Feeling unattractive or insecure about your appearance can be brutal. I’m talking specifically about things such as anorexia or body dysmorphic disorder, which is where you can become fixated on some perceived flaw and develop unhealthy thoughts.
We live in a beauty-obsessed culture. People are spending more money on plastic surgery than ever before. Country music singer Dolly Parton has had plastic surgery over the years, and she once said, “If I see something saggin’, baggin’, or draggin’, I’m going to get it nipped, tucked, or sucked.”
That’s a funny quote, but being unhappy with your appearance is no laughing matter. Some people can become so distraught over the way they look that it can lead to mental health issues or even suicide, and body dysmorphia affects both men and women.
Men can begin to obsess about something such as:
- Height (too short)
- Not being muscular enough (“bigorexia”)
- Genital size (too small)
- Hair loss
Women can begin to obsess about things such as:
- Weight (too fat)
- Breast size/body shape
- Genital appearance
And anyone can become self-conscious over a big nose, a scar, or some other “imperfection.”
My Experience with Body Dysmorphia
I have experienced this self-destructive pattern of obsessing over flaws.
When I was younger, people would sometimes say to me, “Wow, you have really big ears,” or they’d tease me by calling me “Dumbo.” By age five, your ears reach the approximate size they’ll be when you’re an adult. So imagine these ears on a younger kid’s head (see video for pictures)!
I didn’t mind being teased when I was younger, but as I became interested in girls, I began to analyze why some girls didn’t like me. I thought to myself, “People tell me I have big ears, so that must be the reason.”
I began to obsess about my ears. I got out my yearbook one day, and I took a ruler and compared my ears to the other guys’ ears. They were bigger.
I was horrified. I thought, “Wow, I must look like a big-eared freak to some of these girls!”
Anytime I looked at a picture of myself, I hated the way I looked. I’d take my thumbs and cover my ears, and wonder what I’d look like with smaller ears.
When I walked past a mirror, I’d stop and push my ears back with my fingers, wishing that they were smaller and closer to my head.
I’d look at myself with disgust and think, “I’m so ugly. What sane girl would want to be with a guy with huge ears? Even if I could get the girl I wanted, she’d be settling for me or just dating me out of pity.”
People would tell me, “You look fine. Your ears aren’t that big. You’re handsome.” But it didn’t faze me. I hated the way I looked.
It was as if I had created an idealized version of the way I wanted to look in my mind, and I refused to accept myself until my appearance matched that idealized version of self.
Maybe some of you feel insecure about your appearance or body. I’m going to share some tips on how I overcame this issue.
1: Realize that Even Some of the Most “Attractive” People Feel Ugly
If you feel ugly, you’re not alone. Here’s a quote from one celebrity:
“When I look in the mirror, I throw up…I never saw perfection.”
Want to guess who said that? Arnold Schwarzenegger, the hero of many bodybuilders, said that in an interview with a magazine. He went on to talk about how he was always so critical of himself. He said, “I’d look in the mirror after I won one Mr. Olympia after another and think, ‘How did this pile of s— win?’”
In 2018, Bridget Malcolm, a Victoria’s Secret model, published an article on her blog, detailing her struggles with body dysmorphia. She indicated that this is a common problem among the world’s top models, writing, “I have had countless conversations with fellow models, all of whom are tiny, [yet] they call themselves fat.”
Here’s a sad irony in life: many times, a girl will look at some model and think to herself, “If only I looked like that girl, then I would be pretty. Then I would be happy.”
Meanwhile, that same model might spend her nights over a toilet, vomiting up her food as she weeps, thinking, “If only I could lose 10 more pounds, then I would be pretty. Then I would be happy.”
Why do we torture ourselves so much? That’s why we should never envy another person.
2. Accept the “Flaws” You Can’t Change
It can be hard to accept your so-called flaws, but you must do it if you want to overcome body dysmorphia. I remember hearing a story about Patrick Stewart, the bald actor who played Professor Xavier in the X-Men movies and Captain Picard in Star Trek.
He began losing his hair around age 18. It all happened within the course of a few months, and he was extremely self-conscious about his rapid hair loss, so he wore a comb over in an attempt to mask it.
Patrick’s friend had apparently noticed this, and he invited Patrick to his house for dinner. After eating, the friend grabbed Patrick from behind and held him down while the friend’s girlfriend cut off the comb over.
He then got in front of Patrick and said, “Now you be yourself; no more hiding.”
It was hard for him to accept his baldness at first, but he finally did. Now, he’s an accomplished actor, and many women think that he’s a very attractive man.
We can have the tendency to create an idealized version of the way we want to look, and we can reject ourselves until we meet that impossible standard that we created in our minds. When we do that, it’s like trying to find the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. We’ll never find it, and we’ll never be happy.
