Someone reached out to me a few weeks ago for advice in relation to Body Dysmorphic Disorder symptoms and it inspired me to write another blog post on this subject. I have started to become more aware of how prominent BDD is in our generation, especially when we live in such a digital world.
Prior to camera phones, people would physically have to take a camera out with them to capture moments, and even then it would be weeks, sometimes months before those photographs developed. Nowadays, every second of life is being captured and videoed. Although on one hand it’s great, our new digital world has also created a toxic environment where people are more concerned about the photographs they are taking, how the photo has come out and often, how they look in the photos, than just sitting back and enjoying the moment. All too often it takes the shine off of the experience completely.
The world is now constantly conscious about image. Speaking from experience, I can tell you Body Dysmorphic Disorder is way more than just feeling “fat” or “ugly”. It’s a completely debilitating and punishing disorder. There are times where I have been inconsolable when seeing photos or videos of myself and this the beginning of everything. If you do not gain control of those symptoms immediately as they present, it can quickly snowball into habits that “seem” to appease the anxiety, but all it is does is fuel the fire.
The only way to deal with an anxiety like this, is to start challenging every thought process you have about yourself. The Debate Technique. I first learnt to use this during counselling sessions on worksheets that you can easily find online. “I look so fat in that photo”, who else has said that to make you think it’s true? “People must think I’m so ugly” What does that mean? Does that mean you’re not lovable/kind? Does they mean they do not want to be around you?
One of the worst psychologist experiences I had was in Hong Kong where 1) I had to stand in front of a mirror with the parts of my body I hated most on show in the reflection (my arms and stomach) and 2) I had to take a photo with the parts of my body I hated most on show. In hindsight, both sessions have slowly helped my thought process, but the anxiety that flooded through me in the moment was at an all-time high.
Through the tears and shortness of breath, I had to comment on my body from head to toe… using only facts. I was not allowed to use the self-created opinions I had of myself. For example – Blonde hair, medium length, blue eyes, Caucasian skin, pink lips, navy dress etc. At the time, I felt the session was useless and I left feeling worse than when I walked in, but over time I have gradually incorporated the “facts only process” into my everyday.
It’s so important to be challenging your negative thought process when you are being self-critical. The best psychological advice I have ever received was using the “for and against” negative thoughts evidence technique. Always continue to question yourself – Do you judge people passing in the street based on how much they weigh or what they look like? Does your friends appearance define how good of a friend they are/how loveable they are? No.. So what makes you think they are doing the same to you? Try and stop self-sabotaging – It takes time but small progress each day, is progress in itself.
Looking back, I never thought I would be at a place where I am slowly starting to feel comfortable in my own skin. There will always be days where I feel insecure, but I have come on leaps and bounds by just realising, the right people love you for who you truly are, regardless of what you look like. Have the confidence to be your true unique self and that truly is the start of being comfortable in your own skin.
“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being un-apologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.”