Recently I have been talking to a lot of clients with body image issues, which of course is related to self esteem in general. The first thing I tell my clients is this: There is a difference between the way other people see you and the way you see yourself. When you look in the mirror, the image you see is NOT what other people see. This is true for everyone, because we are our own worst critics, in every way, including our appearance. It is important to know that on a “bad” day, when we look in the mirror and hate what we see, no one else is going to see us quite that badly. Even when people comment on our appearance, saying something like, “You look tired”, they still don’t see you as horribly as you think. When you look in the mirror and you feel confident and cute, that’s more likely how people see you on a regular basis.
The next important thing to realize is that how people see you is also different based on how well they know you and how well they get along with you. The reality is, that when we work with a person and see him/her on a regular basis, we see them differently. We get familiar with their norm, and we notice if they look different or special. We begin to see beauty in people that perhaps we wouldn’t have noticed had we just passed them on the street. The opposite is also true. A person that we would pick out of a crowd for being gorgeous, loses that flare after we have known him/her for a long time. Anyone that we are initially attracted to stops appearing as gorgeous once we know his/her flaws. If this were not true, models would not have trouble dating, celebrities would not get cheated on, etc. Okay, so to review what we have said so far, we have two concepts here: 1. People see us differently than we see ourselves, 2. People see us as more or less attractive based on how well we know them. I worked with a male once who told me that every female has something attractive about her. I have heard several comedians say similar things. And this does not only apply to women!
One of the reasons that we as people are so self conscious about our appearance is that we naturally believe that if we are not attractive enough physically we cannot attract a partner. This is automatic in us it seems, but it is FALSE. If this were true, you would never see a person you deem unattractive with a partner. When I was in high school I became close with a guy who was less than perfect looking, yet always seemed to date attractive women. He taught me a lot. He said, “Any guy can have any girl, he just needs to spend enough time with her.” Now, this isn’t entirely true, but the underlying concept is true. If someone takes an interest in another person and spends enough time displaying that and being kind, it often makes him/her more attractive. A few years ago I was working with a very charming teenage boy who told me that he is very confident with women even though he knew he was not the most attractive of his peers. He explained that he spends time listening to them, paying attentive to them, and being respectful and kind to them, and he does very well in the dating realm. I thought, “This is a very socially intelligent kid!”In general, people do not feel that others truly listen to them and care about what they are saying or have going on. Everyone enjoys being listened to and feeling important to others. Being able to attend to another person in a truly caring, non-pressured way, makes a person, any gender, more attractive.
I made the acquaintance of a guy who did not treat women well, but he was able to attract them initially by complimenting them. He told me, and I listened, that even the most beautiful people do not get told that they are beautiful often. He made it his goal to tell even those “out of his league” that they were attractive. It didn’t work for him all the time, but it worked better than he expected. The message here is two fold: the first piece is that even the people we would assume should know they are attractive, don’t always see themselves that way. If we know that MOST people are insecure about their looks, that should give us at least a small sense of equality. You aren’t the only one who questions your appearance. The second piece of this is that expressing your attraction genuinely, and tactfully of course, is always met with kindness and sometimes, even more. There is no losing when it comes to being complimentary. At minimum, you contributed to making someone feel good for a moment, and maximum, it may get you in the door with a potential partner. We typically don’t take this chance for fear of rejection, but if we are giving the compliment with no pressure, there is little room for that unless that person has a problem (which would be unrelated to YOU).
The examples I gave were of things heterosexual men have said/done; however, this information applies to people in general- gay, straight, questioning, doesn’t matter. We all have dislikes regarding our appearance and question where were stand in this world. Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber just released a song that says, “Don’t think I fit in at this party…I always feel like I’m nobody.” It’s just a song, but both of those guys have talked about social anxiety in interviews. Even celebrities feel insecure and feel like they don’t fit in. Society puts a lot of pressure on us and doesn’t do a good job of building our confidence. BUT we know that confidence, even fake confidence, is more attractive than anything. People like people who are confident, kind, listen, and compliment. So put on your “acting as if” and at least pretend to like yourself, and what you attract will help build that confidence genuinely. Be kind. Smile. Take time and listen. Tell the hottie they look nice. Be vulnerable and genuine. Spend time. That’s the stuff relationships are made of…that’s the stuff that really matters…not weight, height, bone structure, or hair…
Hopefully this education and insight will help boost your confidence at least for a moment. You should work out and care for yourself so that you can be the best you, but even if you don’t, or you aren’t perfect at it, it doesn’t matter. You can still find a partner and be happy. My grandmother used to say, “There’s someone for everyone”, and in the today’s population of over 7 billion people, I believe she’s right.