We all grew up hearing about the importance of not judging a book by its cover. But we also grew up in a world where people’s looks have great importance. If we completely ignore our appearance, without ever thinking about what we wear, we are likely to be seen as eccentric or strange. However, we have a choice in terms of how much energy to spend on our appearance. We should try to live according to our values.
Nichole Wood-Barcalow, an Ohio psychologist who treats patients with eating and body image problems and who is the co-author of the Positive Body Image Workbook (2021), suggests that we should take some time to consider what, exactly, it is. that we value. You can start by thinking about what you hope to accomplish in your life. Perhaps your goal is career success, or perhaps you want to focus on your relationships with others. Consider what you want others to value about you. Are you a trusted friend or coworker? Is it fun to be with you?
Appreciation of beauty or adoration of others can be components of our value system. However, perhaps we value compassion, diversity and equality more? Although improvements have been made recently, the beauty and fashion industries have rarely promoted images and advertisements that encompass people of different shapes, sizes, colors, and skill states. It is worth considering how far we want to follow the example of the industries that devalue many of us. Furthermore, the people we care about and enjoy are unlikely to be in our lives because of their physical appearance; we experience its beauty in various ways.
Living our values can mean embracing our own body and that of others as they are. This could start with the appreciation that some people naturally have relatively small bodies and some naturally have larger bodies; People’s body size is not necessarily a direct indication of their habits or health. In other words, we all have a natural body size that is likely to surround us when we are properly nourishing ourselves and engaging in a healthy amount of physical activity. Not everyone will be thin, even if they maintain healthy habits.
Psychologist Renee Engeln in Illinois refers to our cultural obsession with our appearance as a “beauty disease”. She suggests that the problem is when we care about our appearance more than other possibly more important aspects of our lives. If we spend too much time and mental energy concentrating on our appearance, we may have less time and energy for hobbies, friends, or family.