Make Peace with Your Body and Appearance

This is an excerpt from my new book Nothing Changes Until You Do, posted with permission.  Published by Hay House and available online or in bookstores.

I was in the bathroom one morning a number of years ago getting ready for my day. As I was shaving and taking care of my morning routine, my gremlin was actively and negatively commenting about a number of specific things related to my appearance. That nasty and critical voice in my head said, Look at you, you look awful! Your hair is thinning, you’re gaining weight, you have dark circles under your eyes, and those worry lines on your forehead keep getting deeper. You’re clearly not taking good care of yourself.

I was doing my best to ignore my gremlin, finish up in the bathroom, and get on with my day. As I was in the midst of this process, there was a series of loud bangs on the door—boom, boom, boom!

“Daddy!” said my then two-year-old Samantha. “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy—open up!”

Samantha, who has always been quite passionate, was going through a phase where she was barging into rooms, particularly the bathroom, all the time—so I’d been well trained to lock the door whenever I went in there.

“In a minute, honey. Daddy’s shaving,” I said.

Samantha continued to bang on the door and said, “Daddy, open the door! I have to tell you something important.”

“I’ll be out in a minute, sweetheart,” I said, hoping she would just go away (although I knew there was little to no chance that would actually happen).

“Daddy,” said Samantha, “it’s really important.”

I let out a big sigh, and with a towel wrapped around my waist, shaving cream on half my face, and a pretty bad attitude, I begrudgingly opened the door. “Yes, honey, what is it?” I asked, impatiently.

I looked down and saw Samantha standing there completely naked with a huge grin on her face. She looked up at me, spun around with a little twirl, and, with her arms outstretched, said, “Daddy, look how cute I am!” Then, quite pleased with herself, she gave me a big hug and ran off.

The irony of the situation was not lost on me. Although I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry, it hit me in a profound way that Samantha’s relationship to her own body and appearance was quite different and more empowering than mine.

Being hypercritical of my appearance, unfortunately, is a somewhat common experience for me and is something that I’ve struggled with significantly at times in my life. Some of the deepest pain and self-loathing I’ve ever felt has had to do with my feeling ugly and not good enough physically. I’m sure there are a variety of external factors that have contributed to this to some degree—growing up with parents who didn’t feel good about themselves physically and who both talked about that quite a bit; being focused so intensely on the shape, size, and function of my physical body as a competitive athlete for almost 18 of my first 25 years on the planet; and being impacted by our media and culture, which seem to have an insatiable obsession with appearance, beauty, and body perfection. However, at the root of these issues for me (which I think is true for most of us who struggle with this) is a deep sense of feeling fundamentally flawed.

A couple of things have added to the complexity and confusion of this particular issue for me over the years. First is that I’ve gotten mostly positive feedback about my appearance. I’ve never really been significantly overweight. Nothing is physically “wrong” with me, but I still feel unattractive. Which leads to the second bit of added confusion: I’m a man. Body image stuff, as we often read about, is portrayed mostly as a “women’s issue.” However, it has been a major issue in my life. At times I’m not sure what’s worse, feeling bad about my body and appearance, or feeling embarrassed that I feel bad about my body and appearance—both of these experiences have produced feelings of shame, guilt, sadness, anger, and conflict within me. And I know I’m not alone. This isn’t something that only affects teens, celebrities, or women—it’s something that people of all ages, body types, races, genders, backgrounds, and professions struggle with.


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