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Why Do We Care What People Think of Our Appearance?


I get having concerns about what people think of you. Mine have lessened with age, but I swear I’ll be heading into the cremation oven—still wondering, “Do I look alright?” Self-consciousness for me is second nature coming from very looks conscious parents. 

Now that we’re no longer children, though, it’s time to move toward becoming more comfortable with how we look. One way to do that is to understand that our discomfort is not based in the past. There are actually folks out there who weren’t made to feel bad about their particular hair/thighs/stomach/nose/chin/etc. and are walking around today not thinking much, if at all, about these body parts. Or maybe their whole family was higher weight and no one made a big deal about it.

Though we can’t restart our lives in another family that doesn’t have “bad-body” issues, we can make changes in the present by paying attention to our thoughts and noticing that those that carry shame about our appearance have no purpose now. 

Are people judged for being higher weight in this society? Of course. Do they lose out on dates, jobs and promotions and other things because of it? Absolutely. But that’s because of our sick society stigmatizing large people, not because of the people or their size. And that’s what you need to keep telling yourself: There’s nothing wrong with me, but there’s something wrong with people who judge me for my weight.

We’re afraid of what people think even when we don’t get to hear what that is. We only know what we imagine they’ll think. And where is that coming from? Not their minds but ours! Our thoughts, not theirs, are hurting us. We’re also afraid of what they might say about us because in this openly hateful, shaming, uncivil culture, people feel free to say whatever comes into their dumbs heads no matter how rude or hurtful it might be. 

So, okay, someone says something unkind about your weight. Feel free to say something back, hopefully appropriately telling them how much they hurt you or that you don’t care what they think. They might or might not care. Who cares if they care? You could even say something hurtful back to them, though I’m not encouraging doing so.

You only feel like a victim if you hate your own body and allow yourself to feel powerless. When someone shames you and you don’t share the same beliefs about yourself as they do, you don’t feel hurt. You may feel sorry for or angry at them, but you don’t feel shame or internalize their negative comment because they’re the ones with the problem, not you!