Coping with Changes in Body Image


Not So Happy About What you See in the Mirror?   The image makeover begins with your self-image! 

Like a lot of people facing medical treatment, clients I’ll call Jon and Christie are not feeling so great about their appearance. 

Jon gets right to the point: “It’s getting too warm outside to hide this belly under a baggy sweater, and I’m not feeling so great about showing it off.” 

Christie is suffering from a rash on her face, and is trying to hide under a floppy hat.  “Don’t even think about trying to tell me that beauty is only skin deep!”  

Who doesn’t want to present a perfect face – and body – to the world?  The media constantly surrounds us with images of physical beauty, but the plain truth is that our family genes walk hand-in-hand with the aging process, and that combination gets very few of us a modeling contract. 

The reality is that the results of surgery, treatments like chemotherapy, and the effects of chronic conditions like HIV can also impact how we look.  This can be a hit to your self- confidence, and result in depression and isolation.    

But the best makeover begins not with your face but what’s inside – your expectations and beliefs. 

Start with accepting that each of us has our own look… and our own imperfections.    

Throw away those images of absolute gorgeousness.  Take the pressure off yourself by accepting that you can be an attractive person, inside and out, without living up to an unrealistic expectation of perfection. 

Take a look inside, starting with the attitude that you project. 

Have you ever found yourself wanting to avoid – or, on the other hand, being attracted to – someone for a reason that you couldn’t quite put your finger on?  People who stay stuck in disappointment, anger, and self-criticism seem to wear a sign that says, “Issues.  Stay away.”  On the other hand, those who are compassionate, generous, and interested in the world, radiate energy that draws others toward them.  Developing a more positive attitude is within your grasp, it just takes some work. 

Accept that you are more than the sum of your ‘hotness.’ 

Sure, who doesn’t want to walk down the street and be noticed, if not adored?  But beauty is a fleeting thing for even the most beautiful, and at some point life has to be more than that what we see reflected in the bathroom mirror.  Think about the people in your life who love you and ask yourself what qualities you have that keep you in their lives.  Make a list of the qualities that you most value about yourself.  Review it when you need an antidote to a negative body image.    

Get support from people who care about who are you on the inside.

Surround yourself with people who love you for who you are.  Look to your family and friends for support and validation for the unique individual that you are.  Consider checking out a support group with people who are having similar experiences with medical treatment.  And consider talking to a counselor about how your condition is affecting your self-image, and get some help in coping with the changes. 

Find out what you can do, beginning with focusing on fitness. 

If you are not sure how you condition or its treatment might be affecting your appearance, have a talk with your doctor.  Explore your options, including lifestyle changes, diet, and exercise.  Don’t forget that taking charge of your health, and feeling your best, is a big confidence booster.    

Make the resolution to radiate your own, unique personal best, inside and out.