselves?

  5. Penelope
    August 11, 2020 / 2:07 pm

    Love this topic.
    Several women have commented that they believe females have been conditioned by society to focus on our appearance.
    While I agree that in current times advertising has had a huge impact on us and our use of commercial products to improve our physical appearance, I see the desire to beautify as a particularly innate feminine trait. I think it’s part of our genetics to want to make things, including ourselves, beautiful. No matter where I travel I am always delighted and impressed by the need that women have to plant flowers , make quilts, put up pretty curtains, improve and beautify their surroundings. I know I’m addressing other issues of beauty discussed here, not that I don’t find them all valid. I wanted to offer this perspective, because I find it so fascinating, and free of commercial or social influence. I believe be the need for beauty resides in the female soul.

    • Jennifer
      Author
      August 13, 2020 / 7:03 am

      I love your perspective. It certainly exists in my soul.

  6. Eve
    August 11, 2020 / 2:01 pm

    Someone just sent me some pics my Mama had stored away from my teen and twenties. I looked at them and realized that I looked really pretty then. I didn’t feel it so it was a shock to see them. We start out at a young age judinging ourselves as not being as pretty or as smart when we are. We do measure up. I wish I could make every young person aware of that. You are special.

  7. Kathleen
    August 11, 2020 / 11:55 am

    I TRY to apply that lesson at 70, when I’m 80 I’ll look at pictures of 70 and see the good things that I don’t have any more. Also tell myself in the mirror, this is the best you’ll ever look.
    I also have always cared and taken time with my appearance.
    But when I think back, wasn’t there always a look or a gentle comment from a man. Or maybe it was all me worrying. When we were younger we were close to perfect we see now, so maybe we could see one thing that could be improved. A beautiful young woman told me she thought her teeth looked too short!
    As always we look to the area we like least when we see photos. I pretty picture of a comedian had ‘I should have worn a more supportive bra’ as the caption. Then i looked, ok i see that now, but didn’t even notice it before
    So let’s apply our lesson today! No one screams when they see me, i get compliments, i still see good things about me. I’ll try not to worry about my stomach, my neck and always go to the worst to judge myself.
    I’ll try anyway…
    Thank you for discussing these important issues, it helps!

  8. Rosie
    August 11, 2020 / 11:25 am

    I’ve no answer to why anyone is hard on themselves about something as insignificant as external appearance. The words you choose are clues. “Fix myself up” indicates something was broken before you artificially created curls and smoother skin and longer lashes. How small dabs of stage makeup and costume can “boost confidence” is a mystery.
    Maybe if we judged ourselves by different criteria, perhaps kindness, productivity, contribution, creativity, we would have a confidence that doesn’t wash away in a strong thunderstorm.

  9. Linda
    August 11, 2020 / 11:17 am

    We need to be taught from birth to love who we are and not what we look like!

    I didn’t love myself until I turned 50! How sad is that?

  10. Jayne
    August 11, 2020 / 10:57 am

    I like this quote:

    “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Jack Kornfield

    Women need to be kinder to themselves and when we do so, we teach other women, including our daughters, nieces, granddaughters, and female friends, to be kinder also.

  11. Ethel Williams
    August 11, 2020 / 10:38 am

    Loved your topic. If I could tell my younger self anything { I am 73 now} ,it would be that I looked great. I live in the deep south and was raised by a very strict southern Mother. so a little makeup everyday is second nature. My biggest problem now is finding things to keep me busy and entertained while staying mostly at home. any ideas??

    • Marian
      August 11, 2020 / 2:29 pm

      + Try: http://www.volunteermatch.org There are so many places to volunteer now, from home or delivering meals by car, etc.
      + Join a book club through your library.
      + Learn 1 new skill with YouTube lessons… how to fix something, a new craft, how to take better photos, a language. Make small goals – how to say 10 phrases in Italian or how to hang a picture.
      + Prepare greeting cards – or make them – for birthdays and holidays coming up in the next few months
      + reach out to someone who is less fortunate who would love to have a friendly chat

  12. beth b
    August 11, 2020 / 10:05 am

    I really enjoyed your post today, Jennifer, as well as all the comments! What an interesting topic.

