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“Gosh, you’ve gained so much weight!”
”You’ll wear that to your office? Is that professional?”
”You look so sick”
”You’re too tall. Who’s gonna marry you?”

We must have heard about people that have been a victim of unrealistic beauty standards. Actually, WE have directly or indirectly been a part of these standards The worst part is that we have normalized it to an extent where people feel it’s wrong to go against it. Today we have with us Khwaish Sharma to help us understand ‘Appearance related anxiety and Self Worth’ 🤗🧡

About Khwaish Sharma (She/her)-

Khwaish is a practicing psychologist, expressive arts-based therapist, and a narrative practitioner. She has been involved in psychotherapy, research, training, and facilitating workshops for about 6 years in India and England. Her approaches are grounded in solution-focused brief therapy, narrative therapy, and expressive arts-based work but are further governed by intersectional feminist and humanistic approaches. Besides engaging in therapy for her own mental health, she finds peace in making playlists, travelling, and running.

Feel free to ask her any and all questions aligning with the theme in the comments section before 22nd June 2022 without a smidge of hesitation! ⬇️

P.S- You can also book a therapy session with Khwaish right here!

Remember that asking questions shows strength, not weakness. 🤗💐
🧡 Ask away and stay informed! 🧡

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37 replies
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Anonymous

I am an average looking girl who has issues in accepting the way she looks. I feel very undesirable and very unloved. Never got much male attention and throughout my life, my mother has told me “you need to study hard because no man will be attracted to you by your looks because you dont look that good”. She keeps warning me on how I will be just used for sex by men because I don’t have the required looks to charm the opposite gender and i should be careful and focus only on studies. She probably wants to motivate me, but it just accelerates my insecurities about myself. I keep feeling like I don’t have good enough features, I don’t look feminine enough, I don’t have good enough curves etc. I consciously stop myself from crushing on other guys because I feel like it’s gonna end in disappointment and honestly speaking no guy has ever been attracted to me. I just feel so undesirable and so ugly and i feel like i am never gonna get love. I will be a man’s last option- he will settle for me because he cant get the woman he wants. Would love to hear your take on this.

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This thought has been deleted by the thought author
Profile picture for Now&Me member @khwaish_sharma

Khwaish Sharma @khwaish_sh...

Hello,
Thank you for taking the time out to write this.
I hear that the normative discourse around being “not attractive” enough has influenced how you view yourself. In a society governed by using appearance as a buffer against existential angst, I totally understand why your mother’s comments have been internalized by you. May I invite you to recognize how her ideas and the ideas of society at large might have been internalized to become thoughts that you believe are yours? Maybe you could also think about other practices that have sustained feelings like “undesirable” and “unloved”, for example, practices like judgment, critique, comparison, and bullying may have maintained these feelings. I also read how you value feeling loved and desired and hence this stance on your appearance which stops you from feeling the same is hurting you. I would encourage you to work through this “gaze” which convinces you that one needs to look a certain way to feel loved, desired, or belonged. This could be by engaging in therapy, engaging with support groups, or consciously trying to follow media that stands for body neutrality. I have explained the “gaze” at length in my comment which I’m attaching here-https://nowandme.com/hello-everyone-thank-you-for-taking-the-time-out-Q4kBP-EQrFviuKD.

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Anonymous

Hi Khwaish, hope you’re well.
For a person who went through trauma as a child, my main focus while growing up was to be invisible and I found (tbh still find) peace in eating. I realise its not healthy I did the only one thing I felt good about at the time. My mother and her mother share the same body type with a really slow metabolism since a very young age (both of them were overweight all their lives) and little did I know that I would be following the same line of health. Though I was active, I was always overweight and taunted upon but I always thought everybody improves with time so will I. So technically speaking I was overweight by 6-8kg of my ideal weight all the time but I always felt heavier because I looked bigger than the girls who belonged to the same weight group (flabby arms and very broad hips and thighs so to speak). In college also I felt like I was the heaviest of them all but I wasnt obese, just more than my ideal weight (I am 166cm tall and weighed 71-75 at the time)
Later in pandemic, I was at home and I am battling depression as we speak and I have gained 20 more kilos and guess what, I never even felt like I got heavier since I was always told I am fat, by every other person I know. People stopped asking me how I am they start with how I look and I know the answer already. Now with no core strength, absolutely messed up mental health and I am making new changes (going to college again) I just dont know how to recover from this. Please help. Its a loop being depressed about my health and my health deteriorating because of my mind.

