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Being Critical of Appearance

Not everyone feels the same way about their appearance. Some people could care less what they wear and how they look. They’re too busy with other things to fuss about clothes, have low self-esteem, or are depressed and lack the interest or energy to make a big deal about appearance. Other people are obsessed with how they look—striving for a perfect body, spending oodles of time and money on the right clothes, unable to leave the house without taking their appearance into account. Some of these people, as well, may suffer from low self-esteem and only feel good about themselves when they think they look their best. In the middle of the continuum are people who have a reasonable pride in appearance, but don’t go overboard .

Much of attitude about appearance comes from what we learned in childhood. Think about how your parents viewed their looks. If you had a least one parent to whom looks meant everything, it wouldn’t be surprising if you shared that attitude, especially if your parent was critical of themselves and of you. If you were scrutinized every time you went out the door, you may have learned to focus on your clothes, hair, and body to avoid critical remarks. Or, this kind of parent might have made you rebel so that now you reject putting attention on appearance and pointedly look as if you don’t give a hoot.

If you had a parent overfocused on appearance, you might think that everyone is. Perhaps your parent regularly made judgmental comments about how others looked and dressed leading you to believe that everyone has a strong interest in how other people look. You may fuss over how you dress and what your body looks like because you expect that others will judge you (harshly) the way you judge them. However, people might fail to notice what you look like because it’s not something they’re interested in or learned to put a attention on. Or they might register how you look without judging you for it. Whereas you might see every tiny flaw in your physical presentation, they might not notice if you were wearing two different shoes.

Think about how you judge your appearance and that of other people. Are looks more important to you than other aspects of yourself? Do you assume that they’re important to other people as well? If you are critical of how others look, do you expect that they are making the same judgments about your appearance? Work on being less judgmental of how other people look and dress and it will help you relax in how you view your own appearance. I’m not saying that appearance is not important in this world, but I am convinced that being overly focused on looks only exacerbates eating problems.