Psychologists use the term ‘body image’ to describe our internalized sense of what we look like. This can be thought of as a mental representation or map of our body, against which we judge our external appearance. For most of us, there is a relatively good match between what we think we look like (subjective appearance) and how we appear to other people (objective appearance).
Dr. Sanam Hafeez is a Manhattan neuropsychologist. She says that, “To some extent our body image is idealized (based on how we would like to look). It is also based on a mirror image of our actual appearance. Other people see animated or moving images, whereas we view our own image mainly through photographs or mirrors where our expression is still. Body image also changes as we get older.” As a woman Dr. Hafeez understands the perils that gals fall into in our Instagram, Facebook and Photoshop society.
The following are some tips from Dr. Hafeez on how to love yourself more.
Forget the diet hype.
People who constantly diet have a higher risk of developing eating disorders, are more likely to binge eat and cause a domino effect of physical and mental health issues that include depression, irritability, anxiety, digestive problems and metabolic syndrome. Looking and feeling good are common sense. Eating right, regular exercise and sleeping are your weight control keys to success!
Put body image in perspective.
Instead of spending so much time obsessing over your outer self – consider focusing your attention on education, hobbies and socializing with your friends. Keeping your mind engaged will help you notice others with the same interests. Working to get fit and healthy is an admirable goal but it should never consume your life.
Know your body and accept it.
Perhaps you inherited your mother’s larger hips or your father’s height and broad shoulders. Our genetics are a strange cocktail that are unique to every person and learning to love your body is the first step in working with your particular body size and shape. Having the same size and weight goals of a person six inches shorter or taller than you is unrealistic and setting yourself up for failure. You may be the same height as a friend who is a perfect size six but may have a much larger build. Don’t diet to fit anyone else’s expectations. It is YOUR body, YOUR health and you are the only one who has the right to dictate what is “right” for you.
Celebrities are not “average” people!
Remember that most celebrities are paid based on how they look on camera. They have an entire team of people who make sure they eat right, exercise and take care of their skin and hair. When they become pregnant or go through a tough time, they have a team of people who helps them drop the weight fast and get back to “camera weight” without the distractions the average person has. Many celebrities have spoken out about suffering for years with eating disorders, emotional problems and drug addiction to maintain their public image.
Focus on what you have the power to change.
Rather than spending your energy on wishing you were taller, redirect your focus on something you can change, like toning up with a yoga or Pilates class, or honing one of your talents. Then celebrate with a new handbag.
Surround yourself with beauty.
Creating a beautiful environment at home or in your work space will provide a greater sensual experience, which is what we all crave. Keep fresh flowers on your desk or table, add some silk pillows to your sofa, play your favorite music while cooking dinner, and drink mineral water out of a nice wine glass!
Ask for help if you need it. Surround yourself with positive people who lift you up – who contribute to your happiness – and look to them when you falter in your goals. Whether you need help sticking to a healthy eating plan, a buddy to workout with, a personal trainer to show you how to do the exercise that is right for you or someone to discuss emotional issues with – ask.
About the author
Dr. Sanam Hafeez is a New York City based Neuropsychologist and School Psychologist. She is also the founder and director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. She is currently a teaching faculty member at Columbia University.
Dr. Hafeez’s provides neuropsychological educational and developmental evaluations in her practice. She also works with children and adults who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, autism, attention and memory problems, trauma and brain injury, abuse, childhood development and psychopathology (bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc.…) In addition, Dr. Hafeez serves as a medical expert and expert witness by providing full evaluations and witness testimony to law firms and courts.