Thursday, 2 August 2012

Do you hate the way you look?

       If so, you’re not alone. All over the world, millions - billions - of people wake up each morning and wince when they look in the mirror. It seems no matter how appealing we may be to others, most of us are still unhappy with our appearance – especially during those awkward in-between years when physical changes seem to happen overnight, making many youngsters feel like strangers in their own bodies. We may discount features that are genuinely attractive, focus on our flaws and allow these to blight our lives. 
       It’s always been the same. Over 20 years ago, psychiatry Professor Richard M Sarles said: “Adolescence is a period of transition in which a major reorganization of the body takes place. To deal with the awkwardness of a new and changing body, most adolescents rely upon the scrutiny of their peer group.”  Far from being supportive, however, some of our peers can be cruel - either unwittingly by offering well-meaning but uncalled-for advice, or maliciously by teasing or outright derision – causing you to view the way you look in a negative way.

Don’t believe everything you see
       The media doesn’t help. Wherever you turn, you see images of impossibly gorgeous people – film stars, models, singers and the ever-present WAGs who strut through the pages of newspapers and magazines on a daily basis, buffed and toned to perfection. Stop comparing yourself. And don’t believe everything you see. You’d be surprised how ordinary some of these paragons look without their ‘magic’. Teams of professional hair and make-up artists, nutritionists, stylists, artful lighting, sympathetic photographers and loads of airbrushing go a long way. As do Botox, daily facials and cosmetic surgery when the glowing complexion grows a little tired. (Don't believe me? Then check out the link below to see how even the most glam stars look without their warpaint!) 
       Believe it or not, even Marilyn Monroe could pass unnoticed in a crowd! Only when she 'put on' her movie star persona did she become the focus of attention!
       When working in public relations some years ago, I met quite a few models, most of whom relied more upon poise and attitude than any spectacular features. ALL had at least one perceived flaw to fret about, just like any other young person. Like you and me. One of the top models at the time was a friend of my brother so I got to know her fairly well. To be honest, on first sight it was hard to see how her admittedly pleasant but rather undistinguished round face made the covers of so many glossies.  Her secret? She was unbelievably photogenic. While not so eye-catching in the flesh, she (like Monroe) was totally transformed by the camera. Quite simply, it loved her. 
       If, like me, you don’t photograph well (should a zealous customs officer challenge my identity after looking at my passport pic, I'd be wildly flattered!), you can take comfort in knowing the reverse is often true. Most of us are far, far better looking in real life than we appear on film, which fattens our figures and flattens our facial contours. The subtleties of bone structure seem to disappear entirely under natural light – and, in my experience, full sunlight is the worst!
Be realistic
       Of course, if you feel suicidal whenever you glance into a mirror, this has more to do with your own assessment than that of anyone else. “My nose is too long!” “My mouth’s too thin!” “My ears stick out!” “I’ve so many spots!” The same plaintive wails emanate from bathrooms all over the world, often without cause. Unfortunately, how we view ourselves may influence the way we’re seen by others and even put a spoke in our relationships and careers. According to Dr. James P. Comer: “Body image is part of self-image. It can affect a person’s self-confidence and what he does and does not do in life.” 
       This is why you need to be realistic. Care is especially needed when assessing our weight, as the image we see in the mirror can be grossly distorted. In one recent study, nearly 60% of teenage girls thought they were overweight, yet only 17% actually were!  Other research found 45% of underweight women considered themselves too fat. 
       Puberty drastically alters body shape, with a girl's body fat increasing from around 8% body fat to around 22% when she enters her teens. There's no need to worry about gaining weight or to start dieting but if you want to keep a check on your eating habits, here’s a couple of tips: Eat a good breakfast, which stops you getting too peckish and overindulging later in the day, and drink a large glass of water to reduce your appetite before each meal. 
       Oh, and if you're anxous about your skin, the best advice you could ever have is to never EVER use a magnifying mirror - at least not until age and failing eye-sight have their way. By that time you a) won't care about those blackheads anymore and b) be unable spot them even if you did!      
Celebrate your differences
       When examining your other supposed imperfections, ask yourself, are they real or is it just your own jaundiced view? Could that interesting dimple, crease or crookedness actually enhance your looks? Take your favourite celebrity, somebody whose looks you admire. Are they really perfect, or is their attractiveness due to an unusual or prominent feature? Perhaps one they hated when younger? The fact is - a perfect face with total symmetry and features in precise proportion is extremely rare. And (whisper it!) rather plain.  Your average forty-year-old may seem decrepit but often it’s the expression in their face that makes it attractive, whereas somebody the same age who’s had every wrinkle smoothed with surgery and fillers not only looks blank, but weird and scary. 
       Above all don’t let the world squeeze you into its mould. The fashion, beauty and marketing industry would love us all to follow their dictates, to wear their labels and smother our faces with their products. But what may suit Selena Gomez (or Justin or Harry) may look ridiculous on you. So what if your peers are following the trends? You're not a clone, you're an individual with your own specific tastes. And if they criticize your appearance, analyse why. Are they trying to be helpful or just wanting to put you down? Chances are, though, most of your contemporaries friends are too busy agonising over their own shortcomings to notice anyone else's. 
       Remember too that hurtful comments are often caused by spite or envy. At school, a young girl was told she looked like a duck because of the shape of her mouth. She grew up to be a stunningly beautiful actress, famous for her enviable pout!  Ironically, it’s the very things you may now dislike about yourself that could one day be your greatest assets. So learn to like what you see. Be comfortable in your skin. Celebrate your differences. Concentrate on the person inside and let your own lovable nature take care of the rest! 
       That’s what real beauty is all about.


  1. I felt like you were writing about me! I have always been too critical of myself, and yet when I look at old pictures, I think, "I'm so pretty. Why couldn't I see that?"

  2. It's so funny looking at photos of myself when I was in my twenties,I was slim and thought I was fat,I wish I could go back to that time and just really enjoy myself as I was. These days looking in a magnifying mirror which I need to do to put any make up on is the worst part of the day.

  3. I remember as a teen, someone making an off-color remark about my full lips. It took me until my late twenties before I started to not feel self-conscious and actually saw my lips as a great feature (no collagen needed!). Now in my late forties, my full lips give me a very youthful look (and my husband of 18 years loves them!)