When you look in the mirror, how does that make you feel?
We haven’t always been able to just grab a mirror and check how we look….
In the 1800’s mirrors were a symbol of your wealth and status – they could easily cost hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds and didn’t travel well… So, generally, people didn’t constantly worry or check on how they looked.
It wasn’t until the 1900’s that mirrors became readily available and affordable to the new middle classes. The new fashion for photography and family portraits – and improved electric lighting, at home and in public, also made us more aware of how we looked.
The modern cosmetics industry was growing as science replaced toxic natural substances with safer chemicals – poison ivy eye drops anyone? This growing demand was also fuelled by the new mass marketing of products on advertising hoardings and in newspapers; such as cold cream brands like Pond’s.
Alongside this, the new-fangled ‘moving pictures’ promoted the concept of an idealised beauty and magazine articles started to promote the image of the perfect life (and wife!).
Every generation since has been challenged to meet the latest ideal image presented by media, fashion houses or the cosmetics industries.
The 1960’s meant that no longer was your mum’s fashion for you, so you need your own cosmetics in a portable package to refresh on the go and look good all the time! But with fashion also freeing women from their grannies’ corsets the “ideal” young and thin body type saw hospital admissions of severe anorexia nervosa rise significantly.
The late 70’s saw a backlash against commercialism and the ‘do-it-yourself’ fashion of Punk grew – and with Punk came an attitude that an extreme image was to be celebrated so radical piercings and even safety pins as ‘body jewellery’ become desirable – but promoted by commercially minded music and fashion people this left many with scarred ears, cheeks or lips.
In the 1980’s and 90’s image became mainstream – commercial pressures saw marketing campaigns tie products to media in a way never seen before – everywhere we looked was a star promoting a new image and the perfect way to achieve it. From Jane Fonda’s ‘Feel the Burn’ work out videos forcing us to the gym or existing only on fags and coffee as super model skinny fashion – led by Calvin Klien’s “The Waif” adverts – became the must-have image.
Any wonder that in the 90’s Anorexia nervosa had the highest rate of mortality among all mental disorders?
Along with this, cosmetic procedures promoted by big stars in the media became the new ‘must have’– often even as they actually denied it. First introduced in the ‘60’s these procedures were now becoming affordable mainstream – and the pressure to conform meant more people doubted their own bodies and had pointless procedures… some with traumatic complications.
Then the internet and social media really hit.
Fast forward from the hand held mirror of the 1900’s to the unrealistic and impossible demand forced on us by TikTok, Instagram, FaceBook, Snap Chat, Twitter and more. Facetime added more pressure and less sleep into a teenage girls’ day as she got up earlier to change and re-changed whilst getting instant approval from ‘friends’ on her image – with most of them lying because they don’t want their friend to look better than them!
In 2008 the first beauty salon targeting children only opened on London’s King’s Road. In her article reporting on this Abby O’Reilly (1) asked
“And while this seems like harmless fun, how will this progress? In a few years time can we expect reports of child-only plastic surgeons, giving nose-jobs to the under-fives and boob jobs to ten-year-olds?…. … But here’s where the money is, and as long as its proving a lucrative venture people will be investing”
So is it any wonder that a UK report (2) in 2016 stated that almost a quarter of child care professionals reported seeing signs of body confidence issues in children aged 3 to 5.
So why should we care what we see when we look in the mirror – or at our latest filtered-beyond-reality social media selfie post?
Well, several studies have shown that the use of social media can be related to the signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. (3)
The point is Body image is learned not inherited. Wearing cosmetics to change our appearance is a part of development we learn from role models not something we are born with the need to do.
The anxiety and pressure caused to by the demand to meet an idealised and false image is immense. All of this pressure can lead to Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD):
5 out of every 1000 people have BDD. That is some 308,960 people based on the 2009 population estimate. (4)
And its not just girls…Biggorexia, a form of BDD, is more common in men who strive to achieve a ‘ripped’ or bulked-up image. Cosmetic surgery now offers pectoral and calf implant surgery – all with the risk of bleeding or hematoma formation, infection, poor cosmetic outcome, asymmetry, shifting or rotation of the implant, seroma, implant rupture, capsular contracture, and poor scarring (5) – with no actual increase in physical ability.
And tomorrow fashion changes – your perma-tattooed brows in this weeks style might not fit next years style…The fillers in your lips are very this season but…. And like the bloke’s calves all these procedures have complications.
And none of them address the cause of your anxiety and low self-esteem caused by the introjections forced on you from a young age by marketing and society pressures. Not to mention the possible trauma of the procedure even when it goes well – let alone if there are complications.
BDD is also recognised to be caused, in part, by issues such as abuse or adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s) such bullying, leading to low self-esteem and insecurities (6)
That’s where counselling and psychotherapy comes in. Counselling before, even during and after, physical procedures can help you identify why you really want it and to understand yourself better.
Person-centred counselling was the first empirically researched and proven talking therapy. A non-judgemental approach to help you recognise the introjections from others and society that are acting on you and overcoming them it might be you gain a more positive outlook free from the anxiety and false self-image that troubles you.
An approach combining Person centred counselling and Rewind therapy can help with the wider issues caused too. Developed from a Neuro-linguistic approach specifically for trauma Rewind Therapy is proven to help with trauma and PTSD.
A great advantage of Rewind is it is quick – only 3 sessions are recommended with many people report improvement after only the first session. An advantage is you do not have to re-tell the painful details or re-experience the thing that caused the trauma.
Rewind Therapy will help you reframe your traumatic experience in a proven method that helps remove the emotional pain and physical response to the memories of the event.– be it from abuse or bullying, an accident or assault, a surgical complication or badly handled procedure, all can be helped.
Free to live as you want, not trapped by the memory.
About The Author
Would you like a free 10 minute call with Alan ?
Who we are:
We are an independent counselling and psychotherapy service that has developed a way of working using both the proven Person-centred approach and Rewind Techniques to free our clients of the ongoing painful emotions and responses caused by a traumatic event.
How we will work together with you:
We will work with you to help you overcome the painful and ongoing emotions caused by a traumatic event and to understand your experiences.
We are able to provide this to you with you in the comfort of your own home using a secure medical therapy online platform and by telephone as all counsellors are qualified in online & telephone counselling.
About the services we offer:
Person-centred counselling was the first ‘talking therapy’ to be empirically researched and proven. The Rewind Technique developed by Dr Davis Muss is an internationally recognised treatment for both Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD.
It is often referred to as “closure without disclosure” because it does not need you to relive or retell painful feelings and sensitive memories. 80% of people are helped by Rewind. Although 85% are helped by a single session we recommend 3 sessions. These will be offered with the person-centred approach included in what is known as a pluralistic approach.
Used together by an experienced and empathic counsellor they can stop the involuntary recall, flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks and other unwanted symptoms caused by the trauma and then, by helping you to understand why you felt that way and adjust, to move forward in a more positive way.
3 Zagorski N. Using many social media platforms linked with depression, anxiety risk. PN. 2017;52(2):1-1. doi:10.1176/appi.pn.2017.1b16
6. Anderson R.C. Body dysmorphic disorder: Recognition and treatment. Plast Surg Nurs. 2003;23:125–128.