It’s hard to like yourself when you don’t like your body

Imagine you were an alien and you were being given a guided tour of shops to get an idea of what interests Earth beings. Suppose you were taken round Boots, the UK drugstore chain. What would that tell you about people’s preoccupations? Probably an awful lot about our preoccupations with our bodies and our appearance.

Many might be used to seeing news articles relating to women’s concerns in this area. Last week there was something on men too. Apparently 35% of 40-year old men surveyed would trade a year of their life to achieve their ideal body weight or shape. 80% engaged regularly in conversation about their bodies. The biggest matters of concern were muscles and “beer bellies”.

People seemed to be surprised about this. Yet, as a male, I was always very aware of the importance males attached to their body shape and how much they compared themselves with each other, but then I would, wouldn’t I, being “thin”, or as my wife reminds me, “slim”? “Body building” has been around for years. However there is a danger in generalising from one’s own experience. Concern about obeisity in men is a more recent thing, though. What the survey reveals is the level of unhappiness about body shape in men too, with the suggestion that an “obsession” with appearance is growing.

It’s worth noting just how much people worry about how they look, how they compare with others, what others think of them, how they match up to perceived stereotypes of appearance, how they can achieve what they regard as the ideal, perfect person, and how much we don’t value difference and don’t value ourselves. Instead the underlying drivers are thoughts like “I’m not good enough, not attractive enough, not strong and powerful enough; people don’t respect, like, or appreciate me,” and so on. Negative self-beliefs at work again. And they are very powerful beliefs. Linked with that is the ego tendency to compare ourselves with others, usually negatively in this case. The ego is engaged here, because this is about “who I think I am”.

The impact on one’s life of such preoccupations are huge, reinforcing negative self-images and that filter out into other ways of thinking, feeling and behaving.

Somewhere, deep inside, there’s another part of us that isn”t like that and doesn’t believe it, as it isn’t who we are. It needs a voice, for example to start challenging these negative self perceptions and asserting a more loving and respecting view of oneself.

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