Releasing Fear: Addressing Your Inner Critic – Appearance
When you have a pattern of thinking about and behaving in ways that focus on your appearance (and possibly those of others), it stems from a pattern of being taught to overvalue and even be blinded by appearance. This means that you are highly likely when faced with difficult circumstances, to default to a line of thinking and behaviour that places a lot of the responsibility for the success or failure of something on your appearance. You may also find that you have a pattern of being involved with people who lack substance and who are even appearance focused. What results is that you end up in insubstantial relationships romantic and otherwise, where you’re subsisting on crumbs, or that you latch onto people who have ‘big ticket superficial items’ such as looks, status, money, charm, being a playa etc., and then when things go awry, you blame it on your appearance. And that shows you something very critical that you can learn here from the outset – if you’ve been blaming your appearance for why things have not been working out for you, it means that you’ve missed the true lessons on why things are happening plus you’re degrading you in the process.
1. Uncover the source of your feelings about your appearance.
It’s highly likely to stem from criticism or teasing from family or peers as a child, or from a comment from an ex at a very young age that you’ve taken to heart as a permanent judgement, or some early skewed judgement of you based on a dodgy perception. Identifying the source of your pattern to believe the worst about your appearance or to overvalue it is so that you can understand where you’re actually repeating old messaging that is out of date, cruel, and inaccurate. I’ve heard from people whose whole lives are based around the throwaway comment of some jackass ex that cheated on them when they were a teenager and claimed it was because the other party was prettier. These messages have stuck, and then they’ve been dieting, berating themselves, and even doing cosmetic surgery.
Comparison, whether it was to siblings, peers or ‘rivals’, can have you stepping into a life cycle of wondering where you stand against people around you.
The trouble is, the very people who would make comments aren’t so special that they get to judge you but also, a lot of the people we compare against, are themselves comparing themselves against others – lots of people are insecure. Feeling pressured to look a certain way can also take its toll where you feel like you’re jumping through hoops and never good enough. I’ve also heard from an alarming number of people who saw a photo of themselves or caught their reflection at a very young age and thought “I’m really ugly” and never really challenged it or changed their opinion.
2. Uncover your beliefs
Every person who is very critical of their appearance has surface and core beliefs.
Attractive people don’t have problems.
Attractive people don’t get mistreated.
Attractive people have it all.
Everyone can see my ______________. e.g big bum
If I could change ______________, I would be __________.
If I could change _____________, my life would be ________________.
My appearance is responsible for all of the problems in my life.
Use the Get Out Of Stuck lessons in the beliefs module to uncover what beliefs you’ve been left with, what core beliefs they lead to and start challenging them because I can guarantee you that the beliefs you have about your appearance are not true. You’re making dangerous assumptions that are preventing positive action in your life. If you look at those beliefs above, it is just flat out untrue that attractive people don’t have problems etc., and it most definitely isn’t true that your appearance is responsible for all of your problems. The truth is, appearance can open doors. As in the door will be opened, but you still need to get over the threshold, walk through the hallway etc., and for that, character, values etc., take you the rest of the way. My husband has seen and met a number of BR readers over the years – he said that it just goes to show that looks really haven’t got a damn thing to do with relationship or life problems.
Whatever you say you believe, just keep answering the because part: When I think about ______________ (your belief), it’s because ________________ which is because _______________________ which is because _____________ until you exhaust all avenues. You’ll crunch down to how you really feel which will be likely something to do with not being good enough / lovable.
3. When you feel bad about your appearance, keep track of what is happening.
What are you doing? What’s happening around you? What thoughts come up beforehand? What type of situations are they? Is it the same people or type of people involved? Are you remembering a past experience? What is it?
You might feel bad about your appearance when you experience rejection or disappointment – there might be particular types of rejection and disappointment. Compare them and look at the similarities. For instance, some people attack their appearances when they experience a situation that reminds them of their parents who may also have criticised their appearance.
This helps you to identify your triggers which can help you to recognise the signs and preempt. Try keeping a Feelings Diary. There are supporting classes in the Self-Management module too.
4. Consider the negative consequences of your beliefs.
When you do the work on evaluating your appearance beliefs, there is a downside that you’ve identified to each of them – these are the negative consequences that are happening in your life. If you want to minimise or even eliminate these, you have to make a choice between sticking with a pattern that is working against you or addressing your beliefs and habits.
