You only look as good as you feel
By Diane E. Lykes, LCSW
At a time when plastic surgery is not just for the rich and famous, and botox is a household word, we need to examine just what it means to be beautiful.
Has our quest for beauty gone too far?
If you read the recent findings from The American Society of Plastic Surgeons you may think that all of America is going “under
In 2007, 11.5 million Americans underwent some form of cosmetic procedure. This is up 467 percent since 1997! Further, they predict that more then 55 million cosmetic procedures will be performed in 2015. It appears that regardless of the poor economy, the allure of a quick improvement to one’s appearance is too tempting to pass up.
There are some people, however, who are getting many cosmetic procedures in order to fit the stereotype of what is beautiful. In our counseling practice, we are surprised to see mothers supporting breast augmentation for their teenage daughters, even offering it as a gift for graduating high school.
We also see women who have had over 20 surgeries hoping for an improvement in their self-esteem. They tell us: “If my nose was smaller I would be much happier” or “If I had a perfect body, I would attract a wonderful partner”. Some women do find increased self-confidence after cosmetic surgery while others find that this “quick fix” does not address their feelings of low self-esteem.
Seventy-two percent of mothers hope that they have not passed on feelings of self-doubt or insecurity to their daughters and 67 percent of women avoid certain activities due to feeling bad about their looks. It’s no wonder that women are seeking ways to become more confident.
Is change on the way?
More recently, the media has begun to project new images of what it means to be attractive. The makers of Dove products, for example, surprised the beauty industry with their ads of real women (not supermodels) in their bra and undies strutting their stuff and showing pride in their bodies.
Dove’s campaign focuses on building a positive body image and healthy self-esteem. Their mantra: we come in all shapes and sizes and our beauty does not lie in our physical appearance.
Writer/feminist Gloria Steinem understood this point years ago when she said, “Self-esteem isn’t everything; it’s just that there’s nothing without it.”
The average women’s dress size is 12-14 - not a size 4. Torturing yourself to be younger, smaller, lighter, thinner or softer can only lead to low self-worth and unhappiness.
Silencing your inner critic
The voice that tells you that you are not attractive enough, not smart enough or simply not enough is called your “inner critic”.
Learning to silence this voice is central to improving the way you feel. Ann Kearney-Cooke, author of Change Your Mind, Change Your Body states: “the way you talk to yourself affects the way you feel and behave. Words have enormous power both physically and emotionally. Research shows that words can affect the chemistry of your body. Your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing are affected by the words you say to yourself. Emotionally your own words can break your heart.”
She states that your inner critic needs to be one of your best friends. If she is demanding perfection or chipping away at your self-esteem it is time to take steps to silence her.
Try this strategy. When you hear that voice saying “you’ll never have a great body” or “you’ll never have a love relationship” try counteracting these critical thoughts with more rational thoughts. For example you might say, “I will go to the gym 3-4 times per week to give my body the exercise I need to feel good” or “my chances of meeting a healthy love partner are greatly enhanced when I am feeling best about myself.”
Your negative self-talk will lead you down a road of unpleasant side effects, while your positive thoughts will lead you toward a total mind and body improvement.
Seeing with your own eyes
Sometimes it is not your own voice that is critical, though. Sometimes it is the voice of a romantic partner, a family member or a friend. “If only you lost 20 pounds you would look so much better” or “I notice you are looking older these days.” Although they may say they are “well-meaning” it can wreak havoc on your self-worth.
It is very important to learn to see yourself through your own eyes and not the eyes of others. You give up your personal power to someone else when you allow him/her to dictate how you should feel about yourself. If someone is critical, decide for yourself whether his or her feedback is warranted. If so, take action to address the issue for your own well-being. If not, let their comments go in one ear and out the other!
Embrace your own inner and unique beauty
Attractiveness comes from within and radiates outward. A new dress, great shoes or a fabulous haircut may give you fleeting confidence, but the beauty attributed to loving yourself will last a lifetime.
Diane Lykes is a Principal of Synergy Counseling Associates in Albany where she specializes in individual and couples counseling, educational training and clinical consultation. Synergy is a unique counseling practice providing compassionate, solution-oriented treatment for adults, children, adolescents and families. She can be reached at 466.3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org