Distortions in Your Body Image
*This newsletter is intended to offer information only and recognizes that individual issues may differ from those broad guidelines. Personal issues should be addressed within a therapeutic context with a professional familiar with the details of the problem. Copyright 2018 Simmonds Publications: 550 La Jolla Blvd., 306, La Jolla, CA 92037
“What disturbs people’s minds is not events, but their judgments on events.” -Epictetus
In China, parents once bound the feet of their daughters in pursuit of beauty. In parts of Africa, both men and women elongate their earlobes and decorate their skin with minerals to look attractive, and this trend may be found in the United States now. At one time in society, we found plump, rotund people to be the epitome of beauty. Old movies show us that the Tarzans and Supermen of past decades would hardly pass muster in today’s gyms. Today we define beauty as a thin, youthful, and muscular look. Today we go under the knife and on extreme diets to achieve a socially acceptable appearance- not to mention tattoos and body piercings- all practices that are similar to the early Chinese customs of binding feet. Strong social standards dictate, especially through the media, how we should look- and if our own bodies deviate from these expectations, which is the case for almost all of us, we feel inferior and ashamed. We hide. We cover up. We don’t like an important part of ourselves. We feel depressed. We feel anxious in front of other people. We feel powerless- and we are apologetic when we show the world who we are.
Body image refers to your personal relationship with your body. This includes all of the beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, feelings, and perceptions you have about your body. It does not refer to what your body actually looks like. Our body is one of many aspects of who we are, but for many of us it is the dominating source of our sense of self. If we compare ourselves to what we are supposed to look like, we come up short and this brings up negative feelings about who we are. We forget that our inner or essential self has many wonderful attributes. We do not have to harbor negative feelings about ourselves because our external appearance may not conform to current social norms. We may be a few pounds overweight, but that does not mean that people are going to reject us if we show our special inner qualities to other people- like our warmth, our caring, our social skills, and our intelligence. These latter qualities are what matter most in our relationships with others.