Have you ever looked at a photograph of yourself and hated it?
If you’re nodding your head in agreement, you’ll be like the majority of us who look at ourselves in photos and notice the parts of our face or body that we’re not very happy with. “Oh, I look so old … so fat … look at size of my nose … my hips …. my hair … my wrinkles …”. The list goes on.
The skin product brand Dove UK, as part of their Self-Esteem project, produced statistics that young girls take on average 12 minutes to perfect their selfie before they are happy enough to post it on social media. It starts young and, in my experience as a therapist and photographer, it doesn’t get much better as we grow older. Often, when I’m working with clients, they will share their insecurities with me and I spend time reassuring them about the photoshoot process.
One of the reasons why we do this is that we have an in-build tendency to focus more on negative experiences than positive ones, and to remember more insults than praise. This tendency is called negativity bias. It is based on an evolutionary adaptation. We react to bad or dangerous things quicker and more persistently than to good things. This serves us well when we need to be quickly aware of potential danger, but when it’s about our self-esteem and body image, it can have a devastating impact.
Sound familiar? Someone makes a comment about your appearance that’s not very nice, and you listen to them more than the others who say that you look nice? It might make you feel bad. It might ruin your day. It might become hard-wired into your belief system so that you get stuck in negative repetitive thinking which can affect your self-esteem and body image.
Dealing with Negativity Bias
It might not be as simple as reciting positive statements to counteract the negative ones that are demanding urgent attention. And worrying about them or ignoring them won’t make them go away either.
The first step is not to fight it – but to understand it. Don’t trivialize those concerns but show yourself some compassion to help yourself understand and cope with the effects of negativity bias. From there, it is an easier step to put negative thoughts into perspective, and to focus on the more positive aspects of your life and experiences.
The stretch marks on your stomach are a sign that your baby grew inside your body and you nurtured new growth. The expression lines on your face show the experience and wisdom that you have gained throughout your life. Your scars are a sign of strength and survival through tough times.
By increasing self-awareness, you can start to pay more attention to the things that make you feel good, increasing self-esteem and being able to see your body image in a different way.
About the author: Sue Stradling is a Clinical Hypnotherapist, Life Coach and Photographer. Working with individuals and groups, she uses to photography as a method to help clients feel good about themselves, inside and out Suestradling.com
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