    I’m still working and enjoy ‘dressing up’ every day (even though it’s pretty casual). I was furloughed for nearly 2 months and really missed doing so. But I still made an effort to keep up my appearance and not gain that “Covid 20.”

    I never had children, but I look back at my mom (who worked out of the house while raising 4 kids) and she always looks so stylish and put- together in photos. I like to think that rubbed off on me!

  13. Kay
    August 11, 2020 / 9:51 am

    We are hard on ourselves because centuries of our cultures have made us do it. I got some photos of me from my kids recently, and I think I looked damn good holding them in their baby pictures. I was young and what my daughter calls “conventionally pretty.” Well, now I’m old and stuck at home, and I really could take more care from day to day, but that isn’t at the top of my list. My house burned down; I moved into a new house with my daughter and her family; my husband is vulnerable to the virus, and it’s 110 degrees outside. If the Amazon delivery guy thinks I would benefit from some mascara, I do not care.

  14. Marian
    August 11, 2020 / 9:15 am

    We are hard on ourselves because we were taught to care what everyone thinks of us….our appearance, our manners, what we say, what we do. We take to heart every remark – insult and compliment – we ever heard.

    Then we reach the age where we work hard to undo all those remarks and love ourselves.

    Shelter in place has made me really question all that goes into my appearance. Who am I trying to impress? What is dressing only for me really?

    I doubt any of our husbands are thinking about this. My husband has a few pairs of jeans and shorts, tee shirts and button downs. He looks good every day. My wardrobe is about the same, except I get to add dresses.

    I curated a very small summer wardrobe inspired by you and other bloggers with those good quality classic comfortable pieces and they must fit perfectly and be a lovely color. I am enjoying my much smaller wardrobe and thinking less about what to wear.

    Our new lifestyle allows much more time to relax, exercise, grow more vegetables, and cook almost every meal from scratch. That makes me look and feel my best.

  15. Laura
    August 11, 2020 / 8:10 am

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Yes, I have always been hard on myself. But, like you, I still make an effort at almost 55. Even when I’m homebound and sick, I still wear makeup. Why? Because I see myself in the mirror and it depresses me if I’m disheveled. I feel confident and like myself better. So, I mostly do it for myself. Should it be otherwise? I don’t know. I do it for myself and it works. I don’t need to have people see me and acknowledge my looks all the time.

  16. Julie Traxler
    August 11, 2020 / 7:00 am

    I think about my mom and how pretty she was. It causes me to take care of myself and not judge myself harshly. I am seventy three; my goal is to enjoy my “youth” now. At eighty three, I will look back on today’s pictures and say, “I did enjoy myself back then!” At least that’s is my goal.

    • Jennifer
      Author
      August 11, 2020 / 7:21 am

      Just beautiful Julie! I love your attitude.

  17. Rose
    August 11, 2020 / 6:59 am

    I too weighed 98 lbs in high school and always felt self conscious because people always said I was too thin. Wish I would have just enjoyed being able to eat anything I wanted. Even with three little ones I always did my hair and makeup everyday, still do! I’ve found that especially helps during this pandemic. I’m 70 now but still like to look nice for my husband and myself!

  18. Sue L. Petersen
    August 11, 2020 / 6:47 am

    Great post today! I think we are all too hard on ourselves. A lot of times people will avoid having their picture taken because they think they don’t look good. Sometimes after a person dies, we look for their pictures and find a rare photo of them. I know this was in the past when there were no cell phones but still how many times do you let people take pictures of yourself? We all think we are too fat, too old, too many wrinkles, etc. But our loved ones see us as who we are inside not the outside shell. Cherish the memories of our youth but celebrate the new ones of our current age.

