Beauty and the Beast

Beauty is only skin deep, they say. But how “only” is “only”?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say. Yet, many beholders seem to agree with each other. But so what? Who cares? Why should looks matter?

Many people whose bodies look less than perfect seem happy and confident. Many others are unhappy with their bodies, although they look fine.

If I sound confused, it’s because I am. I’ve always been happy with my body. When I was younger, I knew that men were attracted to my body, but later turned off by my personality, or apparent lack of it. My “issues” have never been affected by my body or my view of it.

The cause of my recent reflections on body image is an email I received from J, someone I’ve known for a long time. J read my blog and wondered how much social anxiety is affected by body image. J, it transpires, has often refrained from taking part in conversations because of J’s body image, i.e. being fat.

I was stunned by this email for two reasons, and had to reread it to make sure this is really what it said. My first reaction was, “But J isn’t fat and never has been!” Also, I’ve always thought of J as outgoing and talkative. How could I have failed to notice? Well, maybe because I’ve always seen J in friendly, non-threatening situations – situations in which even I have talked a fair amount. And maybe I was too wrapped up in my own problems, although I don’t think that’s true – I tend to be a good observer.

I looked up BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder). As far as I know, the definition is too strong for J. But I do know that some sufferers of social anxiety also suffer from BDD, and poor body image has caused them to withdraw from society.

It’s hard for me to understand all this, just as it’s hard for some to understand social anxiety. I believe that it’s a big problem, but don’t really understand why. Why do some people have poor images of their bodies and why should this affect their participation in society?

The other reason why I was stunned by the email is a topic for another post.