My body image. “I have nothing to hide behind.IF I had a perfect body, I could hide behind it. Where I would feel secure about one thing in my life. Where I could feel secure in my own body.which I don’t. I feel better when I compare myself to someone who is not as decent looking as me, which I think I get from someone in my family, But when there is someone who is better than me I feel inadequate and stupid and ugly and worthless. I want(ed) to be perfect at everything. I want to stop and be okay with whom I am, what I look like, and what I do with my life. When I put others down, I feel better about myself. I like feeling superior to others. That reminds me of something my father does.” Abuse by my father, mental and physical for 8 years, Abandonment by both my parents several times, especially by my mom, Molestation from my sister for 8 years, Raped about 5 times. My head feels like poop. I hate that everything is so shitty. When It comes to my life, relationship with my family, I hate not feeling special or wanted. Which I feel very often, I don’t feel fulfilled in life. When I revile myself to myself, I feel uncomfortable about who I am and what I look like. I want a happy, healthy fulfilling life. Where I work hard, love my life, don’t put people down to feel good about me, be happy with my body, feel loved on a daily basis even if someone isn’t telling me every day, I want to feel like I have a purpose, where I don’t have to feel like I need to be perfect at everything. I don’t want to feel like I need to hide myself. I want to take this broken person I feel like and fix her(me) in the best way that I can. What should I do?
- Dr. Dombeck responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
- Dr. Dombeck intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
- Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
- No correspondence takes place.
- No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Dombeck to people submitting questions.
- Dr. Dombeck, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Dombeck and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
- Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.
Your letter is sad but also hopeful. I like that. You recognize that something is wrong; have an idea about what you’d like to have instead. You just aren’t certain how to get there. That’s okay. Lots of people feel that way. What you are not certain about, you can learn how to accomplish.
The way you describe it, you approach relationships with others as a competitor, and as a judge. The very first question you want to know when you meet someone new is how do you measure up to them? If your impression is that you are superior in terms of how you look (your body), then you feel relieved, and for a moment, powerful. If your impression is that someone else is more attractive than yourself, well then, you feel terrible. And you hate that feeling so much that you work hard to escape feeling it, often by putting others down to try to reestablish your temporary dominance and superiority (at least in your own mind).
Your question has to do with how you can find more satisfying relationships and learn how to love yourself better. I think the answer you are seeking is surprisingly simple in nature, although it may be difficult for you to put into practice, at least at first. What you need to do is to stop judging and competing with everyone you meet, and to try to love them instead. At least some of them who seem to be good people who aren’t out to hurt or take advantage of you. Instead of looking for critical flaws that you can use to wound someone else (so as to elevate yourself), look instead for hidden virtues and talents and things of beauty that exist in people and become visible when you take them seriously for a long moment. Look at the person; not just the body. When you find things to like and admire in others, tell them about it, and be genuine in your complement. This will encourage them (some of them, not all) to stop, in turn, and take a long look at you and similarly see the beautiful things inside you and tell you about them. And that will make you feel good. It’s simple. It’s called "reciprocity", and it works.
I think it would be a good idea for you to find a psychotherapist to work with on these self-esteem, self-consciousness and self-worth issues. You don’t like yourself very much, and you must carry a lot of pain inside you given the abusive history you’ve related here. Your basic expectation is to be rather harshly judged by others; to be safely regarded as worthwhile by others only when you are the more "beautiful". That is a trap, and not an easy one to get out of. I can describe intellectually what an alternative way of relating to others (and expecting them to relate to you) would look like, but it can be very hard for someone like yourself, who has never experienced it before, to figure out how to do it. Not unlike describing a color to someone born blind. You won’t have categories for it to make sense out of it right away; it will appear strange. A therapy relationship would be useful to you because it would offer you a laboratory in which to experience and learn about a relationship that is not based on judgment. Using such a model, you could then start building more satisfying relationships in your regular life. Therapy also offers a safe place to talk about some of the difficult things you’ve been through, to come to better understand how they have affected you, and to figure out better ways to overcome their lingering effects.
Not just any therapy will do in this instance. You will want to avoid therapists who bill themselves as "cognitive behavioral", and instead, find a therapist who does "psychodynamic" or "humanistic" psychotherapy. Your problems are primarily about relationships; not about symptoms, and these therapies will offer you the sort of corrective relationship and safe haven that will best help you along in your progress. You may be interested in reading or listening to my essay "The Nonjudgmental Witness ", which is about therapy of this type I’m suggesting you get. You may also be interested in listening to this recent podcast with Dr. Alan Rappoport , who works in the San Francisco area. He talks about a therapy theory called "Control-Mastery Theory", which would be very much the sort of therapy you would appear to best benefit from. Good luck with this. I’m confident that if you set your mind to it and if you are brave and persevere that you will very likely succeed.