Using your answers from #3, you can work out your ‘cycle’:
When I _______________ (E.g. have my picture taken) I feel _____________ because I believe _______________ and then I do _______________ which then causes me to end up feeling _______________ which reminds me that I believe ____________. Note you may have more steps in your ‘cycle’
What could you do differently? How could you handle these situations in a way that doesn’t pull you into a negative spiral?
I found, for instance, that it was easier for me to take photos and smile genuinely when I addressed my deep unhappiness. I also shut down the childhood voices in my head, took a few deep breaths and differentiated between the present situation and the past one – each one is a unique experience. Some friends know their ‘best side’ and then feel more confident doing a photograph this way.
I would also consider live examples of people who contradict your beliefs – what’s the difference between you and them? Doesn’t their existence mean that your belief isn’t indisputably true?
5. Make sure that you challenge and transform your beliefs.
If you haven’t done the beliefs module work, get cracking as this is vital in transforming your relationship with you.
6. Do a Stop, Start, Continue to give you a focus on cutting habits and also doing more of the good things that you do for you.
Come up with positive things that you can say to yourself and do in each circumstance that will gradually replace habits.
7. If there are people in your life who you can trust, ask them what they like about your appearance.
Bear in mind, you’d think that they were talking out of their bum if they said that you looked like a supermodel so don’t set yourself up for a headache by expecting them to make you out to be one. The overwhelming majority of people are not supermodels. You may be surprised by what you’re complimented on. Remember – you are not looking for validation; you’re gaining another perspective.
8. Stop seeking perfection.
Nobody is perfect, so there is no point seeking to look like you’ve been Photoshopped – that would require you to be an image on a computer. Accept your appearance as it is and work with what you’ve got. Look around you at ordinary people on the street (unless you live in LA which is like an appearance bubble due to the industry there) not in magazines or on TV etc. Ordinary people are not selling you anything, whereas the media and companies are. If you observe people who are walking by you or when you’re out somewhere, most of these people are not ‘beautiful’ – they’re just people who are attractive in their own right.
Work out your worst, good enough and perfect appearance? Yep, you’re likely striving for perfection, and everything else is ‘worst’. Work out the three and the work on accepting the good enough that you are already.
I watched a programme last year on Channel 4 in the UK about disfigurement – when a woman with severe facial deformities can love herself and find love and be married, you have to ask yourself what’s stopping you other than your perception of you which you can change?
She values herself for more than what’s not on her face.
The truth is, everybody’s view of what is attractive to them is different. It’s our job to treat ourselves as valuable, worthwhile entities and to love the skin we’re in. Abusing ourselves is not a precursor to happy life experiences. Your purpose on earth goes far deeper than your appearance. If you keep hobbling you at the knees by assuming that you’re doomed or that you can’t be or do certain things until you’re ‘perfect’, it’s like putting you through unnecessary torture.
I am black. I remember the day my stalker from years ago wrote on the internet that “Natalie Lue is a big black dog” and how she knows that God is supposed to love all creatures but why would he want to love people like me?
I think that there are enough effed up people with incredibly superficial and hateful views out there without participating in it in your own life and running you down. The colour of your skin, your height, your weight, the size of your nose, etc – these things only matter to someone who is going to be superficial about you anyway so you could have the ‘perfect everything’, and you’d fall short somewhere. Don’t assassinate your character by being too caught up in your appearance.
9. Distinguish between appearance and worth
My friend is curvy and has dieted on and off for years. She seems to think she’ll like herself more when she’s the ‘right weight’. Another friend is overweight, and while she does exercise now, it’s not to improve her worth – it’s to improve her health. “I’m sure I can think of a thousand things that I don’t like about my life, but I can also think of two thousand things that I do like. I’ve spent so long giving me hell over my appearance, it’s great to just be at forty.” She lives in New York and found love at 39 and had been finally content with her appearance for several years.
Remember, when you don’t distinguish between your appearance and your worth, it’s the equivalent of inadvertently thinking:
Unattractive people have no worth.
If you’re not beautiful, you’re not worthy.
If you’re not beautiful, you deserve the problems that you get.
If you were more beautiful/taller/shorter/big breasted/smaller breasted/smaller nose, etc., you would not be experiencing the same issues.