PS - I joined a gym for around 3 months which involved cardio and weight training which I struggled a lot with and even controlled my diet a lot but still managed to lose 1.5-2 kilos at best. Sorry for the long read

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Anonymous

I joined the gym back in 2020 when I wasnt as fat as I am today. Missed that detail. In the pandemic i used to try cardio for 1 hour daily and managed my diet but it didnt help so I just … Lost hope

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Anonymous

Hey, if you want let’s connect and face this problem together, I am also really fat and it affects my mental health. We can be accountability partners and that way we will be motivated to work out.

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Khwaish Sharma @khwaish_sh...

Hello, hope you’re well too!
I hear that even while navigating trauma as a child, which may still be affecting and influencing you in some way, you still found a way to create peace for yourself. I’m wondering what a younger you would say to you about being able to look for some safety and peace in food, probably it would thank you for protecting them.
I understand that with passing age and years, socialization impacted the way you viewed keeping yourself at peace, and I’m wondering whether it was probably the only way you felt calm and collected. I have written more about how centering our self-worth around our appearance has an existential basis in the comments, feel free to scroll down if that interests you. As you explained further, I can imagine how difficult it must have been to live with depression during the pandemic, when our idea of normal was completely shaken and we were all going through the loss of some kind, of people/ routine/ things, etc. I’m wondering whether you did the best you could to navigate the situation at that time. You mentioned how people comment about how you look and I’d invite you to think of whether you would want to create a boundary of what people have the right to comment on and not. You also spoke about how you tried to go to the gym and it didn’t work out. As movement is essential for physical and mental health and not only losing weight, I’d invite you to think about whether there are either ways your body would prefer to move, for example, walking, slow running, swimming, playing a sport, joining a dance class, etc. I would encourage you to try talk or movement therapy to re-invent the relationship with your body and something that gave you peace, i.e food.
Despite the struggle brought forth by the pandemic coupled with mental health struggles, you are still starting to go to college again and I’d invite you to think about what this says about what you value and what is important to you and whether you would want to use these as guiding principles in your life.
Hope this helps :)

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Anonymous

I haven’t yet gotta a reply to the last query i had written on the last sharing post about loss and grief. What’s the point of this then. (Just for me, not talking about anyone else, just me.)

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Khwaish Sharma @khwaish_sh...

Hello, sorry to hear that you haven’t heard back, I’m wondering whether you would want to reach out to https://nowandme.com/user/nowandme for help. Thankyou :)!

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Deleted @anxius_mizlost

Thank you so much doc! 🌼💖
@now&me please see this post pls.

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Anonymous

Hi, I was friend-zoned by someone years ago and while I was okay with it, somewhere I still had some feelings. It has always felt like the person doesn’t trust me completely, but upon confronting they say otherwise and I like to believe it’s true. This person got into a relationship recently and I was the one who encouraged them to propose to the other person. But even before that, I felt I was getting too close and might hurt myself. So, ever since this person got into this relationship, we haven’t been talking much and I feel alienated, I think I am somewhat jealous of their partner as well. The person wants to get back in touch and talk about all the problems. While talking about it, they had an answer for everything and proved that I was just assuming things and didn’t really accept any fault. this affects my mental health a lot, what should i do.

Profile picture for Now&Me member @khwaish_sharma

Khwaish Sharma @khwaish_sh...

Hello, thank you for being here.
I hear that you had to navigate the very difficult feeling of not being able to be with someone the way you wanted to. I’m wondering how that experience affected you, and your academic/ professional and social life.
I’m wondering whether in wanting to work through this, you imply that you don’t want to hurt yourself and I’d encourage you to think about what this tells us about how you value preserving yourself and what are the other ways you can do that.
I am glad you were able to label your emotions as jealousy and feeling alienated, that’s the first and most important step to being able to work through them. I would encourage you to probably think with a mental health professional about what the intention and purpose of jealousy is, are there any tricks its uses, and what are some ways you might be standing up to it. This space might facilitate how you want to be in touch with the person you’ve talked about, any boundaries you might want to set, or how you might be able to protect yourself and your emotions while talking to them. Hope this helps! :)

Chika Pearl @peacepearl15

Do excerse

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Anonymous

I am a short heighted girl with average looks… sometimes I feel under confident among girls taller than me. Everybody say looks are not that important but if it’s not then why I don’t have a boyfriend. Nobody proposes me… they just make me friend to impress my friends. I don’t know where I’m lacking… I’m independent, intelligent, friendly…even I have male friends also but I think no one wants to make me girlfriend. I think I should groom my looks…but why I should do alot of things to just impress somebody.

