Beauty - Is It More Than Skin Deep? By Robyn Wilkinson

When it comes to people's relationship with their bodies, there's a huge amount of judgement, criticism and even hatred in the mix. Yet creating a nurturing and loving relationship with your body is a key part of how you interact with the world and other people. We explore the complexities around self-acceptance and look at what's involved in developing a positive relationship with your body.

 

At first glance one might think speaking to a plastic surgeon about accepting your body may seem a little contradictory but a conversation with leading surgeon Dr. Lionel Jedeikin was extremely insightful. Being privy to hundreds of consultations and discussions on how people feel about their bodies and why, Lionel has deep understanding and compassion around issues ranging from body dysmorphia to surgery addiction, self-love and the psychology surrounding all aspects of this topic. The shame we feel about our bodies is something rarely discussed out loud. Yet not many people know how far reaching the implications are.

We asked Lionel more about the reasons behind why people have surgery. Lionel comments that there are women who have been married for twenty years and don't undress in front of their husbands unless it is in the dark. Some people have severely restricted social lives or feel too complexed to get into a relationship or veer away from activities like swimming because they feel too intimidated to bare their bodies. While ideally the best option is to feel totally comfortable in your body, love it unconditionally, support it with nurture, nutrition and exercise, a recent urban study shows that women experience an average of 13 negative thoughts about their body each day while 97% of women admit to having at least one 'I hate my body feeling every day'.

"When there is a crippling hang up and one that severely impacts on living a full and functional life, then surgery is an option to consider," says Lionel. "I have seen patients intensely focused on changing a part of their body that seems totally inconsequential to everyone else. After having remedied the problem they go on to leading completely different lives with a level of relief and freedom so marked that it noticeably changes the quality of their lives. I have seen how a negative relationship with your body can contract people's lives and I've also seen how changing that can be incredibly liberating for people. Sometimes it just feels too impossible to forgive an offending feature and the only way to feel better is to change it. There's also a more practical side to the reasons why people use surgical or non-invasive interventions to enhance their lives. Someone with a deep frown line may continuously get asked why he or she is upset, or they're told to cheer up when they happen to be in a fine mood. That's a very negative thing for someone to experience. They're expressing an emotion, which they aren't actually feeling," explains Lionel.

If Botox can lessen the frown line and allow a different feedback from people then it has a noticeably positive spin-off. Being able to align the way you feel with the way you look is important when interacting with others. People working in a sales job, whether it sounds fickle or not, make better sales when they have an appearance that's considered attractive. If there is something about your body that holds you back from socializing, making friends or being involved in a relationship it has a huge effect on your life.

There is of course another side to the coin. Some people get such good responses after a surgical intervention they get addicted to the results. Surgeons need to be able to discern when patients should be advised against doing unnecessary surgery. They also need to gauge when the motivation behind the surgery is not a healthy one. In a small amount of cases people may think surgery is the answer to fixing a relationship that's not going well or the desire for a change comes from a partner and not from the patient. This is why a comprehensive consultation is so important before a decision is reached. Ethically it is a big part of the doctors' duty to administer the right advice. Patients that require psychological intervention can be guided in another direction. There are many mindful practices that can help people develop a better body image and feel comfortable being in any situation that a full life might put them in. Some of the ways this can be achieved is to engage in nurturing and self-care practices; feed your body and mind with clean, wholesome food and thoughts; allow your body to move expansively, vigorously, and develop flexibility and strength; notice any destructive habits or patterns and in the right time replace them with positive one's.

Of course there are parts of our bodies that 'conventional beauty standards' deem not as attractive as others but those very features in combination with someone's spirit, attitude, posture or demeanour will carry a unique and beautiful attraction. When assessing ourselves we often zone into a specific feature of the face or body and look at it in isolation. We don't realise that when coming into contact with others, they don't just come into contact with that isolated part but get a total overview of the whole person which contains the whole radiance of a person's being. Rather than living an entire life resisting features or body parts, learn to give them love and acceptance. See them as disowned children that long for recognition and acceptance.

In disconnecting from our bodies we disconnect from their needs and from caring for them. Regularly doing nurturing practices creates a good feedback loop with your body, helps you feel better mentally, physically and sets up respect and gratitude for the part your body plays in navigating the earth, in experiencing loving and everything that's wonderful about physicality.

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