February 3, 2016

If a friend had to describe you for an artist to draw your resemblance, would the artist create a good image of you? Would it be the same image as if the artist could read your mind? The negative body image many of us have are not consistent with the way others see us, so perhaps it’s time that we all developed a more realistic and forgiving view of ourselves – just as our friends see us.

A woman who has lost significant weight over the past couple of years said that, very surprisingly, she now feels less confident about her body than previously. The reason? She now thinks about her body.

Her delight at weighing less and feeling physically more comfortable is tempered by her focus on the negatives of her body: the bit of fat above her Caesarian scar being the primary culprit. She says that she used to get dressed, look in the mirror, and think “I look nice”. She now checks her tummy in the mirror every time she gets dressed, and avoids the mirror when undressed.

The obsession we have with perfection is damaging for us all; men, women and children alike. Photo-shopped magazine images have eliminated any signs of imperfection, a practice that has us believing that the ‘ideals’ we see are possible. Then, if we fail to meet the ‘ideal’, we’re somehow not good enough.

Even lean and athletic people – many of whom would be considered as close to having the ideal bodies – suffer as a result of poor body image. While this may sound surprising to those with some weight to lose (“Gosh, I’d love to look as good as her!”), it plays on their minds just as much as for anyone else.

What if, instead of focusing on the perceived negatives of our bodies, we were to focus on the real positives? What if we could learn to accept our bodies for what they can do and for their strengths, not hate them for how we think they look?

How we think they look? The way we see ourselves is not the same as how others see us. Most children think their mother is the most beautiful woman on earth. Friends see you either in general terms or they focus on the parts of you or your body about which they are envious. A friend with short eyelashes may wish she had your luxurious ones, or a friend with straight hair may wish she had your curls.

In short, none of us feel that we’re perfect and we need to stop putting ourselves down. Imagine if you had a friend who kept commenting on your ‘flaws’: how long would you remain friends? Not long, probably, but this may be what you’re doing to yourself multiple times each day.

Other people do not focus on your perceived flaws: they look at the real you, the person within. They see your friendliness, anxiety, humour, suspicion, competence, confidence, creativity, resilience… In short, they see the attributes that make you who you are.

Isn’t it time we started to see our real selves, not just our bodies? A positive self-image will improve your life in wonderful ways.