Feeling Unattractive? Think Again!
How do you feel about the person looking back at you in the mirror? Do you find yourself criticizing your hair or perhaps noticing that you’re a bit too pudgy? Is your nose too big? Too small? Don’t like your smile? Teeth? It may come as surprise to you to find out that what you see in the mirror–your body image—is only casually related to your physical attributes. I know this sounds strange, but the truth is, we really don’t see with our eyes—we see with our minds. Our eyes are nothing more than passive recording organs that pass images along to our brains—without judgment or criticism. Once this visual information is processed by the brain, we then interpret what we see, “Ug, I look terrible!” And this is where all your problems begin. In order to understand this phenomenon you’re going to have to understand the role insecurity plays in distorting your “visuals.”
Whether you have serious problems such as anxiety or depression, or everyday skirmishes with negativity, worry, and feelings of not being okay, you can never overestimate the influence of insecurity. Early wounds, whether physical (accidents, illnesses, hospitalizations, etc.) or psychological (rejections, frustrations, broken homes, neglectful or abusive parenting, etc.), are unavoidable. From these wounds, insecurity sends its roots deep into your psyche, setting the stage for destructive patterns of thinking and perceiving. Over time, these insecure thoughts can whittle away at your psychological stamina, confidence, and self trust, leaving you feeling out of control and susceptible not only to emotional problems, put to perceptual distortions.
Take the following Self-Coaching Quiz to give you a general idea how insecurity may be affecting, not only your life, but your judgment and perception of self as well.
Please read the following questions carefully, but don’t over-think your responses. Answer each question as being either mostly true or mostly false as they generally pertain to your life. Answer each question even if you’re not completely sure. Scoring is at the end of the quiz.
T F I tend to be shy or uneasy with strangers.
T F I’d rather be at home than going out on an adventure.
T F I wish I were smarter.
T F I never have enough money.
T F I’m usually pessimistic.
T F I often wish I were better looking.
T F I don’t think I’m as good as others.
T F If people know the real me, they would think differently.
T F In relationships, I tend to cling.
T F If someone’s quiet, I might think they’re angry.
T F I’m usually afraid to get too close to others.
T F I would be a lot happier if I didn’t worry so much.
T F I have lots of fears.
T F I tend to hide my feelings.
T F In relationships, I’m often defensive
T F I often wonder what people really think of me.
T F I find it hard to trust.
T F I worry about my looks.
T F I have a hard time saying no.
T F I tend to be too sensitive.
T F I’m overly cautious.
T F I worry about getting sick.
T F I often feel guilty.
T F I hate the way I look in pictures.
T F I don’t think of myself as an emotionally strong person.
A score of 1 to 10 “true” answers indicates a mild degree of insecurity. Your body/self-image perceptions are probably only mildly affected by insecurity.
A score of 11 to 16 “true” answers indicates a moderate level of insecurity. Insecurity is probably undermining your capacity for effective, undistorted perceptions of your body.
If you scored 17 or more “true” answers, your self-perception may be suffering from substantial interference due to insecurity.
How Does Insecurity Distort
You’ve probably had the experience where you tell someone, “I just can’t stand the way I look, I feel so unattractive,” only to have your listener scrunch up their brow, responding, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, you look fine!” Assuming you’re getting a truthful response from your friend, how do we explain this discrepancy? For starters, your friend is looking at all of you, not just the zit on your forehead. And this is critical. When you allow insecurity to judge the person in the mirror, you’re focusing not on all of you, but only on specific negatives as you zero in on that zit or some other point of disapproval. You’re not seeing all of you because insecurity is amplifying your negatives.
Why does insecurity do this? Essentially, insecurity is a feeling of vulnerability and when humans feel insecure, we have a natural tendency to try to regain control. So when insecurity is steering your perceptions, you’re looking in the mirror not concerned with your positive attributes, instead, you’re hyperfocused on what you feel might hurt you—your big nose, your crocked teeth. By focusing on your negatives you feel a sense that you’re doing something to protect yourself. At first this might sound strange, “By obsessing about my zit, I’m doing something?” What you’re doing is trying to take into account your short-comings while looking for ways to deal with these deficits. For example, if you feel your teeth are not white enough, you might begin to smile less, if your you don’t like your small chin you might find yourself covering your chin with your hand, and if you’re going bald, you might begin to slick down your hair into a drastic “comb-over” that only winds up drawing more attention from others. You’re always finding ways to hide, compensate, or otherwise sidestep that which you feel insecure about.
Aside from being hyperfocused on negativity, an insecure person’s view in the mirror is like a mental “snapshot.” You take a mental photo of those bags forming under your eyes or the thinning of their hair, which you then obsessively ruminate about in your mind. This static, photographic image isn’t what the world sees. The world sees you, not in a frozen moment, but in real time, moving, talking, and expressing emotions. What the world sees is an accumulation of many images that combine to form both a visual and a psychological impression. You’ve heard it said that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, well, try to embrace this concept, because regardless of what insecurity is feeding you—it’s true. Just because you see negatives, doesn’t mean anyone else does. Stop projecting your insecurity outward, assuming everyone else is transfixed on your zit or on your weight. Start reminding yourself that who you are and how people perceive you is up to you–all of you.
Insecurity essentially erodes self-trust. Without trust, you seek to find ways to feel more in control. And since security is not something that comes from the outside in, you need to be careful about the ways you go about trying to feel more secure. If, for example, you’re relying on calorie counting and losing weight to determine whether you’re okay, then you’re dooming yourself to a life of constant torment and struggle–without ever really feeling okay. Sure you may feel a sense of momentary elation when you’ve “been good” with your calories, but this is a transient feeling. It’s also what fuels eating disorders, which are all about trying to control that which you feel vulnerable about. This is why it’s so important to build an understanding of the true dynamics involved with your dissatisfaction.
So, if you really want to be more attractive, forget about changing your hairstyle , getting a tan, or starving yourself, instead begin to work on the real problem–dismantling your insecurity and your misguided quest to be more perfect, “If only my skin were perfect,” Or, “If only my hair were straight,” Living in an imperfect world, the quest for perfection is a sure-fire way to be miserable. It’s not perfection you need, it’s release from the distortions and limitations of insecurity.
Perfectionism is the enemy of legitimate happiness and serenity