March 5th, 2013
We are not just our bodies, but how our bodies look is a vital part of who we are. A number of psychological studies have confirmed what seems almost intuitive: people whose appearances are abnormal often suffer significant psychological distress. According to this research, those who are unattractive may be less well-regarded by their peers or may experience subtle discrimination, while those who are better-looking have higher levels of self-esteem and self-confidence and may be more successful in social and business undertakings. Psychologists have found that what is most important in compromising self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves. Central to these feelings is the mind’s-eye view that the person has of himself or herself. This mental representation is called “body-image”. The image one has of oneself can be distorted, possibly a reflection of a sense of inadequacy or insecurity. Some of this insecurity can be induced by the culture that surrounds us, where unattainable ideals of male and female perfection permeate the media.
Our society places high premiums on beauty and youth, leaving most of us to feel inadequate by comparison. Many social and psychological factors contribute to a person’s self-esteem, of course, but personal appearance remains a vital part. When a person is dissatisfied with how he or she looks, changing appearance through diet, cosmetics or exercise can go a long way towards improving body image and thus towards enhancing self-esteem. If a certain aspect of appearance remains a focus of negative attention, despite changing hair style, makeup, clothing or physique, plastic surgery may be able to help.