Are you happy with your appearance? If the answer is no, you are hardly alone.
The rise in gym memberships and cosmetic surgeries in recent years indicates as much, and surveys further underscore Americans’ insecurity with their looks. A study conducted at Chapman University and published in the journal Body Image found that women and men were about equally unimpressed with their own appearance. Out of 12,176 respondents, only 26 percent of women were “extremely satisfied” with their looks, and just 28 percent of men were.
Many people cite being overweight as their main appearance issue, but for others it’s often traced to the effects of aging. Confidence suffers collateral damage, says Dr. Dennis Schimpf, a plastic surgeon who adds that improving a physical flaw can become a quest to find “inner beauty” as well.
“Many people really aren’t confident in their own skin,” says Schimpf , author of Finding Beauty: Think, See And Feel Beautiful, and founder of Sweetgrass Plastic Surgery (www.sweetgrassplasticsurgery.com). “It’s often because different stages of life have different impacts on our body, our appearance, and how we feel about ourselves.
“The definition of beauty changes over time, but ultimately, you can’t just think it or see it; it also has to be felt. Not everyone needs plastic surgery nor is it going to fix every person’s life. But it can help improve a person’s sense of well-being.”
Schimpf says people can rate their own “body confidence” by answering these five questions in terms of low, moderate or high confidence:
- Are you satisfied with your outward appearance? “Low confidence scorers are usually feeling and seeing the effects of age and are frustrated, sensing that their physical flaws are affecting their self-identity,” Schimpf says. “Those on the high end say their physical flaws don’t detract from their overall happiness and productivity.”
- How self-conscious are you? Low confidence about appearance can worsen over time and hamper people in other areas. “These are people who feel their appearance and others noticing it makes them more self-conscious of other shortcomings they have,” Schimpf says. “As a result they feel hesitant to engage in some activities in order to avoid feeling judged and uncomfortable.”
- Are you reunion-ready? Many people are hesitant to attend high school reunions because their appearance has significantly worsened, in their mind, over the years. “If you were headed to a high school reunion tomorrow, where you were going to see people you have not seen in years, how confident would you feel?” Schimpf says. “Those rating low confidence will find some way not to go because of how they feel about themselves.”
- What physical change would you make? Just about everyone has a physical feature that bothers them. “It may be something you’ve had since childhood,” Schimpf says. “For women, it could be changes resulting from childbearing. For men and women, it can be the natural body changes that come with aging. On the other hand, many like the uniqueness that their body quirks give them, or they’ve lived with them so long they see no need to change.”
- Would making a physical change make a real difference in your life? “That’s a hard question people must ask themselves,” Schimpf says. “Those with low confidence usually say it would make everything better, from relationships to opportunities. Those of moderate confidence in themselves say fixing a flaw that bothers them wouldn’t change the other stressors in their life.”
“Whatever stage you’re at in life,” Schimpf says, “it’s important to see how your appearance relates to how you feel about yourself on the outside and on the inside.”