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Anonymous

I am a short heighted girl too. I am just 5 ft. Hi-five ✋

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Anonymous

I’m 4’9

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Khwaish Sharma @khwaish_sh...

Thank you for being here.
As you used the word “average” to define your appearance, I’d encourage you to think about whether the gaze that a heteronormative society presses down on us has been internalized by you. I have written about this in detail in this thread in case you’d want to have a look at it-https://nowandme.com/hello-everyone-thank-you-for-taking-the-time-out-Q4kBP-EQrFviuKD.

I hear that you want to feel confident and don’t want your appearance to come in the way of that and I’m thinking of ways in which you try to feel confident and what that says about what is important to you.
I also hear that you deeply value being with someone and are unsure of whether there is anything you can do, and I’m wondering whether this clarifies that the problem is in fact located outside, in a system and society obsessed with appearance and not inside you. I would still encourage you to think about what are some things under your control that can make connection and being with someone possible for you.
As you rightfully said, you exist for more reasons than to impress, you exist to be and navigate being human in a rather messy world and I’m wondering what people who know you would say you bring to them, with virtues of independence, intelligence, and friendship as you mentioned.
As you attempt to re-author your story, I’d encourage you to try to do the same with a mental health professional who might be able to help in separating the gaze and evaluation from what you want.

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Anonymous

I am 5 ft fully grown Indian girl. I look cute and do get compliments for it. I do get attention from opposite gender as well. But I am hell lot of insecure about my height especially due to my parents. They are calling me names like dwarf and all. My mother constantly tells me that no guy is ever gonna marry me because of my height as everyone desires a tall girl. I am constantly body shamed by my parents. Once she told me a guy will only marry with the greed of my job. I don’t have a job no one’s ever gonna marry me and they will be stuck with me for life. It’s not that only my parents body shame me for being short , sometimes it’s other people too like my friends or classmates. But what my parents say make me feel so unlovable. I am an independent, well educated and a believe that a good person as well. But still when your parents say these things it does hurt a bit. How do deal with body shaming coming from the family itself. And also I have tried talking to them about how it affects me and makes me feel bad and makes me self conscious. But they laugh this out. So communication definitely does nothing seem to work with them. Please help what are the other ways to deal ??

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Anonymous

Don’t worry yaar…focus on your career…there are alot of people who are shorter than you…and there are taller people also who doesn’t like their own height…and society will judge you untill they consider you equivalent to them. When you cross that threshold they will not talk about your looks or other features…they will only praise you…so focus on career

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Khwaish Sharma @khwaish_sh...

Hello,
Thank you for being here.
As you mentioned, you were able to trace the history of you not feeling secure about yourself due to comments made by your parents. I would first like to acknowledge how difficult that might be, as we all deserve to be accepted, seen, heard, and loved, irrespective of how much we weigh, how tall we are, etc. I would hence encourage you to first think about how these comments might have affected you, your friendships, your relationship with your parents, your mood, etc. You might also want to think about whether their comments also appear in other contexts and get in the way of how you view yourself. Is there anything besides your self-worth that is hurt by the comments? Have these comments tried to convince you of other things about yourself or others?
I hear that you have also worked on feeling worthy in other ways, and you rightfully believe you are an independent and” good person”. Maybe you’d want to take a few moments to acknowledge the efforts you might have put into standing up against what the comments made by your parents and peers convinced you of.
To conclude, I would encourage you to acknowledge the effects of these comments, your position against them, and how you stood up against them with a therapist. As you mentioned communicating doesn’t help, I’m wondering whether you would want to engage in being able to express the effects of this to your parents in different ways, through songs/ poems/media. I’m also wondering whether you’d want to create safe spaces for yourself inside your home where these opinions cannot enter, physically and metaphorically.
I wish you the best:)

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Anonymous

I am in loved with someone we ended 2months back but she isn’t getting off from my mind , everything time every sec i think of her although we weren’t not in a relationship but we were friends, for some time my mind gets blocked for no reason

Profile picture for Now&Me member @khwaish_sharma

Khwaish Sharma @khwaish_sh...

Hello, navigating the loss of a relationship can be so difficult and I hear that your mind still wants to make space for them. I’m wondering whether there are ways of sustaining some practices to honor the connection you shared with them, while also thinking of ways in which you would want your mind to un-block and be able to focus on other things. I’d encourage you to think about working through this loss with a mental health professional.

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Anonymous

Um, I don’t think this too much now but I used to get pretty conscious because of my colour. I am a guy with brown/dark brown skin. People used to tease me for that but I am afraid this would matter to the girl I love or does skin colour even matter at all?

