Does Body Image Affect Your Work?
By Debra Hoffman, Ph.D.
It is the Monday after Thanksgiving. You enjoyed a few days off from work and are stepping back into your usual morning routine. Things go well until you put on your pants and they don’t fit! Pressed for time, you squeeze them on and head out the door. All day you feel uncomfortable and notice you’re distracted by negative thoughts like "I am too big. I need to lose weight. I hate my body. I wish I was one of those people that could eat a lot and not gain weight." Your co-workers ask you to go to lunch, but you decide you would rather just stay at your desk. Your mood is down and you can’t wait for the work day to be over.
How an individual perceives his or her body, also known as body image, can have a major impact on overall well-being and work performance. When someone feels happy with his or her appearance, it can translate into better mood. For example, if an individual is feeling self-conscious or dissatisfied with recent weight changes, this might lead to a worsened mood and possibly to avoiding interactions with others. Some may have intrusive, negative thoughts about their appearance. Others may feel anxious and believe that co-workers are negatively judging them. Conversely, feeling proud after a return to exercising might lead to more confidence and positive engagement with others.
Given the importance of body image, is there any way to improve it? Here are some possibilities:
- Try to push yourself to identify aspects of your body that you appreciate or even like. Spending time focusing on these will give your mind less time to think about the negatives.
- Practice being kind to others. If you notice that you often judge or criticize others’ appearance, it can make you feel like others are probably judging you. Make a conscious effort to notice people’s attributes and delay the urge to judge them as “good” or “bad”.
- Pay attention to your self-talk about your body. Challenge yourself to say something like “I have gained 10 pounds, and I am still a good-looking person who has a lot to offer the world,” instead of “I am so fat, I hate myself.”
- Avoid comparisons. You might be spending a lot of time comparing your appearance to how it was in the past, to your friends, or maybe even to celebrities. This is a common practice, but it is usually not very helpful, especially when it comes to aspects of appearance that one is born with and could not possibly change.
If you find that negative thoughts about your appearance are interfering with your life, causing anxiety, or significantly affecting your mood, you might want to consider therapy. Behavioral Health Partners (BHP) offers treatment for anxiety and depression, and has a team of mental health professionals who can accurately assess your symptoms and make recommendations for treatment. To schedule an intake appointment, give us a call at (585) 276-6900.
Behavioral Health Partners is brought to you by Well-U, offering eligible individuals mental health services for anxiety and depression.
Keith Stein |