Checking, Comparison and Attention

By Tracey Soghrati MA Psychotherapist, RN, RP

Body image refers to how you think and feel about your body, and how those evaluations contribute to how you sense or experience being you. A negative body image may include evaluations that your height, weight, shape or features should be different than they are, and contributes to body dissatisfaction. A positive body image is characterized by acceptance of your unique attributes and appreciation for function over form – leading to body satisfaction. 

So how do you know if you need some help cultivating a positive body image? Aside from the obvious (how you feel in your skin), the following behaviours point to the need to improve your self-acceptance and body satisfaction. 

Appearance over-concern is amplified by excessive attention to how you look, body checking, reassurance seeking, avoidance behaviours and overvaluing how you (and others) look. Your attention and time are two of your greatest assets, but if you spend your time focusing on the wrong things, you’ll suffer. Excessive attention to your appearance and body sensations tends to increase dissatisfaction. Reflect on how often you’re focused on how you look when socializing and how this feeds the cycle of comparison and self-judgment. 

Body checking can include looking at yourself in mirrors or reflective surfaces (windows etc.), touching or mentally scanning specific areas, weighing yourself more than once per week or comparing yourself with those around you. This excessive checking interferes with your ability to be present, but it can also lead you to ask loved ones for reassurance – either that your body is okay, or in your effort to convince them that there is a problem. 

Over time, the cycle of body checking, comparison, and attention to looks can trigger the need to alter appearance. Sometimes the impact is more benign (exercise and make-up), and other times it is more time-consuming, expensive, or even harmful (excessive exercise, surgery, dieting). Conversely, some people will cope with image dissatisfaction through avoidance. This can include avoiding social engagements, intimacy or even hugging. 

If you’re reading this, and notice that you’re doing some of the above behaviours – there’s hope!

  • Self-Care: Take care of your whole self. Demonstrate your worthiness to yourself by eating healthy foods, moving in ways that promote longevity and nurturing healthy sleep.
  • Social Soothing: Spend time with people who celebrate you as a person, who have broad views on ‘beauty’ and who demonstrate body positivity (or at least neutrality).
  • Actively Challenge Internal and External Narratives: Notice when you’re putting yourself down and stop (even if it’s mid-sentence). Likewise, challenges the idea that our bodies should look like an idealized caricature of a human. 
  • Spend your Time and Attention Wisely: Imagine what you can do with all the time and attention spent on comparison, body checking and over-attention!