The Humpty Dumpty Syndrome

Maybe you're not as "flawed" as you think.

Posted May 23, 2013

I think many women – and men – live under the assumption that they are somehow flawed. They believe that they aren’t _______ [fill in the blank: thin enough, good looking enough, sexy enough] and they seek diets, exercise, certain clothes, or various pills as a solution to their problem. A fix, if you will.

But I am here to tell you that you are not Humpty Dumpty; you are not flawed or somehow broken; there is nothing to fix. Yes, there are probably a few things that each of us could do to be a little healthier, but I’d like to advocate the following: be a little less hard on yourself, give yourself a break. And let go of this idea that there is something wrong with you that needs to be fixed. That idea in and of itself is incredibly toxic and needs to be ditched altogether.

My students and I were discussing in class today how we can combat media’s harmful influence. My overweight students in particular talked about how they always felt pressured to lose weight, so much so that they wouldn’t eat in front of others for fear of people commenting on their weight. While I understand that that are medical advantages to being a healthy weight, I feel like we have gone the extreme to the other end. When we are told that the ideal woman is so thin that she would meet the criteria for anorexia nervosa and the ideal man so muscular that he would need implants and/or steroids to achieve the “right” body shape and size, something is wrong.

A good friend of mine who was slightly overweight once commented that she had always hated her butt. Fed up with the self-deprecating remarks she was making on an almost daily basis, she decided to turn the tables. Every time she saw herself in the mirror, she sent a little love to her butt. Pretty soon, she started loving her shape and size. To her surprise, she also started losing weight and found herself missing her larger butt.

I think we would all benefit from this approach. Try this: the next time you look in the mirror instead of saying negative things about yourself, try giving a little love to those body parts you usually don’t appreciate. My friend’s mantra was: “I love you butt because you provide just the right amount of cushion when I sit.” Yours might be, “I love my freckles because they remind me of a sunny day,” or “I love my thighs because they are strong enough to support my body.”

Think of it this way: we attract what we think about. So thinking about how much you hate your butt is only going to make you hate it more; but if you turn that around like my friend did, you will gain so much more appreciation for your body and yourself. We all deserve to be loved, especially the parts of us that we may not be particularly happy about. Your body performs thousands of little miracles each day. Do you criticize your lungs for breathing or your heart for beating? Of course not. We take for granted all of the amazing and wonderful things our bodies do for us each and every day. So commit to making a change. Start to appreciate your body for all of the wonderful things it does each day – instead of criticizing it and yourself for being “flawed” – and you might just find you learn to appreciate yourself more in the process.

About the Author

Mary E. Pritchard, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Psychology at Boise State University.

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