When we are unhappy with our looks the temptation is to hide. We put on baggy clothes or wear a lot of dark (supposedly slimming) colors. We slump our shoulders, sink into our chairs and keep our eyes downcast. We feel embarrassed and ashamed of our looks so we neglect our bodies, withdraw as much as possible and silently berate ourselves. How often have you thought to yourself, “Ugh, you look terrible today.”? “Why did you over indulge in that _________ (chocolate cake, Fettuccini Alfredo, ice cream)? Now you look fat and bloated.” “I’m just going to wear sweatpants every day because I can’t fit my fat butt into anything else.”
I have a client who was a great example of this phenomenon of hiding and punishing self when feeling less than your best. When she first came to see me she was struggling with some major decisions in her life. She had put on about 20 pounds and was very unhappy in her relationship. She wore dark, huge shirts, baggy jeans or sweats and a hat to every session. She sat with her shoulders hunched and usually kept her eyes downcast. She gave off the impression that she wanted to blend into the furniture. After meeting a few times and discussing her self confidence, we didn’t meet for about a month and in that time she decided to end her relationship. The decision made her feel great about herself. The next time I saw her she wore makeup, she was dressed in a bright, fitted sweater and jeans with stylish boots. She had her hair down and her head held high. I almost didn’t recognize her!
The past few weeks I have had a terrible cold. It is really hard to feel attractive when your nose is red, your eyes are watery, your lips are chapped and you can’t breathe through your nose. My inclination was to ditch the makeup, throw my hair up into a pony tail, put on my sweats and groan every time I looked in the mirror. I had to force myself to take extra special care of myself-drinking my green juice, eating hot soup, putting some cover-up on my red nose, and gently brushing my hair.
We think that by scolding ourselves we will be motivated to change. I don’t know about you but if someone came up to me and said, “You look like a bloated cow today.” I seriously doubt my response would be to thank them and then run off to exercise and eat well. For some reason though, we can’t grasp the concept that cruelty will not inspire us to change.
When we feel badly is when we need the most love. We need to be pampered and nurtured. Hiding behind unattractive clothing and yelling at ourselves for being less than perfect will only make us feel worse. Even if you are heavier than you’d like you need to wear clothes that make you feel great. When you feel great you take better care of yourself.
An unknown author said it best, “You can’t punish yourself into change. You can’t whip yourself into shape. But you can love yourself into well-being.”