Therapy for Body Image Issues & Poor Self-image
Body image counselling challenges your poor self-image and helps you develop a positive view of yourself as a whole person.
When you look in a mirror at your body, who and what do you see? Do you focus on the parts of you that you like least? Can you only see your ‘fat’ stomach, or ‘flat / un-developed’ chest? Maybe you see big ears, a pointy chin, multiple freckles or skinny legs. Perhaps you see a large, overweight person staring back at you, even though others have suggested your look totally fine.
If this sounds like something you relate to, you may have an issue with body dysmorphia or poor body image.
Many of us have a distorted view of our body’s and how we perceive ourselves. When born, we have no perception that we are ‘different’ or ‘wrong’, however as we grow from babies to children and teenagers and then to adults the impact of messages received from families, school, social media, magazines and TV, begin to distort how we see ourselves and we can feel like we don’t ‘fit in’.
Poor body image can plague you throughout your life, destroying your self confidence and altering the way you interact with others.
Body image issues counselling works to alter the way you think about your appearance or aspects of your body and learn to see the positives and accept that we are all ‘normal’ as individuals. Body image counselling will help you stop comparing and despairing.
What has caused this body hatred or poor self-image?
Our society invites us to believe that we are only attractive if we are ‘normal’. Shame, body hatred and poor self-image have become increasingly prevalent in a culture, obsessed as it is with body shape and sexualized imagery. From an early age we are either told or sold that it is good to be:
- slim, youthful, have clear skin, a perfect smile, glossy hair
- the ideal female shape – ‘willowy’, ‘hour glass’ or ‘curvy’, ‘flat stomach’, ‘full lips’, ‘small nose’
- the ideal male shape – ‘athletic’, ‘V shaped’, ‘broad shouldered’, ‘6 pack’, ‘bronzed’, ‘having a perfectly proportioned physique’
No one is ‘perfect’ but those with a poor self-image can get into a spiral of self-hatred and loathing of their bodies also known as body ‘dysmorphia’. These negative thoughts can become obsessive (OCD link) and overwhelming and can also go hand in hand with substance abuse as a way of numbing or silencing our thinking or with problems around eating (Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge eating) as a way of controlling or disassociating from the feelings.
Having a negative or unhealthy body image, may cause you to become preoccupied with what you may feel to be ‘physical flaws’ and you may have developed a distorted perception of your physical features making you may feel uncomfortable in your body, finding it difficult to accept the way you look or experiencing discomfort, shame or even disgust in relation to your appearance.
This is a very unhappy way to live and can be very isolating and lonely (see Addictions, Obsessions and OCD).
Do I have a problem with body image issues?
If you have any of the following thoughts on a regular basis, then you may benefit from talking about how you feel and learn to shift this destructive and unhelpful thinking and way of living:
Do you find yourself regularly:
- Thinking I f I could lose weight or gain weight, then I would be attractive and feel good.
- Feeling disgusted & despairing when I look at my body.
- Comparing myself, unfavourably, to others on social media and magazines constantly.
- Considering plastic surgery or ways to improve my appearance.
- Hating myself when I look in a mirror and often experience shame about myself.
- Feeling trapped in a body I don’t relate to.
- Thinking I do not find myself attractive and constantly criticise myself.
- Hiding myself under baggy clothes.
- Constantly looking for validation outside of myself and may sometimes use alcohol, sex or drugs as a way of meeting this need
Body image issues: A modern day phenomenon
It’s no secret that in the modern world ‘body image’ is shaped by a huge number of factors such as marketing, the rise of the ‘selfie’ on social media and the rise of ‘celebrity’. What has tended be a problem mainly faced by females has, in more recent years, started to affect men’s lives also.
Often these ways of comparing ourselves and seeing ourselves in a negative way can begin from a young age where we start to have an idea of ourselves as wrong, different to others and unacceptable compared to the ‘norm’ (which has constantly changed historically). These ideas of ourselves can be influenced by our family, societal messages, class, race, gender and inequality. However, anyone, from any background can experience low self-esteem and body image issues.
