Mental Health: Wellbeing and Happiness Series with MoNya-Mental

By Psychotherapist Mertha Mo Nyamande

This week we continue with the topic of Mental Health – and we are looking at the issue of body image.

The way we appear to ourselves and to others communicates a lot about us than the words themselves can ever express; from the hairstyles, we wear to the shoes on our feet and everything in between, including or complexion, size; how tall or short, big or small, able-bodied or disabled.

Most people do not understand this concept and think wearing clothes, hair, lashes, labels, enlargements and any make-up, have no meaning, “It’s just about looking and feeling good”.

While we are creatures of a habit, we also crave belonging, and wearing certain labels can make us feel like we belong in a certain class or group of people that we may look up to. It is like a uniform that children wear to school or adults wear to work, they set us apart from the “us and them” situation, whereby we may see ourselves as better than them, or concede to be lower than they are.

This brings about the concept of “compare and despair” that can lead to unstable moods and anxieties. Social spaces are important for feedback support, acceptance, belonging and validation, but when the society is largely depressed and of low spirits, external validation can be sought after more than internal ones for most individuals in that community.

When we place value on our internal attributes, we remain in control of how that trajectory develops than when we depend on external approval of others.

 

 

The same people that may have approved our hairstyle may disprove of the same in different circumstances or when they feel differently, which may be confusing to the recipient, thereby end up changing their appearances based on others’ perceptions.

This is not only costly on many levels but can also add on to/contribute to poor self-esteem and confidence.

Causes

Body image issues are largely about self-esteem and confidence. When we choose to imitate the hairstyle, dressing, or appearance of another, we would essentially think that we’re not good enough and would have perceived them to be somewhat superior or of a role model that we want to aspire to.

The problem with this is that these individuals may be going through their own situations, and we may not know this but still copy whatever the appearance or behaviour.

For example, shaving of hair has been associated with loss in many cultures across the world, and therefore when people start to imitate someone famous who has decided to go bold for this reason, may not understand why this may be.

This ends up with a significant portion of the population going into mourning unconsciously. Further trouble with this is whatever personality and character they have is already taken, thereby cannot be cloned for only one of them is often required for whatever their purpose would have been.

By copying another’s looks, style, and or character, one will essentially be neglecting the development of their own character, further contributing to the devaluing of their own identity.

Implications

Many people end up self-hating as they would have neglected their authentic selves for so long thereby become nauseated by its appearance and whatever emotions they would have associated it with, often triggering the unresolved traumatic experiences that created the split/divergence in the first place.

Further traumas would then cause further deviation from the self, hence the creation of psychopathology, Multiple personalities or extreme mood swings (bipolar) may also form as coping mechanisms.

 

 

The more we neglect resolving our traumatic experiences, the more vulnerable we become to further traumas thereby complicating a resolution, for traumas often layer on top of each other. Therefore, we often find Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) quite complex to treat as they usually develop upon numerous other unresolved “little T” traumas throughout life, that addressing the most recent and apparent trauma becomes more difficult and often opens up prior unresolved traumas.

The other problem with unresolved spaces is that the individuals seek to remedy or become overprotective of others’ situations neglecting theirs, where the saying “looking at a speck in one’s eye ignoring the log in own” originates.

People with unresolved traumas do not often contribute their best, as they either exert too much effort due to wanting to overcompensate and end up being frustrated or too little due to the fatigue of racing thoughts and anxiety, avoidance, flashbacks, poor sleep and appetite, and other poor coping like substance misuse; and whatever that makes them distance themselves from the traumatised individual/persona within.

 

 

So imagine those following you, would they really be following you, or they’re following someone who is a wannabe someone else? What a quandary?

Remedies and recommendations

Body image never about how one looks externally or what is worn, but what skills one has as well as how confident one carries their posture to showcase whatever work.

We are normally conceived full of energy and confidence, but somewhere along the lines, adverse experiences occur that leave us feeling inadequate, worthless, and hopeless. We then try to remedy this internal void with materials and external validation.

Normally Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are implicated, that need processing to enable an individual to continue to mend and work towards whatever is ideal for their character, which is different to everyone else’s, for we are usually in different spaces with a different understanding of our journeys at different times.

What matters is to start, for the resolve is usually a journey, a purpose on its own. Godspeed.

 

Psychotherapist Mertha Mo Nyamande @ www.i-wellbeing.weebly.com. Insightwellbeing.mo@gmail.com

 

 

 

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