369 Days ’til 40: Body Image – Perception vs. Reality

18 Feb

We are humans.  We come in all different shapes, colors and sizes.  There are people who tell us that this is okay, yet, even so, have you noticed there seems to be a vast differential between self-perception and reality for many people?  Why is it that we struggle so much to see ourselves as the world sees us?  Is lack of confidence, low self-esteem, false humility?  All of the above???  Today I am going to focus on people who cannot see the beauty in themselves that the rest of the world sees.  [In future posts I will address performance anxiety – (as a mother, employee, etc.) and individuals with false sense of grandiosity.]

Body Image

We know that weight issues have become endemic in the USA, but how much one weighs does not necessarily correlate with self-image and understanding.  I have met thin girls who hate their bodies because they think they are fat and I have met overweight individuals who exude self-confidence, and feel immensely comfortable in their own bodies.  It is very interesting to observe.  Why is it that one person can feel at home in their body and another person can feel horrible?  The bulk of the blame still seems to be placed on societal influences.  Media: magazines, movies, etc. presents us with a very limited scope and definition of beauty.  Some people can easily recognize the fallacy of what they promote to be beautiful, while others are deeply influenced by these forces.  These people will constantly compare themselves with a standard of beauty that is only physically obtainable by about 1% of the population.  The rest of us are where true beauty lies.

At the extreme, individuals develop body dysmorphia (the inability to see ones body as it really is – these individuals may look in the mirror and see an obese person, even if in reality they are severely underweight and malnourished).  When I work with people who struggle to accept their beauty, I wish I could help them understand that true beauty comes from within.  I have met ugly models and beautiful individuals who may never grace the cover of Vogue, but perhaps they should.  If beauty was indicated by strength of character, rather than by bathing suit size.  I do believe that the beauty within all of us is far more valuable than outer appearances.  My hope is that one day society will agree and there will be pressure on the media to portray true, deep beauty.  I want my daughters to have positive role models and I want them to understand that how they choose to live their life is far more important than a brand of mascara or the right label on their clothing.

How do I recognize if I have an issue with my own body image?

  1. Do you spend more time focusing on your faults than your good traits?
  2. Do you constantly look at areas of your body that need improving?
  3. Do you believe that your life would be significantly better and more worth living if you could just lose an inch or two off your thighs or a pound off the scale?
  4. Do you believe that when you meet people the first thing they focus on is your size/ weight?
  5. Do you avoid social situations you would want to participate in for fear of how you will look (i.e.: will you not go to a swim party because you have anxiety over wearing a swimsuit?)
  6. Do you feel you need to lose more weight, even if people are telling you that you are too thin?

What do I do if I have body image issues?

  1. Do not beat yourself up for having this problem (this will not help to create a healthier body image.)
  2. Force yourself, yes FORCE yourself to regularly acknowledge the things you do like about your body.  If this is not easy, start with something small, i.e.:  “I like my eyes” or “I like my body because it allows me to be a morning person” or “I love that I am strong.”
  3. IF you DO need to exercise more or lose some weight, rather than look in the mirror and complain, create an action plan – take the first step towards feeling better about yourself!
  4. If everyone around you is telling you that you are beautiful, perfect, etc. and you do not believe them, consider seeking professional assistance in order to learn more about why you do not see yourself as the world sees you.
  5. Understand that, imperfections and all, you ARE beautiful.  If you want to work to be healthier, that is a great thing, and you can also start to love yourself today, as is.

Every person on this earth has value.  Our value is most certainly NOT tied to the shells that are our bodies.  We are our thoughts, or interactions, our relationships, and so much more.  When you are tempted to complain about your outer shell, remember that your true beauty is found within.

Have the courage to give yourself permission to love and accept yourself like those around you do.  You are worth it.



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2 responses to “369 Days ’til 40: Body Image – Perception vs. Reality

  1. Alexander Bahls

    March 19, 2012 at 09:54

    Thanks for the post, for your great hints and tips.


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