When it comes to the way we look, too many of us focus on what we don’t like about our physical form. For some, this starts in adolescence or childhood, and sadly for many people it lasts a lifetime. With self-loathing, the risk of obsession about physical appearance and diseases like anorexia increase, and a quest for perfection can take hold.
The only thing is perfection is an unattainable goal. You see, no-one is completely perfect, therefore people are setting themselves up for failure. Don’t assume for a moment this is just a female thing, either. More and more males are feeling the need to search for perfection as well. One of the most famous cases of poor body image was Micheal Jackson; born a handsome young man, his quest for perfection became a psychological illness and he altered his physical appearance to extremes.
The main problem we are facing as a society is that this quest for perfection isn’t going to end any time soon. Children see their parents and adult role models yo-yo diet, swallow body transformation products, go under the knife and continue to complain about their looks. If adult role models continue to expose the next generation to the idea that we all need ‘fixing’, it’s going to be an endless cycle.
One of the most effective ways of learning is via observation, so the only way children will learn to feel comfortable in their skin is if adults learn to accept their own. The million dollar question on everyone’s lips, however, is how do we do that?
For many people, maturity, experience and an accompanying change of attitude has a lot to do with it. For example, many older people or survivors of disease like cancer learn to appreciate their physical form and even embrace their unique imperfections. Instead, being healthy becomes far more important than losing weight or changing appearance in the name of vanity.
This doesn’t mean that these people neglect their looks – they still continue to groom and take care of themselves, but they view their physical imperfections in a positive way rather than a negative. For many, it’s a triumph of surviving past experience and the journeys they’ve encountered throughout their lives. This shift in attitude toward their physical imperfections is the most significant difference between a having a healthy or poor body image.
Body image isn’t just about weight or size, which many people wrongly assume. It encompasses an individuals complete physical package such as hair colour, facial features, length and girth of the torso, arms and legs, wrinkles acquired and the effect gravity has on our bodies as we age.
People with a positive body image don’t feel the need to hide their imperfections from the world. For example, they may decide to keep their gray hair instead of colouring or neglect to hide scars, sagging skin or stretch marks. These people are comfortable in their own skin and have a sense of self satisfaction with who they are and how they look.
Alternatively, people with a poor body image don’t have this emotional freedom when it comes to appreciating their physical form. They restrain themselves from wearing certain clothes, hide particular body parts and can even become recluse in fear of being judged by the way others see them. An important thing to remember, however, is that self-criticism is generally far worse than any criticism from others.
Changing Your Attitude Toward Physical Imperfections
Changing a negative body image to a positive one is an important step in becoming self-satisfied and happy with oneself. It also significantly reduces the risk of mental illnesses such as eating or appearance disorders.
One of the easiest ways to change your attitude about your appearance is by using some simple Cognitive Behaviour techniques and exposure exercises. For example, if you refrain from wearing something that you think will expose your imperfection and draw attention to it, try doing it. Start alone in the comfort of your home and when you’re ready, expose your imperfections to others like family and friends. Pretty soon you’ll be more comfortable with your body and will be able to embrace it rather than hide it.
When doing this, think to yourself: What’s the worst thing that can happen? In many cases of poor body image people assume negative repercussions when none really exist. Only after you try it out and expose yourself to these consequences can negative thoughts be disproved.
Occasionally people may receive negative comments or remarks when doing so, but don’t let this deter you. It’s how you feel about your body that really matters, so try it out and see how you go. You might find you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the emotional freedom and self confidence which a positive body image contributes to.
Images via quirkycoffeechic.blogspot.com