How Body Image Can Affect Relationships

How I see myself affects my relationships and I imagine this is true for others as well. If you don’t feel good about yourself, why would you think other people have positive thoughts about you?  If I don’t like the way I look, why would anyone else? If I feel fat, other people must be thinking that I am, too.

It’s been my experience that my body image impacts my self confidence which impacts my relationships and potential relationships.  I’m less likely to put myself out there, meet new people, try group activities where I don’t already know someone.  It comes down to not feeling scared of others judging me as harshly as I judge myself.  I do believe that we are our harshest critics, but even knowing that it’s hard to believe that others don’t judge me the same as I do myself.

Untitled

My grandmother (who’s 88) recently told me I should try online dating because, obviously, being single isn’t acceptable at the advanced age of 27.  To be honest, I don’t mind being single and I would rather be on my own than with someone whose not worth my time just to not be alone. Part of my singleness comes down to my own poor body image and, again, not putting myself out there.  I have tried online dating.  Granted, it was only for like 2 weeks, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it.  My response to my grandmother was that once I’ve lost 20 pounds maybe I’ll try it again.  She agreed this was a good idea, which is just another blow to me, but that’s how the women in my family are.  My grandmother and to a lesser extent, my mom and one of my aunts, are very critical about appearance, including their own.

It’s not that anyone comes out and says to me or each other “You’re fat,” its the slightly more subtle “You look like you’ve gained a few pounds” or “You should watch what you eat.” They don’t mean to be like this, but constantly having someone comment when I have a less-than-healthy snack does get old. And, honestly, where did a phrase like “watch what you eat” even come from? I really hope when I’m eating it, it’s not doing anything exciting enough to warrant me watching it.

I’m confident about other things, just not body image and that does have an effect on my self-confidence to the point where I won’t do things and in the long run this could negatively affect not only my relationships but also my career (when I eventually figure out what it’s going to be).  I don’t have this particular problem, but I can see how having poor body image and low self-esteem would lead to letting people walk all over you and push you around.  I’m not at all like that, I haven’t been in a relationship where that would be an issue, but I can see how that could happen.

My poor body image has had the greatest impact on my love life. This impact is to the point where I don’t date and have no love life to speak of other than in the context of a lack of one.  Maybe it’s because I spent 5 years at all girl school school, or because I was bullied enough at a young age to feel uncomfortable with myself young (girls can be vicious), or maybe it’s partly because of my father and how he was while I was growing up and our relationship (or lack there of). Likely, it’s a combination of everything that has affected how I act around men.  I think my biggest issue is that I just assume no one is interested in me.  I mean, there are so many other more attractive, more interesting, women around, why would anyone be interested in me?

dont look at me

Hopefully losing weight (if I ever actually manage to) will help.  Maybe this mentality is so ingrained into who I am that even when I get to my goal weight this will still be how I think.  Changing the way I think is something I need to work on, but that’s a lot easier said than done.  I take it as a good sign that I’m aware of it, changing it is the next step. I would eventually like to be in a serious relationship, but I’d like to be more confident in myself so I can have a healthier relationship. I’d also like be less bothered by other peoples criticism and less concerned with being judged on my appearance. As for losing weight, I have found that be concerned about what other people think alone isn’t enough to keep me motivated, but that and the idea of travel and health seem to make a difference.

When part of how I see myself is negative, it affects my relationships with my friends, my family, and others.  It has an effect on how I go about forming new relationships or, as is sometimes my case, not trying to meet new people or do certain things because of my fear of how I will be judged.  So, I’m working on getting physically healthy and fit changing how I think about myself.

For anyone who has children, tell them frequently that they are beautiful.  Start building their confidence while they are young so it’s less easily diminished.  Don’t get me wrong, my family is wonderful and assures my I’m wonderful in other ways, I don’t totally lack confidence, but this is one issue I wish they were more positive about or less focused on. It’s not just blatantly telling someone that they look fat (or anything else that can be taken as less than positive) that causes harm, it’s also constant little suggestions and comments. We are our own harshest critics, we don’t need others to help bring us down.

I feel like this sounds really harsh towards my family, but they really are great and they are getting better about being less critical…I think. They support me in just about everything (my grandmother wasn’t exactly thrilled when I was considering moving to Saudi Arabia), tell me I’m wonderful, and I love them. But when you grow up around women who are so critical of themselves, it’s easy to latch onto.

P.S. Please don’t judge me if I mixed up when to use affect vs effect.  I tried, really I did.

3 thoughts on “How Body Image Can Affect Relationships

  1. As your fellow chronically single, allergic-to-online-dating friend, I can relate to this post. Sometimes it really makes me sad how much women internalize body shame and standards of beauty. Like it’s impossible not to because we’re surrounded by it from birth. You’re beautiful, lady. I hope your family eventually learns to lay off. Would they be receptive if you tried to talk about it with them?

  2. As your fellow chronically single, allergic-to-online-dating friend, I can relate to this post. Sometimes it really makes me sad how much women internalize body shame and standards of beauty. Like it’s impossible not to because we’re surrounded by it from birth. You’re beautiful, lady. I hope your family eventually learns to lay off. Would they be receptive if you tried to talk about it with them?

  3. You’re spot on, Tricia! Beauty standards are impossible to avoid. However, I have found that people who receive positive feedback growing up can sometimes overcome or pay no attention to these standards, having faith in the fact that they are beautiful. I’ve tried talking to my family about it and snap at my mom when she says something I don’t appreciate or starts watching what I eat. To be honest, it just encourages sneak-eating, which is no good. And really, they have gotten better, but there are no changing some things (my grandmother) and I do have an aunt who really gets it.

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