Profile picture for Now&Me member @khwaish_sharma

Khwaish Sharma @khwaish_sh...

Hello! Thank you for being here, As you mentioned that as opposed to being conscious about your skin color earlier, it is something you don’t think too much about now and I’m wondering what this says about what was important to you which made it possible for you to change your stance on this. Maybe discussing the harmful effects of colonial and discriminatory practices like teasing on the basis of skin color in safe spaces or with a therapist will make it possible to acknowledge the effects of this along with discussing what values you stand for and how you would rather live your life.

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Profile picture for Now&Me member @khwaish_sharma

Khwaish Sharma @khwaish_sh...

Hello,
Thank you for being here.
I hear that you have had to navigate the difficult effects of depression for over 5-6 years now, and it is totally understandable that it doesn’t leave much time, will, or energy to be able to take care of oneself. Not hearing words of appreciation or comfort at any stage of life can be extremely hard, and I’d want to acknowledge that your being here and wanting to work through this shows how you are willing to create spaces for yourself that weren’t provided to you. Society, family, and institutions like school are obligated to provide comfort and safety and I’d encourage you to think about working through how the absence of it affected you and might continue to affect you.
I hear that you want to feel enough and are constantly trying to work on yourself, which also shows that living in a certain way is important to you. Maybe you’d want to take a few seconds to think about how certain ways and practices of living might have been internalized due to modern power, which has made it normal to be unhappy with ourselves. . I have written about this in detail in this thread in case you’d want to have a look at it-https://nowandme.com/hello-everyone-thank-you-for-taking-the-time-out-Q4kBP-EQrFviuKD.
I’d encourage you to continue to nurture your strengths, and possibly look for ways to contribute to other peoples’ well-being, even by just responding to people on this platform. I hope that you find meaning in working through this with a therapist.

Anonymous

I am a skinny girl , and i have very thin hands and legs. I look like a kid in front of other people my age.my parents often tell me how dry and skinny i am and blah blah. I just feel like nobody would like a skinny girl like me, i look so unhealthy and sick

Anonymous

I have a crush but then i just feel like this is rubbish , he’s not gonna like me for being so skinny , like no guy is gonna like me for my body. I can’t even crush on someone i feel like i am gonna get disappointed at the end .

Profile picture for Now&Me member @khwaish_sharma

Khwaish Sharma @khwaish_sh...

Hello,
Thank you for being here.
As you described yourself as “unhealthy and sick”, I’d encourage you to take a step back and notice the ways in which how external factors have contributed to having a say on your self-worth. I’d encourage you to think about how this might have played out and what your position on this is. If it holds meaning and value, maybe you’d want to work through how your parents’ comments as you mentioned might have affected your self-esteem and self-worth growing up and whether there are any aspects that you’d want to unlearn and let go of. I hope you find meaning in working through these difficult conversations with a therapist.

Anonymous

i going bald and this is worst insecurity for me… can’t focus on anything…i am already so much stressed it is affecting all around

Profile picture for Now&Me member @khwaish_sharma

Khwaish Sharma @khwaish_sh...

Hello, I hear that you want to be able to focus and not feel stressed. Maybe you’d first want to acknowledge and label how you’re feeling and whether you can locate these feelings in your body? After this, it might help to have a safe space with a therapist to discuss where this insecurity might be stemming from. Additionally, a few minutes of mindfulness practices, deep breathing, journaling, spending time with a pet or a loved one, and channelizing the insecurity and hurt creatively to regulate your central nervous system might help in managing the effect of these emotions. Wish the best for you! :)

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Anonymous

So i have been criticised about my body the whole childhood. I was obese. My parents, relatives, family friends and some classmates have made fun of me for this. In the last two years i have reduced a lot. But still i hear people say you aren’t enough. I don’t let that get to me much because i know i worked hard. But there are sometimes when it doesn’t feels good. It sucks that i let people judgement get to me. And i love my body. Just the way it is. I workout for the fun of it. Also my bf once commented on my body and it hurt. A lot.

Profile picture for Now&Me member @khwaish_sharma

Khwaish Sharma @khwaish_sh...

