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Why is it easier to be kind to yourself in retrospect?

By Ellie Rochell

Picture taken in a time in our lives when we thought we looked fat, our skin was too spotty or our legs were too hairy, we can look back in a matter of years (or months) and see a completely different person.

As Keira Knightley once said, “I look quite pretty.”

Apparently there’s a reason for this - Consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, Dr Elena Touroni, reports that part of the reason we see ourselves in a new light later down the line is all to do with developing a stronger self of sense (and self-acceptance as a result of this), ageing and having the ability to be more objective.

Cosmopolitan magazine spoke to Dr Touroni, she told them: "Women receive a lot of added pressures growing up, especially when it comes to appearances and how they 'should' look," Dr Touroni explains. "This can lead to a lot of self-doubt and a critical inner dialogue [but] as we grow older, we’re generally less impressionable. Many of us will find that we naturally start to become more comfortable in our own skin."

This phenomenon is often experienced by many women (and men), but why does it happen?

In a world where social media is king, we’re constantly shining a light on all of our ‘worst’ and most ‘unappealing’ features. Something that happens as a result of the wonderfully unrealistic standards set by models, influencers and more.

These emotions which were so strong at the time the picture was taken are easily forgotten when looking at the same image some time later. The argument stands that time is the best healer in this situation, we’re no longer looking at ourselves with these huge expectations and perceptions.

Dr Touroni also told Cosmopolitan: "When we’re looking at pictures, we’re observing a memory," says Dr Touroni. "We’re further removed from the feelings and experiences of the time. It’s easier to take a more objective viewpoint when we’re no longer living with the same insecurities [or obsessing over that particular hang-up]."

Now if you’re thinking, ‘it’s all well and good me knowing this, but how do I make it stop?’

Here’s a few bits of advice from Dr Touroni:

  • Work out where these feelings came from, “Work out where these feelings of defectiveness and inadequacy started. Issues with low self-esteem often stem from childhood, therapy is a great place to start exploring them."

  • Be kinder to yourself, ‘ “Develop a more compassionate inner voice". The theory being that the more positive voice will then remain with us throughout the rest of our lives (research actually shows our self-esteem levels peak at the age of 60 too), or at least put up a stronger fight against our inner critic.’

Although, if you’re struggling with these issues at an obsessive level, this could manifest body dysmorphia or disordered eating. Whilst most people may experience feeling down about their appearance, if it starts to preoccupy your mind more of if you change your eating behaviours as a result of this - it may be wise to contact your GP and let them know what you’re feeling.

Some other things which may help:

  • Follow people on social media with your body type. It’s not normal to only be exposed to one body type (especially when it is different from your own), so diversify your social media feeds.

  • Remember what your body does for you. Your body is anything but an aesthetic thing, it is a highly functioning and beautiful thing. You wouldn’t be able to do everything you love without it, whether that’s dancing, travelling, singing or a whole plethora of other things. Remind yourself that your body is your vessel, not just for now, but for forever.

  • When looking at an image of yourself, try picking out three things you like or even love about your appearance. This could be as simple as the colour of your eyes, the shape of your legs or the length of your eyelashes. It doesn’t matter what it is, but make sure you remember that these things are what make you truly unique from anyone else.

P.S this blog was inspired by a post from Mindless Academy, a digital learning platform and the platform which connected us with so many amazing writers (who featured on our blog throughout July). Check out their Instagram, scroll back across August’s posts - their theme has been Body Image this month.

Be kind to yourself.

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