Physical Appearance And Self-Esteem Connection

Updated September 11, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault

When we’re in our teen years, it’s easy to get down on ourselves as we’re figuring out who we really are, all during our awkward physical phases of zits, braces, and stringy hair. This can lead many teens to feel insecure about their physical looks. When we’re in our 20s, we’re receiving the same physical messages we were in high school, of what physical traits are “beautiful” or what is trendy.

We’re constantly seeing images of what we should look like on television or magazines or social media. When we’re in our 30s and 40s, life gets busier and responsibilities grow. Aging begins and bodies change, making it harder to look the same way we did at 25 when we’re 45.
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We all know that physical appearance fades and, in the grand scheme of things, personality is infinitely more important than physical appearance. Even still, it’s hard not to get down on ourselves sometimes about our physical appearance. Here are some tips on how to stop disliking your physical appearance and to start loving the way you look both on a physical and mental level.

Focus On The Parts Of Your Body That You Love

Maybe you don’t particularly like physical features like your nose, but you love your legs. Maybe you feel your chest is too small, but that you’ve got a great butt. Embrace those parts of your physical appearance that you love and accept that none of us are perfect, even those who appear so on a magazine cover. And, chances are, no one else is even noticing the features you take issue with on yourself. The things that you believe are flaws in your physical appearance can be the very things that someone else may love about you.

It can help to dress or groom yourself to accentuate those parts of your body that you love – not for anyone else, but yourself. It can do wonders for your self-esteem when you know you look good – to heck with everyone else if they judge you for what you wear, or if they don’t notice those same parts of your physical appearance that you think looks great. The only person who has to feel good about your physical appearance at the end of the day is you. And if you dress up once in a while to remind yourself of how awesome your physical appearance truly is, then there’s no harm in that!

Remind Yourself To Smile
 
It’s true – when you smile, it does lift your mood. And when you smile, you lift the moods of those around you. Happiness is contagious. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to go around smiling all the time, but reminding yourself to smile once in a while when you’re feeling down can lift your mood.

We all have days when the last thing we feel like doing is acting like Sally Sunshine. It’s equally important to honor the moments or days when you don’t feel like smiling or don't feel the best about your physical appearance. But remembering to smile every once in a while can do wonders for your mood, which can also make you feel beautiful on the inside.

Put Out The Love That You Want To Feel

You may find that if you’re generous with your compliments to others, you may end up getting more compliments back than you expected. Hearing nice things from others can improve your mood in the short term and contribute to an overall sense that others recognize your beauty and your worth.
 
Plus, the more things you think of to compliment others with, the more positive traits you may discover in your own physical appearance – an unexpected but pleasant twist.
 
Take, for example, a study conducted in 2017 by researchers at China’s University of Electronic Science and Technology, which found that women found men more attractive when they were complemented by them. Specifically, men became more attractive when they used metaphorical or poetic compliments, as opposed to literal, straight-forward ones. Complimenting others may make you seem sexier to them, which will make you feel sexier by proxy.

Refrain From Embracing Physical Negativity

On the other side of the coin, you may find it helpful to stop putting yourself down all the time. The next time someone compliments you, instead of deflecting or downplaying their compliment, focus on receiving it honestly. Simply thank the person. What if you let yourself hear it as though you really believed it, too?

Similarly, self-deprecation (about your physical appearance or otherwise) around your friends or potential partners can be a common defense mechanism if you’re feeling low on self-esteem or less than great about your physical appearance. It can feel safer to put yourself down before someone else has the chance to. But talking negatively to yourself, inside or outside of your head, contributes to a negative image of yourself. It also opens the door for others to speak to you as negatively as you speak to yourself. Experts recommend you identify what is triggering these comments when you say them. Is it when you are around a particular person? In a particular place? When you narrow down what is inspiring you to say these things about your physical appearance, you can take action against this kind of behavior.

Take Stock Of The People In Your Life
 
When you have a toxic relationship with someone, it can affect several aspects of your life. This is especially true if that toxic relationship is with someone you live with. When you have to come home to someone every day who doesn’t help you feel and be your best, that can bleed over into other aspects of your life, from your social relationships to your professional ones.
 
Cutting out toxic people from your life can be invigorating. You deserve people around you who make you feel valued and loved.
 
Allow Yourself to be You

Allow yourself just to be you. If you’re more comfortable in baggy jeans over skinny jeans, wear baggy jeans. Fall in love with your makeup-less face. You’ll find that you may come to love your natural look more when you don’t have to put so much work into your physical appearance every day. All that maintenance may make you feel uncomfortable with your natural physical appearance. The less work you put into “fixing” yourself on yourself, the more you may realize your physical appearance doesn’t need much “fixing” at all. You may also find that it improves your self-esteem more to focus on luxurious face masks, taking good care of your skin and hair, or finding ways to be creative in the way you dress.

Keep Yourself Healthy
 
The more you eat foods that nourish your body and the more you move in ways you like, the better you will feel. Eating foods that are healthy for you, which is different for everyone, can help boost your immunity, clear your skin, and make you feel more balanced. You may find that your body image improves as you focus more on taking care of it and what it can do for you. Exercise doesn’t have to look like hitting the gym five days a week, it can look like walks through your neighborhood with a friend or a dance workout YouTube video.

