In The Body Image Workbook: An 8-Step Program for Learning to Like Your Looks, Thomas Cash discusses 10 arguable "appearance assumptions" that lead to problems with body image:
1) Physically attractive people have it all.
2) The first thing that people will notice about me is what's wrong with my appearance.
3) One's outward physical appearance is a sign of the inner person.
4) If I could look just as I wish, my life would be much happier.
5) If people knew how I really look, they would like me less.
6) By controlling my appearance, I can control my social and emotional life.
7) My appearance is responsible for much of what has happened to me in my life.
8) I should always do whatever I can to look my best.
9) The media's messages makes it impossible for me to satisfied with my appearance.
10)The only way I could ever like my looks would be to change them.
How many of these statements do you endorse?
With the help of Dr. Cash, I'm available to argue them all, but for now, I'd like to focus on #s 9 and 10. I've been writing a lot lately about the media's messages and how they affect how we feel about ourselves. I think #9 is partially true, but the sticking point is the word "impossible." Difficult? Frustrating? Hard to master? YES! But, it's not impossible. Mastering #9 ultimately requires a shift from desire (to emulate Hollywood) to anger (about the unnatural portrayal of women's bodies in the media). It starts with awareness, questioning, and a healthy dose of outrage.
With regard to #10, I flash back to another therapist's question I heard years ago. If you're dissatisfied with your body, which would be easier--to lose weight or to work on your dissatisfaction? Well, clearly, if the first option were easy, you would have done it already. The second, too, may seem impossible (and likely, undesirable), from where you are. But, this is it. These are your two options.
One will last you in the long-run. One will help you pass on body-positive images to your children. One will move you from a place of self-hatred, anger, and depression, to a warmer, happier place. One will not.