There is a Twilight Zone episode called “Eye of the Beholder.” Have you seen it? If you haven’t, I recommend you go watch. I know it is currently available on Netflix and is only about 30 minutes long. Spoilers will be happening in a moment. The show is from the 1960’s but I don’t want to ruin the episode for you if you want to watch it. I did notice there are spoilers in the photos on IMDB for the episode. Perhaps spoilers have an expiration date at least after 50 years, but still….only read on if you don’t mind spoilers or if you already know.
In the episode, a woman is seen with bandages covering her face. She has had a procedure, and this is her 11th attempt at changing her appearance. There is discussion about how hideous she is and about how this is her last attempt. She can’t have any more procedures and her only alternative is to go live in a colony with others who have this hideous disfigurement. At the end of the episode, they take the bandages off and the procedure didn’t work. We see her face and she is looks fine, actually beautiful. Then we see all the medical staff and their faces have pig noses among other facial differences.The concept is quite simple. What we find beautiful or attractive or even acceptable is all a perception. Who gets to decide what looks good? I wrote some about this back in 2013. But really…who gets to decide what is pretty or attractive? As a therapist working with body image and eating disorders, I know that for many, it feels like swimming against the tide. Society and media tell us not to be happy with our appearance. And why? One big reason is there are industries making billions relying on us working to change the way we look. Gail Dines, a professor at Wheelock College in Boston, is credited with saying,
“If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would really go out of business.”
Instead, we are faced with about 91% (varies depending on the study…I’ve seen higher) of women who are unhappy with their bodies. This study doesn’t include men, but I get a sense that the number of men unhappy with their appearance is on the rise. As a therapist, I am regularly asking clients to begin a paradigm shift with the way they view their body, as well as how they eat. We are conditioned to not trust our body when it comes to eating but instead to trust the latest diet trend. Even if we are able to make the shift away from dieting and diet mentality (which can be a HUGE undertaking), so many are still not happy with their body. A common statement made with many of my clients is something to the effect of, “I’m not happy with my size and need to change it.” And I challenge them to look underneath for the WHY instead of just automatically deciding that it needs to change.
This is just the beginning of the discussion. If you hate looking in the mirror, it is worth uncovering where these thoughts, beliefs, and feelings come from. For now, let’s try to open our minds a bit instead of digging our heels in. Gently ask, what would it be like if I was accepting of myself right here and right now? What if I was kind to myself and took care of myself, instead of judging and being hateful toward myself?