People who do not meet ‘standards’ of beauty are worthless.
If you’re overweight, you cannot have a relationship.
If you’re overweight, no-one will want you.
Is this what you say about or to another person? Is it what you’d think of them?
If not, you need to realise that you’re not living congruently with your own values. If you want people to love you for more than your appearance, you can’t be superficial at the same time. The two things run counter to one another.
10. Don’t get involved with superficial people
When things go awry, I assure you that it has nothing to do with your looks, but superficial people who are on either end (feeling like their appearance isn’t good enough or being superficial with an overinflated sense of their importance) do default to blaming appearance because it’s their automatic thought process and the lazy response. Neither side has to look too deeply at what’s really going on. If you’ve ever been involved with someone who was really beautiful and popular, who was charming, slept around a lot with ‘hot’ people, you likely felt deeply flattered and validated by their attention. When things didn’t work out / they started behaving dodgy, you then wonder what you did to ‘make’ them remove the glow of their attention. These people are collectors of attention without very much substance so by nature, they cannot hang around for long. They have short involvements or nitpick at their partner’s appearance. A lot of them have excessive use of porn, dating sites, or are even ‘diagnosed’ as being sex addicts. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way.
11. Is it really that bad?
I’ve had people describe their ‘awful’ appearance to me and I’m thinking, “Jeez, I’d love to have been 6ft!” just like the way people have said to me that they’d love to have the same “big lips” I used to be self-conscious about or the different coloured lips that I have that I also used to dislike. I admit to going through a dodgy phase about my tummy – I’m slim with a tummy after two c-sections. It was really getting on my husband’s nerves and one day this past summer, as I overheard myself and a few friends griping on the beach about our bodies, I felt really ashamed and thankful that my two young daughters were not there to hear us.
Everybody has aspects that they don’t like about their appearance although I do raise an eyebrow when supermodels claim that they do, but yes, they probably do. They’re human.
What that tells you about is that it is our view of ourselves that we address ourselves through whether it’s positive or negative and that we aren’t anywhere near as realistic about our appearances as we would like to think.
We exaggerate our ‘worst’ parts and minimise or completely ignore our best and better parts. If you have been in fantasy relationships or blown smoke up other people’s bums with Betting On Potential and trying to change them, I guarantee you that you have a highly inaccurate view of you – it’s this distorted vision that’s getting you into trouble. I have a friend who is a UK 22 and she’s married, three children. She’s not thrilled with her appearance, but she likes who she is. She recognises that she’s not at the healthiest of sizes. She has said though that she was never looking to meet the approval of ‘everyone’. She’s married to a guy who loves her and sees beyond her size and she recognises that there are plenty of guys who wouldn’t but that they’re not the ones for her anyway and that she would never have degraded herself by seeking their approval as she’d probably be on some dangerous diet or even bigger than what she is.
12. Grow up your perspective
A lot of the things that were considered ‘unattractive’ back in the day are not now. You may be stuck in a totally different decade repeating out of date and false messaging. When I was a child, Caribbean cultures favoured bigger women and were very cruel to slim and average sized women whereas now, while there is a cultural tendency to run their mouths, there is more acceptance of varying body size. Equally, comments about skin colour, height, breasts, feet, lips and weight really vary and eventually you realise that you cannot keep up with everybody and that you have to be acceptable to you. If you’ve had parents who were cruel with their comments, that says far more about them than it does about your appearance and fact is, they were only critiquing their own creation made up of a combination of their DNA. You are unique, this is to be celebrated – why do you want to look like someone else or everyone else? Also ugly isn’t really about appearance – some people are very beautiful with ugly behaviour which soon removes that beauty.
Read Louise L Hay’s You Can Read Your Life which can help you with finding positive statements. If you’ve experienced physical health issues, you will definitely find this book very useful – go straight to the chart at the back.
Bit conscious about your tummy? Yeah, of course, you can exercise but until then, get a pair of Spanx. My confidence in wearing certain things went right up.
Keep an eye on your triggers. Remember the work you did above. If you tend to fall apart when you buy a certain magazine, stop buying it.
Do throw out the scales if you can.
Check for support groups in your area regarding increasing confidence, loving your body etc. One of the things that you will discover is that you tend to exaggerate your own appearance while not doing it to others. Seeing things from another perspective can be a real wake up call. Also, try Meetup.com