Some of us have been taught since an early age that it’s not right for us to be the way we are. We were maybe raised by parental figures who projected, consciously or unconsciously, their own life dissatisfaction on us, making us believe that we were unworthy of their wholehearted validation and attention.
They probably also did a poor job at reinforcing our sense of being unique, or even made us feel ambiguous about them, ourselves and the world outside. They might have fed us, so we wouldn’t starve physically, but we surely grew up emotionally unnourished – we were never told how beautiful or clever we were; how worthy our life is, and how we are perfect just the way we are.
Parents, or primary caretakers, have a huge role in the way we learn to perceive and love ourselves. Their eyes are literally the first mirrors we look into. If they only reflect moodiness, anger, hate, sadness and dissatisfaction every time we look into their eyes, then we grow up conditioned to believe that we don’t embody anything good.
In other words, we grow up to believe that we are not lovable, and we keep that engraved in our core because we keep receiving over and over again the message that there is nothing worth loving about us.
The belief that we are not worthy of love, or that there is something wrong with us either physically or psychologically, is not always running on our conscious mind but it does affect us to a great deal. More often than not, such beliefs run in our subconscious mind and that is the first reason why it is so hard to overcome the idea that we are simply not good enough.
We become slaves of unhealthy thoughts and emotions that keep telling us the same story over and over again: we are not pretty enough, not thin enough, not sexy enough, not smart enough, not confident enough, and, therefore, we are not deserving enough of living happily with who we are.
The hard truth is that we can’t even see ourselves for who we truly are because we grew up looking into blurry mirrors. Those mirrors only gave us distorted and fragmented reflections of our body and mind. Hence, the image we have of ourselves, and which we have been judging ourselves against, is an unrealistic one. It doesn’t match with reality no matter how much we believe it to be true, and no matter how much we believe that’s what we see through our eyes.
It’s a false narrative that needs to be debunked, because the cost of not doing so is very high. The further we carry it, the more damage we do to our core and wellbeing; the more depressed and miserable we feel. I personally struggled with body dysmorphia to a point in which I would see an image in the mirror that wasn’t really there. Today I don’t struggle so much with it because I have invested in setting myself free from it.
So, how can we heal ourselves, dismantle body dysmorphia and improve our wellbeing? The way to go about it is to take baby steps and slowly start confronting the traumatic experiences that led us to believe that we are not good enough in the first place. This is safer when done with the help of a professional, because it is an overwhelming experience in itself.
Some of us will really have to question and bring to our conscious surface the emotional and even physical abuse we endured from our parents. Others will have to face strong experiences of hatred and peer rejection. Sure thing, the healing will hurt before we reach a better place within ourselves.
There is also a high probability that you will want to give up the process because you think you don’t have what it takes to handle it. It will require courage from you to confront what has been invisibly hindering and blocking you from living a happy life.
However, we will always live far from our best life, if we keep avoiding the inner work that needs to be done in order to conquest self-love and stop being slaves of everything that comes with body dysmorphia. Yes, we will find suffering whether we choose to heal or not. The only difference between these two options is that choosing the quest of self-love is to choose to eventually break free from the cycle of self-hate. The decision is, nonetheless, always up to you.
Vanessa Dias is a former psychologist who now works as an international blogger and wellbeing activist. She is the writer behind thewellbeingblogger.com, a platform through which she has been supporting people from all over the world on their journey towards happiness and wellbeing. She also offers online coaching sessions and workshops as a professional Life/Wellbeing coach and Psychology doctor.