    • Jennifer
      Author
      August 11, 2020 / 7:22 am

      Yes! I love this

  19. Toni
    August 11, 2020 / 6:19 am

    I love this post. I to tried to fix myself up when my children were younger. When I look at pictures now from before I look cute. But I didn’t think that back then. I don’t know why we get those negative feelings about ourself. Now that I am in my 60 s I still like to look nice and wear makeup everyday. But I really hate my pictures these days. You look so pretty in your pictures.

    • Jennifer
      Author
      August 11, 2020 / 7:24 am

      I predict you will look back at your pictures from now, and think you looked great!! Self care is a beautiful form of self love.

  20. Cyndi
    August 11, 2020 / 6:09 am

    Especially during the shutdown, I’ve taken care to “dress up & show up” because I just feel better. What a lift in spirit when I put together an outfit and apply makeup, even if I’m staying home for the day. And…it gives me an excuse to experiment with different outfit combinations as well as wear all these clothes I’ve been buying😜.

    • Jennifer
      Author
      August 11, 2020 / 7:25 am

      I agree Cyndi. I’m also playing with new makeup ideas. Why not?

  21. Maggie Woodruff
    August 11, 2020 / 6:05 am

    Yes…great comments on self care. I have always stepped up to fixing myself up each day, as it helped me feel better about me, and it was “a start to a new day”! The act of self care is about a healthy attitude…

  22. Stormy Smith
    August 11, 2020 / 6:01 am

    Great post, just what I needed to hear today! I too loved bathing my baby boys in the kitchen sink. No big plastic tub to store and later add to the land fill. AND I love your new logo. Well done!

    • Jennifer
      Author
      August 11, 2020 / 7:26 am

      Thank you so much

  23. DIANNE
    August 11, 2020 / 5:53 am

    I love this topic because it is so true. Women are so hard on ourselves and we are so hard toward other women. I know at 69 I am so hard on myself and have always been this way since I was 16. This is the reason why I do not have a lot of pictures made because I always hate how I look. It is sad but my mind takes over my logic always. I try but it seems to sneak back in. Love your blog.

    • Jennifer
      Author
      August 11, 2020 / 7:34 am

      All we can do is practice self care and be gentle with ourself. Then when we stumble, and we ALL do, get right back to it.

  24. Eileen
    August 11, 2020 / 5:46 am

    We learn from society and people around us probably. My mother came from Denmark and her mother was a widow of 8 children. I think daily survival of the family, made the importance of looks secondary. I was very surprised when I got to school, to hear the young women’s comments about looks. I had to learn that new dialogue “ to fit in”, so I believe we are taught. A different dialogue would be nice.

  25. Violet
    August 11, 2020 / 5:39 am

    Your comments about looking the best you could after birth of baby brought back memories. I too tried to look my best, had weight to lose and was diligent about that, however, wasn’t appreciated by my then spouse. Very discouraging, but later I met someone who appreciated everything about me. You look great in the pictures, always pretty with a beautiful smile!

  26. Jan
    August 11, 2020 / 5:34 am

    Why are women so hard on themselves? It’s a life time of being exposed to advertisements showing us how we should look. It starts in our youth. You will struggle to find a young girl today with short hair. We all remember the hair, makeup or clothing experiments we tried over the decades. Why? We thought that was necessary to be accepted and happy. Flash forward to today and I feel confident in my lifestyle. I still take time for my personal, daily routine but it’s now my choices not an ad in a magazine. I do keep an open mind to new ideas but I also realize that if I can’t accept myself today, I may run out of time.
    Be kind to each other, our words have lasting power.

  27. Marie
    August 11, 2020 / 5:26 am

    Thank you for this post, Jennifer.

    I find that taking care of myself helps me to enjoy life more, to stay active and interested in life.

    Makeup, clothes, hair, skin – it’s a creative process that keeps changing as I get older. I do it for myself, a dimension I enjoy in life, one of life’s pleasures. If I appear nice to others, that’s a bonus.

    • Jennifer
      Author
      August 11, 2020 / 7:36 am

      Yes!! That’s how I feel. I do it for myself.

