20 Dec 2018

We cannot measure our worth by counting our flaws

Convinced that our body should look perfect we persistently look for flaws, like spots or cellulite. But each of us has only one entirely exceptional body and we should be proud of it --  an interview with a Polish psychologist and psychotherapist. 

Wysokie Obcasy
Paulina Reiter Wysokie Obcasy, Global
We cannot measure our worth by counting our flaws - NewsMavens
Woman, PixaBay

The following fragments from Paulina Reiter’s interview with Professor Zbigniew Lew-Starowicz first appeared in the Polish weekly “Wysokie Obcasy” in January 2018.

Paulina Reiter: Whether we feel attractive or not depends on our self-esteem. How can we improve it?

Professor Zbigniew Lew-Starowicz: Our self-confidence is built on two pillars. The first one is associated with our environmental and social conditions — other people’s opinion about us, our educational level and our job position.

Women are more often than men judged by the way they dress. What also matters is their partner, his professional and financial status and whether they have kids.

Consequently, a woman’s self-esteem is based on whether she does or she doesn’t meet social expectations. And if she doesn’t, she might start questioning herself or develop certain anxiety disorders and obsessions. Sometimes a lack of self-confidence among the attractive women has its origins in their past — perhaps their parents or colleagues persistently criticized their choices when they were young?

The second pillar refers to our own vision of ourselves — who am I? What do I stand for? Am I doing it right? Can I look in the mirror and honestly tell myself that I’m not a liar or a cheater and that my achievements are the result of my own effort and not others’ hard work?

PR: And how can we increase our self-esteem to feel not only like good people, but also like attractive women? We can easily improve our appearance by putting on make-up or buying a new dress. But how can we boost our inner self-confidence?

Whether women feels attractive or not is heavily influenced by other people’s opinion. If a man tells a woman that she’s beautiful and she sees that he really means it, she will believe it.

PR: That’s a vicious circle. If she feels unattractive, there’s only a small chance he will compliment her.

Nonsense! If she doesn’t avoid men, sooner or later she will meet someone who will find her appealing. Here’s how it goes: he says that she’s beautiful. At the beginning she doesn’t listen or she denies it but in the end she gives in. The external factor is decisive. Feeling attractive doesn’t come from our mirror reflection. It derives from other people.

PR: Unfortunately, I must admit that you’re right. But I also think that in a perfect world, both men and women should acquire their self-confidence from the inside. They should feel beautiful and desired because they’re fine and sincere people.

In order to achieve that, we would have to start with a different model of upbringing. Every time I hear a woman (men do it rarely) worrying about “what will people say”, I go crazy, because they don’t believe that their thoughts and feelings are valuable.

Obviously, sometimes it’s difficult to be completely unbiased and not to let other people determine our opinion, but we all need a certain amount of faith in ourselves.

I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that talking to a woman who knows she’s attractive and who is objective in her opinion, can be an incredibly pleasant experience. Unfortunately, social psychology proves that only half of the population is aware of their own true value and the rest live in illusion of their lack of worth. And that’s the bad news -- a miser thinks they’re generous and an egoist sees themselves as an altruist.

PR: How can we build our sexual attractiveness? 

To be a good lover, we don’t have to be Kama Sutra experts, use various erotic toys or put on a sexy lingerie. A skilled lover makes every touch and every stroke magical and extraordinary. At the beginning of a relationship it’s fairly easy -- we don’t need to try too hard to excite each other. But when it gets boring and monotonous, we have to start considering partner’s preferences: if they like nudity, let’s be naked, if they enjoy oral sex, let’s have oral sex.

PR: So a skilful lover recognizes their partner’s desires?

That’s right. Not only do they know their partner’s needs and expectations but they’re also willing to meet them. It’s not rocket science -- we can easily tell whether our partner enjoys certain move or position, or if they suddenly go tense and aloof. Being a good lover is not at all that complicated and I could never understand why so many people believe it is.

PR: Our self-esteem and sex appeal depend on whether we do or don’t accept our body. Are there any techniques, exercises or trainings that could help us appreciate our physique?

Our self-acceptance or its lack is rooted in our childhood. If a girl is not given enough support, she might struggle to accept herself as a woman. It’s particularly important during puberty, when she starts to menstruate. That’s when every girl should be told that she’s going through changes because she’s turning into a woman. Young girls should also be assured that menstruation is a beautiful and completely natural process. Instead of that, girls often hear that period means blood and dirtiness and consequently they grow into women hating their physiology.

Convinced that our body should look perfect we persistently look for flaws, like spots or cellulite, which makes us miserable and disappointed.

Luckily today we see a growing awareness and acceptance of one’s body just the way it is. After all, despite progress and the possibilities of aesthetic medicine, each of us has only one, entirely exceptional body. We should be proud of it!  

PR: That’s easier said than done.

It’s easy! We just need to repeat to yourself: “This is my body. Someone will love it.”

PR: That’s not true. Plenty of women never find those who appreciate them. 

A-ha! These women you’re talking about are not lonely because of their bodies. When a patient tells me that her physique is a reason she’s still alone, I try to dig into the real source of her insecurity, find out what it really is that she dislikes about herself.

Some of my patients focus on a particular feature of their appearance -- that’s easy to overcome once it’s been recognized. Others don’t like the biological, animalistic character of their body. In that case we try to establish a new life philosophy.

We are all psychosomatic creatures and our body is an integral part of our nature, so if a woman keeps distancing herself from her own physicality, perhaps she should concentrate on the spiritual aspect of life. If she’s not ready for such a radical move, she could try a platonic relationship -- as long as she finds a man who will be interested in a non-sexual relation. We’re all different. The number of solutions matches the number of women living in this world.


Professor Zbigniew Lew-Starowicz is a Polish psychiatrist and psychotherapist, an expert in sexology and a national consultant in this field, and a professor of medical science.

Translated from Polish by Martyna Kardach


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