Why the Mirror Lies: Body Dysmorphia


Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental health condition in which one is unable to stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in their appearance. These flaws are minor and are unable to be recognized by others. However, the individual may feel ashamed to the extent that they begin to avoid social situations. When someone suffers from this condition, they have the tendency to focus intensely on their body image by committing certain habits such as, repeatedly checking themselves in the mirror or avoiding mirrors altogether, and constantly seeking reassurance from others. Other common symptoms of body dysmorphia include, critically checking photos of oneself when deemed they looked “good”, excessive grooming or skin picking, constantly comparing one’s body to other people, and an urge to hide certain parts of your body. 

In a nutshell, it may seem that body dysmorphia is primarily about disliking your own body, however, there is much more to the condition than simply just being unhappy about your appearance. Body Dysmorphia is also about deciding to wear oversized clothing to hide your insecurity, it’s about buying clothes that are too big because your mind has convinced you that you are bigger than you actually are. It is also about the inability to concentrate due to the consumption of thoughts about how your body looks which then makes you worry about whether others are judging you for it or not.

Body Dysmorphia is closely related to body image, which can be defined by the way in which one views their physical self in their reflection, photos, and within their own minds. One who carries a poor body image may lack confidence and acceptance of their appearance due to a distorted view of themselves. The development of a negative image generally sprouts from the comparison of oneself to others as well as cultural beauty standards. Considering that the majority of today’s society operates remotely, this comparison often occurs due to engagement with social media. With the false belief that everyone is seemingly perfect, body dysmorphia is likely to emerge.

The fairly recent presence of social media has not necessarily been the only weighted influence on body dysmorphia as throughout history, there has always been a lack of proper and realistic beauty representations. Visual media has always chosen to show unrealistic body standards. For example, print advertising of the past has consistently relied on the objectification of the body. Moreover, such visual advertisements unnecessarily inform our culture’s ideas on body image and this improper depiction has allowed generations to unnaturally manipulate their bodies. 

Although impractical body standards did not begin with social media, it has most definitely contributed to its continuation. The constant reinforcement of likes and attention towards a certain figure has created the societal illusion that everyone must look a certain way. Evidently, if one notices such positive reinforcement towards certain physiques, they may begin to wonder whether their own appearance needs to be altered. Unfortunately, the everyday use of social media contributes to how influential it can be on the emergence of body dysmorphia. The limitless content it provides has allowed most to strive for the “perfect” image. Furthermore, social media can emanate obsessive thoughts about appearance. The constant feed of “ideal” bodies can also be a constant reminder of one’s perceived flaws which therefore leads to compulsive actions in an attempt to remediate the issue. 

Still, in reality, every individual is gifted a unique and distinct physique that in no way reflects who they are as a person. Sadly, our society today heavily sheds significance on the way a person looks physically and tends to connect such characteristics to how likeable they can be. Regardless, your body has granted you every experience in life and due to your own physique, your heart will continue to beat with the opportunity of living to experience all the joys that life has to offer. Therefore, do nourish your body and take care of it, because you are the only gifted one in this lifetime and the ridiculous standards of today should not allow for the mirror to lie to you every time you view yourself.

Featured image: iStock by Larysa Amosova

Hana Abulkheir
Hana Abulkheir
Second year behaviour and social science student from Egypt but primarily lived abroad. Interested in mental health in well-being.

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