Hello,
It can so difficult to rationalize and be able to work through criticism as a child, and I can imagine how that might have gotten completely internalized. Looking back, is there anything you’d want to tell the younger version of you, of what you want them to believe and let go of, from the criticism they were unfairly subjected to.
I’d encourage you to work with a therapist on how the comments made by your parents, relatives, family friends, and classmates might have had a lasting impact on you.
I’m also wondering whether the unachievable standards that society has laid out for us will make it impossible for us to ever believe that we are in fact, enough, in any shape, size, or color. I have written about this in detail in this thread in case you’d want to have a look at it-https://nowandme.com/hello-everyone-thank-you-for-taking-the-time-out-Q4kBP-EQrFviuKD.
You mentioned how you don’t let these emotions get to you, and I’m wondering whether you’d want to write/discuss how you managed to stand up to these comments and in doing so, how you were protecting yourself.
I’m wondering if there is a way to increase the frequency of the moments when you love your body and your relationship with working out is not only about the result but the process. Are there people, places, memories, smells, music, etc that might facilitate this?
Lastly, I’d encourage you to think about creating boundaries regarding whether you are comfortable with anyone commenting on your body.
Wish the best for you! :)

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Anonymous

With time I grew immune to criticism. It was like what’s new. Hell yeah, I am fat. And I love it. So when I reduced weight and still it wasn’t enough for these people. I thought screw them. They are never gonna be satisfied with me. I would never be enough for them. So since I try not to let peoples’ comments get to me. It’s not like I am 100% immune but you gotta stop caring what others have got to say. nobody’s opinion matters. Wear what makes you feel sexy and confident. Be it an in-fashion trend or an out-of-fashion trend. And as kat from euphoria said nothing scares the world more than a fat girl who doesn’t give a fuck.
Memories can be a trigger sometimes but then that was past. The present is different and the future will be too. You can’t let the past affect your present.

amit @lonesome1

Are you real

Profile picture for Now&Me member @khwaish_sharma

Khwaish Sharma @khwaish_sh...

Hello everyone,
Thank you for taking the time out to put your feelings into words on this platform, I hope that writing these thoughts down reduced the weight of some of these feelings, momentarily. Before attempting to answer all your questions individually, I did want to collectively acknowledge the stance all of you had towards appearance-related anxiety, which was one of acknowledging how structures like family, peers, partners, and our culture at large have compelled us to measure ourselves against yardsticks. Some people spoke about how these invisible yardsticks make them feel they are “ too short”, “too thin’, “too fat” or “too dark-skinned”.
Having said this, to say that I haven’t encountered or tried the stringent workout regimes and experienced guilt messages after a hefty meal in a culture that emphasizes thinness would be a complete fabrication. However, in answering the questions, I will attempt to hold a de-centered position as even though I might have some insider knowledge into some of these dilemmas,I am eager to step back and comment only from a place of curiosity.

In some of the questions, people pointed out the history of these emotions and insecurities, which may have stemmed from comments made by parents , peers in childhood, their partners, etc. I could read how these comments are almost like a gaze that has stayed with us for years, which has normalized that it is “normal” to be unhappy with our bodies. Well aware of this premise, gym memberships to dance classes promise ‘weight loss, and achievement and growth are disproportionate to weight loss, the more you lose, the more successful you are.

Focusing on appearance has been researched to be vital for human beings, possibly in an effort to deny our links to other animals, as it helps in quelling one’s existential fears (Goldenberg et al, 2002). Research has shown that the body is an essential source of self-esteem and an important component of how people sustain equanimity. As the physical body decays and changes with passing time, its direct linkages to health and impermanence may serve as a reminder of death which may further motivate individuals to continually try and maintain it in line with cultural expectations(Goldenberg et al., 2000).
Hence, in attempting to meet the standards of what our family and our culture at large deem “appropriate”, we might be protecting ourselves from existential concerns around our mortality, hence the inability to shake them completely away. Research has proven how striving to maintain appearance contingent self-esteem may be problematic and not being able to live up to unrealistic standards may cause anxiety, which I will attempt to give suggestions to work through in the comments.

But along with talking about how some of you want to decrease/ increase food intake or exercise, I also read examples of how some of us are constantly trying to resist this. As someone said in the comments “why should I do a lot of things to just impress somebody”. There were hints of this collective not wanting these fears to get in the way of their lives, as someone else also said “don’t let that get to me much because I know I worked hard.”

Lastly, before answering the questions individually, I do also want to acknowledge how modern power has made it easier for practices like body surveillance, striving for perfection, self-doubt, and comparisons to be internalized in all of us, so much so that we might find it impossible or difficult to see these practices as separate from ourselves. Hence, I will also attempt to focus on what you all implied you value, for example, value feeling desired, loved, and feeling at peace. Some of you also mentioned how what was important was to feel like you belonged, belonged in your peer group, belonged in college, or with a person you wanted to be with.

Please allow me time till tonight to get back to the questions, looking forward to creating an alternate and preferred discourse around our appearance!

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