I am a 19-year-old female Bachelor’s-level student. I struggle with my looks. I’m never satisfied with my body and feel insecure about how I look. I constantly compare myself to people I see online. At times, it reaches a point where I feel like I’m worthless and it directly affects my self-esteem, making me less confident about everything I do. What do I do? -S
Answer by Kapil Sharma, Counseling psychologist
You may be suffering from body dysmorphic disorder, which can be a result of certain childhood experiences, and that in turn can be amplified on social media.
At first, it is important to recognize what triggered your insecurity towards your body. For instance, it can be peer-bullying in school, unnecessary social judgment, relationship issues, emotional conflict during childhood, or something else. Those experiences can later be enhanced by the concept of the ‘perfect’ that we see in magazines and social media. The problem is that you start seeking validation inside that small small circle.
We need to focus on the root cause. What led you not to accept yourself and your body? At what point in your life did that happen? How did it affect you back then? How is it affecting you right now? Healing old wounds will be hard but it is what will help you recognize yourself and what your body and your mind needed back then, and what you can give it now to feel better about yourself.
Second, you are growing and you will soon be stepping into your early adulthood. Try educating yourself about the psychological process of getting through your struggle. Try to stay away from what makes you insecure and try to notice, over time, what difference it makes on how you feel. Make peace with what triggers you. Social media validation is an endless cycle and one way to get out of that cycle is to seek validation with yourself and only yourself.
Group therapy is another great option. Having a conversation with other people who go through similar feelings, listening to each other’s stories, can make things easier and contribute to self-love and acceptance.
Lastly, see a physician if you feel like it. Learn about your body, what it’s going through. If there is something you can do to make any of your health problems better, devote yourself to that. It will signal that you prioritize—and can take care of—yourself.
If there is a mental health issue you struggle with, email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will get your query answered by a trained psychiatrist/psycho-social counselor in the upcoming issue.