You can’t live like that, friends. You must embrace the so-called flaws that you can’t reasonably change.
3: Identify Irrational Thoughts
In the same way that a virus can cause a healthy computer to malfunction, an irrational thought can cause your brain to malfunction. You can begin to believe things that aren’t true. You can take a small flaw and magnify it many times bigger than its actual size.
People with body dysmorphia often develop irrational thoughts that are based on a false premise, a false conclusion, or both.
Using myself as an example, my premise was that I had big ears. It was objectively true that my ears were larger than average, but I magnified them in my mind and began to view them in an irrational way, which was false.
My conclusion was also false. I concluded that all girls would find me unattractive.
You may be struggling with anorexia. You may look in the mirror and think that you’re fat, when in reality, you look great. According to objective measures such as BMI, you might be within a healthy weight range. Once you know that you’re objectively at a healthy weight, you can recognize that your subjective thoughts are irrational and untrue.
You might need a loved one or a counselor to help you identify irrational thoughts or fears that you’ve developed, but you must locate your irrational thought patterns.
4. Correct Irrational Thoughts
Once you’ve identified negative, irrational thoughts, you must begin replacing them with rational, positive thoughts.
For example, some of you might think to yourselves: “I have a big nose. No one will ever find me attractive.” That is false! Replace that negative thought with one like this: “I have qualities that many people will find attractive. I have value as a person. There are people who will love me and accept me.” Then mention a few positive features about your appearance.
You can’t always help it when a negative thought enters your mind, but you can control whether you’ll dwell on that thought. Controlling your thought life is a huge step to overcoming self-destructive behaviors.
The Bible speaks of the importance of controlling our thoughts:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8, KJV).
This also includes staring at yourself in the mirror or over-analyzing pictures. When you find yourself doing that, force yourself to do chores, read a book, watch a video, or some other task to distract your mind. Stop analyzing your appearance, and stop those negative thoughts!
You might need to avoid TV shows or vloggers who focus excessively on beauty and superficial things, especially if watching them keeps you focused on your appearance.
5: Learn to Handle Rejection
As you begin to overcome your insecurities, you might have a negative experience that causes you to regress. For example, maybe a guy’s 5’6, and he starts to feel comfortable with his height. But then someone says, “You’re short.” Or a girl rejects him due to his height.
That can be crushing.
However, you need to remember that people are attracted to different things:
- Some people are attracted to intelligence (sapiosexuals).
- Some people are attracted to power or money.
- Some people are attracted to humor.
- Some people care a lot more about how you make them feel, rather than your height or appearance.
- Some people are attracted to physical beauty, but even that is highly subjective.
We all find different things attractive. Some people will think you’re attractive, and some people won’t.
And that’s okay.
If you’re a guy who is 5’6”, forget about the girls who think you’re too short. There are girls who won’t care about your height.
Some girls think that beards are gross. Guess what? My wife is crazy about my beard. There are people who will find things about you attractive. Focus on those people, and ignore the ones who don’t find you attractive.
6. Stop Relying on Your Own Efforts, and Start Trusting in God
Throughout the Bible, you’ll notice this phrase: “God gave him favor.”
For example, when Joseph was in prison, the Bible reads: “But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (Genesis 39:21, KJV).
The same thing happened with Daniel: “Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs” (Daniel 1:9).
In the Book of Esther, the king was looking for a new wife. He gathered the most beautiful women in the land in his search for a new Queen. But notice what God did with Esther:
“And Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her” (Esther 2:15, KJV).
“And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti” (Esther 2:17, KJV).
Eventually, I began to realize that I didn’t have to meet the idealized version of self that I had created in my mind in order for people to accept me. God already accepted me and loved me. And I realized that God can give me favor with other people.
And that’s a very powerful and freeing thought once you fully understand it.
7. If You Need Help, Seek Help
If you can’t overcome this issue on your own, please seek help, especially if you are neglecting your health or entertaining suicidal thoughts. Don’t agonize over your appearance.
I used to struggle with this issue, so I know what this feels like. But I eventually overcame this issue. How did I do it?
- I realized that even many “attractive” people feel the same way I felt.
- I accepted that the flaws that I couldn’t change.
- I identified irrational thoughts in my mind.
- I corrected those irrational thoughts and replaced them with rational, positive thoughts, and I began to focus on the blessings God gave me, rather than the so-called flaws I had.
- I learned to handle rejection by realizing that people have different tastes.
- I stopped trusting in my own efforts, and I began trusting in God to give me favor with people.
I learned that I didn’t need to be perfect to attract women. I’m married to a gorgeous woman. I didn’t need physical perfection to be successful. I didn’t need perfection to be happy in life.
And when I learned that, I was able to exude a sense of confidence, which allowed my positive traits to shine through. I developed a sense of peace.