You're not happy with yourself; you don't like the way you look. Maybe you've not been eating well and have either packed on the pounds or shed too many. Either way, your body image — as you see it — doesn't do much for you, and you're sure that it isn't going to be much of a turn-on for the opposite sex.
Those feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness have come to the surface, and you're left feeling that you don't measure up — at least, you sure don't look like those models in the magazines. You find yourself obsessing about your flaws, and your depression deepens.
His Fears, Her Fears
You have already read about how the power of advertising can capitalize on your insecurities and perceived body imperfections. Now it's time to take a closer look. You probably have a pet problem area — one part of your body that you're convinced is a serious flaw.
If you can, you cover it up with clothing, hairstyle, or makeup. If you can't, you may adopt a grim attitude and poor posture. So what worries the human race? The worries are surprisingly constant:
Men worry about penis size, going bald, and gaining a pot belly.
Women worry about breast size, “thunder thighs,” and their weight.
Both sexes worry about being too tall or too short. Remember, if your feet touch the ground, you're tall enough! Then there's having feet that are too big or a nose that's the size of Sicily. If you can think of a body part, you can be sure someone is worrying about it.
What exactly is a perfect body? Or more to the point: Is there such a thing as a perfect body? Actually, perfection is a moving target — or at least the definition of perfection is. Your body is unique, just as you are unique.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 75 percent of people who suffer from depression experience a loss of libido. Antidepressants may clear up the depression but leave sexual dysfunction in their wake.
Body image is culturally defined. At different times and in different places, the concept of beauty has changed. What's in during one era may be out in another. Take a brief stroll through history, and you'll get a pretty good idea of how this works.
Study a few Greek sculptures and you'll see they didn't much care for skinny. Jump ahead to the 17th century and you have Peter Paul Rubens, the Baroque Flemish painter who gave us the term Rubenesque. He painted women with some meat on their bones. Not an anorexic in the lot. Why was fat socially acceptable? Simple.
Throughout history, only the wealthy could afford enough food to get fat. It was a mark of high social status to be portly. Today, however, thin — or rather, emaciation — is the societal standard for the body beautiful. It's not healthy.
Embracing Your Outer Self
When you're feeling good, you can shrug off the media messages about your “imperfect” body and take them for what they are — fad and fashion hype. When you're dealing with depression, however, each advertisement and each picture is a constant reminder that you're not okay. They cause more stress and then you feel worse.
If you could see into the lives of those model-perfect people, you'd find anxiety and worry enough for the super-sized. So, what do you do? You make yourself focus on one part of your body that you know is good. Do you have good cheekbones? A rugged jaw? Slim, shapely legs? Depression hasn't changed them, you know. When you get your depression under control, you'll begin to feel better about how you look, overall. The interesting aspect of this is that once you begin feeling better, you'll begin taking better care of yourself, as well.