Getting your heart rate up releases those “happy chemicals” in your brain, like dopamine, that lift your mood and make you feel better about your physical appearance. And even if your physical appearance won't change much from exercise, you will appreciate it more when you know all it does for you.

Treat your body right, and it will treat you right.
 
Accept Aging For What It Is
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We see a celebrity that’s the same age as us, and we get down on ourselves. How can she still have such a flat stomach, so few wrinkles, and her natural hair color? There are several ways a celebrity has seemed to “defy” aging. Celebrities often have curated the images you see of them, so you’re not really seeing their natural look. Celebrities also have teams of stylists and makeup artists and trainers that help them be camera-ready.

Celebrities can also afford a lot of personal help to keep a certain physical look, like physical fitness trainers,  personal chefs, plastic surgeons, and nannies.

It’s important to remember that physical looks is a part of a celebrity’s job, and that may not always be easy. They may be working spa treatments, wax removals, intensive workouts, and other beauty regimens into their routines every day. Plus, they may feel pressured to spend money on all of the latest and greatest products and plastic surgery to make it seem like they’re not aging. No one is immune from aging. You are worth more than the wrinkles you see in your physical looks.

By focusing on the things in life you have to celebrate thanks to your age, you can refocus on gratitude. Your waistline may have changed thanks to the pregnancy that gave you great children. Your face may have some wrinkles around your smile, but that’s thanks to all the laughs over the years and sun-kissed beach days.

Your physical looks can remind you of the wonderful life you've lived.

Conclusion

Do you often struggle with your perception of your physical looks? Our counselors at BetterHelp can help you find the beauty inside and outside of yourself once again.

Turning to online counseling is just as effective as in-person interventions. In a study with over 10,000 clients, no real differences have been seen between the two. Talk therapy may be particularly effective for issues surrounding self-esteem as you and your therapist can try to both understand the root of the insecurity and find helpful tools to increase your self-esteem now.
 
Online help can be a flexible, reliable way to have someone listen to you with a decreased fear of vulnerability. You can choose to receive counseling through messaging, phone calls, or video calls. Depending on your comfort, you can choose the frequency and style of your therapy that lets you feel the most empowered. If you’re seeking help for self-esteem issues, it can be greatly helpful to take this step as it affirms that you have enough value to deserve to get better.

You can hear from BetterHelp users who sought counseling for self-esteem issues below.

“Aly is amazing. She has helped me understand the depth of growth that consoling can bring. She is an excellent listener, and great at helping lead you to discoveries and self-growth without obviously pointing them out. She also gives me activities and literature to help my continued reflection in between our sessions. Focus on mind/body/spirit connection. Would absolutely recommend her!”

“Lyn has always taken the time to hear me and make sure I feel understood, which frees me up to be open and vulnerable with her. She offers different perspectives in a manner that never seeks to diminish how I feel, so I feel safe being honest with my thoughts and feelings. Her care and professionalism have helped me a lot in the last few months and I would definitely recommend her to someone else with similar therapy needs as mine.”

Physical Looks

One of the things we all struggle with, men and women alike, is our physical appearance. When does this happen? It can happen at any point. Throughout life, we are constantly bombarded with images of "ideal beauty" in media and especially social media. Aging begins and bodies change, making it harder to look the same way we did at 25 when we’re 45. Maybe you don’t particularly like your nose, but you love your legs. Maybe you feel your chest is too small, but that you’ve got a great butt.

We all know that physical appearance fades and, in the grand scheme of things, personality is infinitely more important than physical appearance. Even still, it’s hard not to get down on ourselves sometimes about our bodies. It's natural to not feel great about your physical appearance all the time-no one does. The only person who has to feel good about your physical appearance at the end of the day is you. And if you dress up once in a while to remind yourself of how awesome your physical appearance truly is, then there’s no harm in that! Many of us go through phases of liking and disliking our bodies or faces. But it can be extremely worthwhile to develop a healthy self-image and hold your physical appearance in positive regard.

Physical Appearance And Mental Health

Your mental health will thank you, and your life outlook probably will too. Learn how to therapy can help you develop a positive self-image with BetterHelp. Online help can be a flexible, reliable way to have someone to listen to you with a decreased fear of vulnerability. You can choose to receive counseling through messaging, phone calls or video calls. Depending on your comfort, you can choose the frequency and style of your therapy that lets you feel the most empowered. If you’re seeking help for self-esteem issues, it can be greatly helpful to take this step as it affirms that you have enough value to deserve to get better. Turning to online counseling has been found to be just as effective as in-person interventions. In a study with over 10,000 clients, no real differences have been seen between the two. Talk therapy may be particularly effective for issues surrounding self-esteem as you and your therapist can try to both understand the root of the insecurity and find helpful tools to increase your self-esteem now.

Physical Appearance And Self-Esteem

The more you eat foods that nourish your body and the more you move in ways you like, the better you will feel. Eating foods that are healthy for you, which is different for everyone, can help boost your immunity, clear your skin, and make you feel more balanced. You may find that your body image improves as you focus more on taking care of it and what it can do for you. Exercise doesn’t have to look like hitting the gym five days a week, it can look like walks through your neighborhood with a friend or a dance workout YouTube video. Getting your heart rate up releases those “happy chemicals” in your brain, like dopamine, that lift your mood and make you feel better about yourself. And even if your body won't change much from exercise, you will appreciate it more when you know all it does for you.

 


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