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Day 25. Calming Your Inner Critic On Your Appearance

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One area where your inner critic and ideals about being “good enough” or even “perfect”, can be very pervasive and destructive is around your appearance. If you are critical of how you look; if you think that if you were more _______ or less ______ that you would do better in life or attract a certain type of person; if you have habits around your appearance that are akin to self-loathing, changing your relationship with your inner critic will have a significant impact.

Inner critics affect our self-image - our perception of our appearance (physical and how we feel that we appear in a social context), as well as our perception of our personality and capabilities, becomes very distorted.

If you are critical of your appearance, believe me when I say that it affects how you perceive you in other ways and the things that you think you need to be or do. Being very self-critical can cause you to do a few things:

Not internalise your accomplishments, achievements, qualities and characteristics but feel that whatever stock you have is your appearance, which will cause you to make surface choices and to be over-reliant on your appearance, including gravitating to very surface people and then feeling discarded and confused when things don’t work out, sending your inner critic into overdrive and questioning your appearance and devaluing you further.

Feel that you are not attractive, possibly focusing on one, a few or a lot of things and then feeling as if you have to overcompensate in other ways, so next thing you have to be perfect with what you do at work, over-giving, plus you might feel as if you have to settle for less in a relationship plus if someone you regard as very attractive is interested in you, you will see this as big validation and when they are critical or they disappoint you, it will hurt deeply.

Managing your feelings and life through your appearance and so managing your inner critic and your inner turmoil with unhealthy eating habits or by being unkind to your body in other ways. Every criticism, real or imagined, direct or inferred, will be taken out in some way on your body, possibly in the hopes that you will eventually be able to shut up your inner critic but instead, winding up in even more pain.

If you’ve been blaming and criticising your appearance, it means that not only are you missing the truth about past events but your lack of acceptance of you has kept you small.

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 left you reeling and was treated as permanent judgement, or some early skewed judgement of you based on a dodgy perception. The work you have been doing in identifying the type of inner critic you have and its messaging and motivations, helps you to home in on where you are repeating old, cruel, and inaccurate messaging. So many BR readers lives are based around a nasty comment from one of their first love interests. 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. Many BR readers grew up in an environment where there was an overemphasis on appearance. These messages have stuck and then they’ve been dieting, berating themselves, and even doing cosmetic surgery.

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.

Are any of these actually true? If you can think of one instance where it isn’t true, you are already opening up your awareness. Look around you in real life and the evidence is right there - these beliefs are generalisations.

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.

Use journaling to rigorously challenge these beliefs. Is the belief positively helpful or is it harmful? Is it kind, is it compassionate, is it the type of thing that you would teach a child or want to say to a loved one? If not, it’s time to start correcting that belief every time you use it.

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 same type of people involved? Are you remembering a past experience? What is it?

Appearance is the low hanging blame fruit that stops us from looking far more closely at what is really going on.

Your cues and triggers might be very specific types of rejection and disappointment. Compare the data and look for similarities. This helps you to identify your triggers which can help you to recognise the signs and preempt. Use your Feelings Diary and also use the Releasing Exercise to home in on very specific experiences that are contributing to the emotional charge you carry about your experience.

4. Consider the negative consequences of your beliefs and then update them to something more fair and reasonable.

Each time you chase and feed your beliefs and the criticisms, you are experiencing negative consequences. 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? What could you say to your inner critic?

Until my twenties, I was never able to do one of those smiling from the inside type of photos because I was deeply unhappy and also critical of me for previously looking unhappy in photos. Once I started to take care of myself, it was a hell of lot easier to smile in photos and I would mentally say, “Be quiet” to my inner critc. Some friends know their ‘best side’ and then feel more confident doing a photograph this way.

If a belief doesn’t positively serve you, it’s not worth holding on to. Update your belief to something more fair and reasonable. e.g. It’s not that I take very bad photos or that I’m an ugly and miserable person; I don’t take good photos when I’m unhappy.

5. 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 normal 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 – normal 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.

Everyone’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.

Focusing on appearance is a way of managing our inner critics. It’s a way of secretly giving ourselves permission to fail from the outset so that we don’t have to stretch ourselves in other areas of life where we’re not confident.

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.

6. 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.

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.

It’s your view of you that is mattering to your self-worth. It’s how you internalise messaging. You also realise when you listen to people that we’re all going through our own struggle and that many of us are not realistic about our appearances. We exaggerate our ‘worst’ parts and minimise or completely ignore our best and better parts.

7. 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’ - the goalposts keep moving. Another friend is overweight, married happily with three kids and exercising for health, not to be accepted. 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.

8. Don’t get involved with superficial people.

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 as a distraction from looking too closely at themselves. 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. You will not get the validation you’re seeking or a deep relationship.

9. 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, 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.

10. Stop carving at you with comparison!

Comparison is a two-fold judgment - you’re judging you as well as whoever you’re comparing you to. It’s assuming that they have it so much better than you because of [whatever you’re comparing to]. You don't know their story, you don’t know their journey, you don't know their struggles and you definitely don’t know what lies ahead for them.

Work out your cues, triggers and responses for being self-critical through comparison. You can then evaluate alternative responses.

  • What are you doing today that you couldn’t do 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years ago? This is growth.
  • What new decisions have you made that you might have felt were inconceivable at one point?
  • Are there unhealthy habits that you’ve been working on?

Keep asking you these questions when comparison thoughts pop up and you will recognise who you are and your growth.

Remember that comparing depresses your confidence levels further. Halt comparison with compassion. Start noticing even the smallest of positives about you and build on this.

Focus on appreciating who you are now (mindfulness and gratitude). Recognise that child within you and that you were that has felt inadequate or unaccepted or unappreciated or whatever that specific feeling was and be proud of how far you’ve come in spite of your experiences.

JOURNALING: Do you have a good relationship with you about your appearance? If you do, what insights can you take from that that you can apply to another area where you are more of a perfectionist? What is it that you think and do differently with appearance that allows you to feel more confident? If you don't have a good relationship with your appearance, examine whether you are ready to begin detaching you from the criticism tape. Think about what has brought you to this juncture and examine those feelings with the Releasing Exercise and Unsent Letter. It's time to forgive your you and your younger self and acknowledge the parts of your journey that have led you to this place so that you can insert compassion.

 

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