The misconception that many people may have around body image issues is that it only affects people who differ to the ‘norms’ of society, with visually identifiable feature that might be considered to be ‘odd’ or ‘unattractive’ but the truth is that the ‘body image’ is the perception someone has of their own body and it is almost irrelevant what other people say they see or think about your body once you have formed this idea of yourself.
‘Body image’ is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror, look at your body in photographs or picture yourself in your mind’s eye, which is driven about your own thoughts and feelings of self-esteem.
Healthy body image means you are comfortable with the body you have. It does not mean you think your body is perfect, rather, that you accept yourself and commit to loving and caring for your body which is also about learning to love and accept all aspects of who you are.
Body image counselling helps you to develop a healthier ‘view’ of yourself and replace your negative internal voice with more positive perceptions.
Male Body Image Issues – How does this affect men?
With the rise of social media and the idea of body perfect equalling a full and satisfying life, influenced by advertising, fashion and images of perfection, men are beginning to feel equally inadequate. While gay men may have historically had more pressure to stay young and compare and strive towards perfect bodies and looks, most men are now finding this more of a pressure.
Whether we aspire to be a David Beckham type, a sportsman or compare younger male adult bodies to the current trends of lithe and slender or muscular there is increasing pressure on men to look a certain way. As with women, a negative self-body image is usually driven from our perception of ourselves and low self-esteem. Negative thinking and judgments of ourselves don’t just ‘happen’, but our sense of self is formed from a young age and a variety of things can impact and trigger how we then feel about our appearance as we grow older. Our idea of masculinity and appearance can be affected by infidelity, divorce, weight gain or loss, traumatic school experiences, bullying, our relationship with our parents and sexual experiences.
Body image, dating and relationships
My experience as a dating coach working with clients who are actively looking for love and a relationship, but also have body image issues is that they feel that they will never find a strong relationship until they have the perfect body or look. It is true that if we feel good about ourselves on a spiritual, emotional and physical level we are more likely to be desirable to ourselves and others. It’s also true that we are judged on our appearance in society, however it is not true that we need to fit a prescribed body type in order to love or be loved.
We all have the ability to judge others (often based on judgements of ourselves and our own inner critic), however it’s interesting that what is most attractive to us is someone who is confident and is comfortable with their sexuality and sense of excitement in life.
Whether we are critical and judge ourselves and the way we look or may judge someone else, this can hold you back from being successful in your quest to finding a loving relationship.
Dating Therapy & Date Coaching: One to one and Groups
Are you thinking about joining a bespoke dating agency or have had a bad experience with one?
Dating and finding a relationship can often be isolating, unknown and frustrating. It is hard to navigate what will work best for us in terms of websites, apps, meet up groups or matchmakers, let alone how we may behave on dates ourselves.
Dating Therapy & Date Coaching is designed to tackle both how you approach the process of ‘dating’ but also helps to work on your confidence and other emotional issues that may be getting in the way of you meeting someone and finding a loving.lasting relationship.
Dating Coaching Groups: Groups can be a really powerful way to share experiences and information. A group offers a supportive way to discuss what is working for us and to share with others to empower us to make more useful choices for ourselves.
One to One Dating Therapy & Coaching: One to one work can focus on specific issues or concerns you may have. One to one Dating Therapy and Coaching is more than just about finding a partner it is about laying the foundations for a strong and sustainable relationship.
Find out more …
Body image issues counselling, challenging your negative perceptions of yourself
There is a way forward, this is to realise and accept that this hatred is not about body size or shape and certainly not about who you are, rather it is a way of blaming ourselves with critical and unhelpful ways of thinking.
If you hate your body and would like to stop feeling this way counselling for body image issues can help.
During your sessions we will work together to help you to notice how you speak to yourself and how damaging this can be. With support and practice, you will begin to choose a different way to speak to yourself and build on this to create a happier, more comfortable self-image. These messages may be very strong at present, but they do not need to continue to create your version of the world or how you are in it.
Often those with poor body image issues are also people who suffer low self-esteem or low self-confidence (link) and therapy can help you to increase your overall positive view of yourself.
Take the first step towards feeling comfortable in yourself, contact Abi to discuss body image issues counselling.