One of my male friends recently told me (tongue in cheek, but truthfully) that the best advice he ever got re: women was the following:
Always tell the smart ones they're pretty. And always tell the pretty ones they're smart.
Brains ego: I'm always confident, but often wrong.
Beauty ego: I've never doubted my mind, but I never attempted to trade on my looks because no one ever called them out as something to trade on until about six months ago.
Another male friend recently asked me some tough questions about my self-esteem. The crux of it was getting at why my perception of self had shifted.
It changed because of me. And I believe that as it changed in me, others came to see me as I see myself. (The bit about external beauty wasn't really crystallized in my own mind until late last summer, which is why I finally put the whole list in writing.)
Part of it was weight -- but that wasn't all of it. For example, I weighed less than I do now when I got to college. But I never thought I was beautiful then, much less verbalized that thought.
I wasn't comfortable in my own skin for lots of reasons. As I get older, I'm more comfortable with myself. I like myself more than I ever have. I own who I am (and am not) and am confident in my talents. And I'm a lot more secure as a result. I have a great therapist and amazing friends to thank for that transformation. My therapist asked the right questions, challenged me, and gave me reality checks that weren't always fun, but always necessary. Today, she's one of my favorite people on the planet.
When people focus on an aspect of you, and praise it, then you come to define yourself that way (at least I did). So, I was always the smarty pants. And when you add to that the self-loathing my mother has about her own weight issues and the way she made them mine, it made me recoil from ever defining myself around physical attractiveness. When I was unhappy in my relationship and putting on weight, it as even easier to never want to define myself in terms of looks.
So, yes, physical weight was a psychic weight on me. But more than that, it was the gift of seeing myself through someone else's eyes that led to the final, conscious, shift. Although he was less-than-honest with me about lots of other things, dating Harry was good for me, if nothing else, because he verbalized about what he saw me as: a smart, beautiful, kind woman.
Hearing those words from someone else confirmed what I already knew to be true.