The next time you feel less than happy with you body, remember these 10 self-esteem role models. They prove that no matter what your age, you can believe in your own beauty-inside and out.
Written by Alice Oglethorpe
Photographs by Mary Ellen Mark
Cece Poli, 9
"I feel my prettiest when I'm doing gymnastics. I really like my arms and legs for being strong and helping me push myself up into handstands, perfrom on the balance beam, and finish my dance routines. I also like my heart becasue it's full of love."
Ester Tuttle, 99
Treasure Your Health Every day
"Your boby is your instrument, and you have totake care of it. I do one housr of yoga and walk for 30 minutes every day. You really enjoy life a lot more if you're healthy. And I never leave home without putting on lipstick-it makes me feel pretty."
Sadie Heisler, 16
Practice Positive Thinking
"Girls my age are really self-conscious about their bodies. It seems so natural to complain about how you look to your friends. I used to do it constantly and obsess about what I hated, like how big my nose is. But I realized it's crazy to destory myself all the time. I now notive the things I do like: my loive skin tone, for example."
Francine Ott, 29
"People have their own ideas about what a dancer should look like, and many times when I perform, the audience is stunned that I can move the way I do. I'm truly fortunate to be part of a dance company that accepts me for me. And instead of my larger frame getting in the way of how I move, my hips let me do things on stage that skinnier girls can't!"
Stacey kaye, 36
Refuse to be Invisible
"Ten years ago I was working as a TV reporter when I got into a serious car accident on the job. As a result, I how use a wheelchair. I first blamed my legs for not doing everything they could before. I would dream about dancing or running up a flight of stairs. But then I realized that my body was what got me through all of the surgeries and allowed me to survive. As time went on, I learned that my injury will never limit what I can achieve. So much of feeling beautiful is self-acceptance-the wider our definition of beauty, the stronger we become."
Robin Wald, 42
Don't Compare Yourself to Others
"My body isn't the image of perfection. I'm on the short side at 5'3", and after having three children, the skin around my middle isn't as tight as it once was. But I love my body because it's strong, flexible, and balanced. I've been a yoga teacher for years, and my practice has helped me direct my thoughts to loving, appreciating, and nurturing my body, as opposed to obsessing over my looks. Yoga teaches you that you aren't in competition with anybody. At the end of the class, I have my students thank their bodies for what they just did. Gratitude is the antidote for bad body iamge."
Lorrie Sullenberger, 52
See Your Strengths, Not Your Weaknesses
"My husband and I really wanted children, but I couldn't conceive. We adopted two girls, who are the joys of my life, but for a while I hated my body for not going the one thing it was designed to do. As a result, I punished it at the gym. I figured that if I couldn't have a baby, at least I could be skinny! Then I friend suggested I go hiking with her. Before I knew it, I stopped being so critical-i was too focused on the hills, colors, and sky to worry about my weight. I finally saw all that mybody was capable of-which helped me love it again."
Roberta Shapiro, 64
Never Stop Moving
"Doing something physical every morning-whether it's playing tennis, golfing, skiing, kayaking, or just walking-makes me feel good about my body. And that confidence stays with me for the rest of the day. I just think about the face that I was the oldest woman in Spinning class and could keep up with the instructor-and I know that I can do anything! At the end of the day, I can't deny that I'm getting older. But as long as I keep as active as I can, I'm happy with all that comes with maturity-including being so comfortable in my own skin."
Janet Soskin, 70
Focus on What Your Boday Can Do
"There's so much emphasis today on looking great at every are and having exactly the right body size. When I was growing up, we didn't dwell on those sorts of things-and I still don't. I have no desire to be in perfet shape. I want a body that feels good and works without pain. I have severl younger friends who have had to get hip and knee replacements, but I've been blessed so far. Part of it is genetics and part of it is because I take time to exercise, stretch, and move every morning. I can appreciate my body becasue it does its job without complaint, day in and day out."
Marian Seldes, 82
Own the Room
"I've come to the realization that confidence has nothing to do with what you look like. It you obsess over that, you'll end up being disappointed in yourself all the time. Instead, high self-esteem comes from how you feel in any moment. So walk into a room with your shoulders thrown back acting like you're in charge, and spend your energy on making th epople around you happy. Giving confidence to others will come bcak to you and you'll end up feeling better about yourself."