'My dissatisfaction with my appearance troubled me for years...'

14 May 2019

The theme of Mental Health Awareness week is Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies. In this blog, Barefoot MD, Kim Morgan talks openly about how her appearance troubled her for much of her life and how she is now embracing her body image. 

My dissatisfaction with my appearance troubled me for years.  My mum kept a letter I had written to her when I was seven, “If you had married someone else, I wouldn’t look like this and I would be happy.”  By the way, I had a wonderful dad and I loved him very much…as a child and teenager I just didn’t like the very curly hair, which I had inherited from him.

As I got older, I noticed something.  When I looked back at old photos of myself, I thought I looked great!  Why had I spent so many years feeling unhappy about my appearance?  Why did it take me decades to realise that I actually looked rather lovely when I was young?

I know now that 60 + years of life and its joys and tragedies cements for us what really matters…love, kindness, health, respect, tolerance and acceptance - of self, others and the things you can and can’t change.

But it took me a long time to get here.  If you don’t want to wait until you are in your sixties to love and appreciate yourself inside and out, here are some reflections for you:

  • External events or circumstances make less difference to our happiness than we imagine they do.  Our attitude determines our happiness.  Research on lottery winners shows that they are not necessarily happier as a result of their increased wealth.  Studies of people who have experienced personal loss or trauma reveal that they are not necessarily unhappier as a result of their traumatic life event.
  • Ensure you have lots of different sources of self-esteem.  Don’t put all your self-esteem eggs in one basket.  Start to notice and appreciate all the ways in which you have value.  Appreciate your unique and individual strengths and qualities.
  • Expose yourself to new challenges and face up to fears – it will increase your immunity and resilience and it will expand your thinking.
  • Rumination is the tendency to think a lot about feelings without doing anything about them, to obsess about things or endlessly analyse and criticize an aspect of ourselves.  If you are a ruminator, limit your rumination time.  Allow yourself 5 or 10 minutes, once or twice each day in which you can do all your ruminating.  
  • Be as kind, generous and forgiving about yourself and your imperfections as you would be to a close friend.  Learn to see yourself with (just slightly) rose coloured specs!
  • Play on your strengths and don’t advertise to others what you don’t like about yourself.
  • Do an audit of the people in your life.  Don’t waste a moment with people who don’t love and appreciate you for who you are – with all your foibles and idiosyncrasies.  Spend time with people who treat you with love, generosity and respect and people who show you your greatness.  Make a list of the drains and the radiators in your life and seek out the radiators.
  • Imagine yourself as an elderly person in your 80s or 90s, looking back at your younger self.   How would you describe the person you are looking at - in their teens, twenties, thirties etc.  What is beautiful about this person at all the different stages of their life?

You can find more information on this years Mental Health Awareness Week on the Mental Health Foundation's website: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/