Health experts warn of dangerous trend as survey finds women self-criticise eight times a day
I’m guilty of this, perhaps not to the degree of eight times per day, but more than I would like. When my eating disorder was at its worse a few years ago, I was fanatical with my body image, pausing in front of store windows, any type of mirror accessible, weighing myself two or three times per day. I knew this wasn’t normal, but I was ill and anorexic.
While focusing on my body image at the Eating Disorder Program, I became more mindful about why this obsession was so essential to me, who was I striving to please and was I more contented now that I dropped all of the weight?
No, I was fucking miserable now! Thinner, yet depressed. Who was I trying to please? My mother ~ I could never have pleased her anyways. It was an eye-opener, yet it has taken years and I’m still in therapy trying to deal with the impact of her harsh abuse. I have recovered from the eating disorder, yet I still have setbacks with “looking fat” and glancing in mirrors, but less often. The lack of self-confidence/self-esteem I still struggle with and it still follows me.
HEALTH experts warn women’s impulse to criticise their own bodies is dangerously intensifying after a new study found the average woman puts herself down at least eight times each day.
Social media has been blamed for driving a widespread increase in self-judgment as the survey of 2000 British women revealed one in seven were slagging themselves off frequently through the day. And many are berating themselves first thing in the morning, with half of those quizzed confessing to doing so by 9.30am.
Criticisms around appearance and weight are most prevalent, encompassing 13 of the 20 most common put-downs in the Weight Watchers study.
Being negative about one’s earnings, creativity and organisation skills, as well as deflecting compliments, also made the list.
Sydney psychologist and founder of Treat Yourself Well Louise Adams said women’s dissatisfaction with their looks acted like a constant nagging voice “from the minute they open our eyes and think about what they’re going to wear”. To make matters worse, most women were not even aware they were thinking such damaging thoughts, Ms Adams said.
“Lots of my clients are really familiar (with the narrative) but had never thought of it as self-judgment. They thought of it as the truth, and that’s really scary,” she said.
Worryingly, two-fifths of survey respondents said they never complimented themselves on a typical day and nearly 90 % said they wouldn’t criticise others the way they did themselves. Ms Adams said social media, with its portrayal of ‘body perfection’, when paired with the a person’s instinct to self-judge, brewed a “perfect storm”.
“We now have a whole new way of being in a world that’s even more focused on appearance, all the time,” she said, encouraging people to undergo a social media detox.
She warned the habit of self-criticism could be crippling in day-to-day life because it led women to resort to skip public outings, avoid clothes shopping and jeopardise their love life. And more dangerously, she stressed there was a strong link between self-judgment and eating disordered behaviour.
She said men suffered from the same compulsion to be self-critical to a lesser extent, but cautioned that body dysmorphia was on the rise among males.
Ms Adams, who runs a treatment program to beat self-judgment, said the way to escape the damaging mindset was to ditch it for a focus on self-compassion and a desire for your own wellbeing.
“It takes work, first you have to recognise how you’re talking to yourself and recognise it as judgment, and then push back on it with a voice that’s calmer and caring,” she said. “It’s about getting out of what’s like an abusive relationship with yourself, and becoming your own best friend.”
AREAS A WOMAN IS MOST SELF-CRITICAL
A WOMAN’S 20 MOST COMMON CRITICISMS OF HERSELF
- You’re too fat/overweight
Your hair is a mess
Your belly looks big
You don’t do enough exercise
Feeling scruffy next to other women
Not earning enough money
You say you are having a ‘fat day’
Not wearing certain items of clothing because you think you can’t pull it off
You wish you were as photogenic as other women on social media
You deflect compliments by saying something negative about yourself
You worry people are talking about you behind your back
I’m not stylish enough
You don’t have sex with your partner enough
You aren’t as creative as other women
Your bum looks big
You aren’t as organised as other women
You don’t spend as much time with your friends as you should
You’re not wearing enough make-up
You aren’t attractive to your partner
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