How to Love Your Inner Ugly Duckling

My client Isabelle* is a beautiful 45 year old woman. She is a powerhouse in the political arena, loves to travel to Latin America, and goes Salsa dancing several times a week. Isabelle has long, wavy brown hair and twinkling hazel eyes. She is lovely to look at. Her power, intelligence and infectious laugh also make her lovely to be with.

Despite all these great qualities, Isabelle has a hard time seeing her own beauty and desirability. She is usually surprised when men find her attractive, and thus has a hard time reading signals that someone is attracted to her. This, in turn, causes her to overlook many interested, available men.

Isabelle suffers from what I've dubbed the "Ugly Ducking Syndrome". Like most women, she has absorbed messages from the media that tell us that unless we fit into very narrow definitions of beauty and body-type there is something wrong with us. She was also teased in junior high for wearing braces and being "chubby" and this blow to her self-esteem has left her feeling like an Ugly Duckling.

Despite her beauty and appeal, Isabelle looks in the mirror and sees that chubby kid with braces. She tells herself that she is ugly and that no man will love her. And here's the rub: it's just not true! Isabelle, like many of the women I work with, is actually a Beautiful Swan. She just doesn't know it yet.

If you resonate with Isabelle's story, it is time to learn to love your Inner Ugly Duckling and to remember that you are actually a Beautiful Swan. Here are some tools to get you started:

1) Speak nicely to yourself. Your Inner Ugly Duckling is already hurting and needs to know that you are on her team. Tell her that she is beautiful and desirable. Find things about her that you truly appreciate and tell her about them often.

2) Do activities that help your Inner Ugly Duckling remember that she is actually a Beautiful Swan. Do anything that helps you feel good in your skin and your body: dance or move in a way that you love (punishing exercise routines don't count), take long baths, apply body lotion, get a massage. It can also be fun to do spa or beauty treatments, or to buy clothes that help you feel more attractive (if it will help you to feel better about yourself, go for it!) but remember that feeling beautiful is ultimately an inside job.

3) Surround yourself with people who reflect your beauty. Choose friends who help you see your own beauty and who are good at seeing their own beauty (or at least are working on it). When they compliment you, take it in!

There are probably dozens of ways that you can learn to love your Inner Ugly Duckling and also to love your Beautiful Inner Swan. What is the next step YOU want to take on this journey?

*Names and identifying features of clients are changed to protect confidentiality. I often use composites of several different clients to illustrate common themes while guarding their privacy.

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