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Learn to Like How You Look

Your judgmental tendencies just might be in the way.

I find it really amazing that self acceptance is oftentimes something elusive. In my work as a therapist, hours are spent working with attractive, accomplished people with self esteem issues. Actually, I don’t think I’ve met many who don’t have self esteem issues! Wouldn’t it be nice if you could be totally fine with yourself, how you look now—no makeovers, no “I have to lose weight, I need to work out, I need botox.” When I was a kid, there was this thing that adults said to you when you were making faces at someone (like at my brothers which I did a lot) and it went something like this—“If an angel flies over you, you’ll freeze and stay like that forever.” (It was supposed to motivate you to not make faces.) So let’s say an angel passes over you this minute and freezes you just the way you are—could you cope with looking the way you do this minute forever? All too often, a negative comment made by someone even decades ago is never forgotten. Yet nice comments sometimes don’t even register let alone remain memorable. Why is that so and why it so difficult to make peace with ourselves.

Our economy is fueled by industries targeting our need to improve ourselves. Self improvement in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing unless self loathing or the inability to accept oneself is the motivating factor. We live in a culture that thrives on makeovers-- what we can do next to reinvent ourselves. Not that reinvention is a bad thing but it’s the stress of never measuring up to some imagined standard that potentially goes with it that causes discontent.

I think that the key to self acceptance is to find what you do like about yourself and run with that. The two things that might help are the following:

1. Do an inventory of what it is that you actually like about your appearance/ your body, yourself. If the list is short, you need to figure out why. Are you too critical? Which leads to...

2. Challenging yourself about your judgmental nature. Having a judgmental nature is the single most significant thing that impacts on self esteem in a negative way. If you judge others you perceive that others are judging you, and depending on how harsh a judge you are, you will expect others to judge you.

I have my patients do the following exercise. I ask them to count how many times they judge someone in the course of a day. (Example, that person looks bad in that hat, that driver is too slow, I would never go out in an outfit like that, etc.) You’d be surprised how many times that happens. You see, when you judge, you figure that in that same manner, people are judging you. The second part of the exercise is to interject a kind, understanding, accepting stance instead. For example, that person probably likes that hat and that’s ok., and that driver is probably doing her best and that’s okay, and the outfit, well there’s plenty of room in the world for fashion faux pas anyway, they thought it looked good so, whatever. And is there ever an ultimate judge of taste, driving, etc? Others are doing the best they can do and that’s all we’re all doing. What happens as a result of becoming mindful of our own judgments is that over time, we temper them. And in tempering our own judgmental behaviors, we challenge how we think others perceive us. Our perceptions color our reality and no matter what, being kinder in our judgments, ideally suspending them, goes a long way in being more accepting of ourselves. Being kind, mindful and accepting of your humanness goes a long way to having a good hair day!

More from Maria Baratta Ph.D., L.C.S.W.
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More from Maria Baratta Ph.D., L.C.S.W.
More from Psychology Today