  28. Shari
    August 11, 2020 / 5:01 am

    I surely resonated with today’s topic! I clearly thinking at 18(120 lbs!) that I saw the first cellulite
    Forming! Ha if only I’d known what was to come! Life is easier now …somehow at 70 there isn’t the feel of competition, whew!
    I highly recommend the book “I Only Say This Because I Love You” by Deborah Tannen. It isn’t new but a goldmine on family relationships and how we learn our destructive self-talk!
    Her other tome is (I think) “You Aren’t Goimg to Wear That” on mother daughter relationships!

    • Jennifer
      Author
      August 11, 2020 / 7:37 am

      Those both sound great. Thanks for the recommendation

      • Sherrye
        August 11, 2020 / 8:10 am

        I remember putting on makeup everyday & “dressing” when I was younger & my children were little. I also was always trying to achieve that thinner, more perfect body. Photos show a shapely young woman, I wasn’t sure existed. Now, after years of putting on makeup & doing my hair for work, in retirement I take a more relaxed approach. I dress comfortably & don’t wear makeup at home. I don’t feel unattractive. I’ve been working on a healthier me….losing 30 lbs. & maintaining in the past year. I also have tried to become more active…walking & working in my gardens daily. Since the quarantines started I do make an effort any time I leave the house….even for a short errand.

  29. Linda Gaertner
    August 11, 2020 / 4:26 am

    Enjoyed the topic today. I for one was always hard on myself about how I looked. I remember looking at newly developed pictures and thinking how terrible I looked. Now 10 years later I look at those same pictures and think I really didn’t look too bad.
    That being said retirement has allowed me more time to take care of myself. I’ve lost 20 pounds, I’m down three cloths sizes and my workout is helping have a more toned body. There’s something to be said about how you feel about yourself when looking your best!!!

  30. Arna
    August 11, 2020 / 4:25 am

    A lifetime of self-criticism (and some from my mother) has left me with low self-esteem. I am working on this, but at 66 years old that’s a lot of criticism to get rid of.
    Trying to have it all means that something gets left out, and for me that was always “me”. So busy with life and responsibilities and work means that I have so little time for me. You and the other bloggers I follow are helping me to do something for myself, even if it is just a pretty top and trying to remember to wear some jewelry.
    I let my daughter know how much I admire her, how I am so proud of her, how she is doing an amazing job of working and having a newborn, being a wonderful partner to her husband, and carving out some time for herself. She is my inspiration and motivation.

    • Jennifer
      Author
      August 11, 2020 / 8:17 am

      Your amazing daughter is also a reflection of the amazing mother you are. Baby steps towards self care goes a long way.

  31. Susan
    August 11, 2020 / 4:23 am

    I came across a photo of myself aged 17, wearing hot pants and wedged sandals. My hair was shoulder length and curled, my legs, long and lean – I weighed 98lbs and remained that weight when I married aged 24. How I wish (at the time) I appreciated the attractiveness of youth. Fast forward 39 years and any weight loss results in my face collapsing like a deflated balloon, bingo wings have replaced my toned arms. If I weighed 98 lbs aged 63, it would be the result of a terminal illness. So, with age, comes the realization that good health far outweighs anything else. By the way Jennifer, I thought you looked fabulous in that photo. More pensive, than sleep deprived.

  32. Diane D
    August 11, 2020 / 4:14 am

    I enjoyed your post this morning.
    I think it’s true that we were taught to work hard to have it all, and now with more experience under our belts, we know that that is sometimes unattainable. I guess that where the saying “with age comes wisdom” comes from. At this point I’m just trying to be the best me possible, and that’s good enough… 🙂

  33. Paulette Levy
    August 11, 2020 / 4:13 am

    Interesting topic to be sure! I’m with you. I tried to look my best after the babies were born–a bit of minimal make up, eyes and lip gloss or pale lipstick and did wash my hair and tied it back. Nothing over the top but I tried to do my best to look presentable. It helped me cope if the babies were crying. At least I got one thing right, I’d justify…..lol.
    Because they were Springtime babies I got out walking pushing baby carriages, so did manage weight loss slowly and gradually. I wasn’t compulsive about it, just knew what I wanted to look like eventually.

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