5 Ways To Stop Obsessing About Your Looks (And What It Means If You Do)

Don’t be captive to self-objectification.

self objectification how to look pretty Unsplash by Annie Spratt 

You don’t have to be a psychologist to know that American women are obsessed with their appearance and constantly worrying about their looks. We all want to know how to look pretty, how to look hot and even how to look younger. 

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, in 2016 over 4.5 million Botox injections were performed, with the total price tag for surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures topping 15 billion dollars. Only 9% of recipients were men.


Allure reports that 2017 was the “unofficial” year of plumped-up lips. The predictions for what will be hot in 2018 include the laser bra lift, the new Botox, upper and lower eye-lid filler and customized labia (ouch!). My personal fav is the so-called vampire breast lift. As you might guess, blood is involved. And here I was thinking Allure was cool for banning the term “anti-aging.”

While we complain that men view us as sex objects, our own beliefs, as evidenced by the demand for various “aesthetic” procedures, are tantamount to the same thing. We believe romantic interest hinges on our weight, success at work is improved by looking great in our clothes and confidence can’t help but spike with a little Botox.


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Why are we so obsessed with appearances?

Objectification is the view of women as objects, a collection of body parts, and is often sexual in nature. Self-objectification occurs when we internalize that view. We come to look at ourselves as we imagine others see us, critiquing, judging and frequently finding ourselves wanting.

We think that investment in our bodies and appearance will reap rewards. Who among us has not considered the possibility that a teeny-weeny surgical procedure will enhance our happiness and well-being by getting us a superior man or job, or by making us feel better about ourselves?


Our culture, the media, friends, family and acquaintances all contribute to the pull toward self-objectification through the messages they constantly convey about our appearance.

The dangers arising from our obsession with our bodies and physical attractiveness are endemic.

In addition to constant body-monitoring, self-objectification can lead to depression, anxiety and eating disorders, among other things. And about that tiny procedure, remember Joan Rivers?

There are several dangerous rabbit holes we slide down. There’s the endless procedures trap. First it’s a nose job, then a boob job and then another “fix.” Then there’s the search for the perfect make-up, moisturizer or haircut. And, of course, there’s the quest for the right clothing for every occasion. Like anyone cares what you wear to the next funeral.


The reward we seek from these various self-enhancements is never attained, because, like internet rabbit holes, these paths are never-ending. There’s always another “thing” to try or to find.

You may have fallen prey to self-objectification if:

  • the time you spend improving your appearance is more than the time you spend improving your mind.
  • you’re more focused on an interview outfit than on answers to the questions you’ll be asked.
  • you think the money you spend on shoes, clothes and accessories will make you happy.
  • you spend less money on experiences so you can spend more money on improving your appearance.
  • your last date was more interested in your body than your mind and you’re still waiting for him to call.
  • it makes perfect sense to take out a loan to see your aesthetician.
  • you’re ashamed of what you ate because it makes you feel fat.
  • you’re ashamed you didn’t exercise because it makes you feel fat.
  • you believe people like (or don’t like) you because of your appearance.
  • you can’t date until you reach your goal weight.
  • you “need” Botox and fillers before your next job interview or date.

I’m sure you can think of many more ways in which you subtly consider yourself an object, often a sex object, to be primped, prepped and presented like a gourmet meal.

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What do we really need to be focusing on to get what we want in life?

Think about what really gets you the great job. Things like technical skill acquired through education and training, mastery acquired through experience, the ability to effectively network, and the like, are what create job opportunities.

Think about what gets you the great relationship. The qualities that attract others to want to be in a relationship with us are largely internal, values like kindness, honesty and loyalty. They’re behaviors like listening, empathy and being present.

Don’t get me wrong, I know you must get your foot in the door based on that first impression. Makeup, hair removal and a little this or that with your aesthetician are great, if you feel good about it and can afford it. It’s when the search for the perfect becomes the enemy of the good that you’re in trouble.


When you decide that physical attractiveness is more important than skills, personality or intelligence, that you are not good enough as you are when it comes to attaining your most important life goals, you’re sunk.

But you can reduce your feelings of self-objectification and still find the right job, mate or road to happiness — you just have to re-envision your views of yourself:

1. Notice and counter triggers from others.

We all have triggers that make us doubt ourselves. You meet an old acquaintance who jokingly remarks that you’re starting to show your age. Immediately, you’re at a mirror looking for the telltale lines, change in skin tone and all the rest. Instead, remind yourself that you know what you look like. You look the same as you did before you left the house when you thought you looked fine.

Someone else may be triggered by a remark about weight, as in, “You look like you’ve finally filled out a little.” Instead of jumping on the scale, you might ask yourself why someone would make such a remark. What are their issues? Did they really mean you looked better? Don’t be pulled into their obsession with appearances.


2. Notice and counter triggers from the media.

We’re bombarded by images of young, attractive, seemingly perfect women in film, television, and ads. You know, the ones our partner is staring at, mouth agape. Remind yourself that they are made-up by experts, filmed in the best possible light, often airbrushed to perfection.

You are not 18 anymore, you may have put on a little weight, and you are not perfect. We’re all getting older, many of us are putting on weight and none of us are perfect. You are in the good company of real and amazing women.

3. Decide how you want to look and tell your inner critic to shut up.

You don’t have to be model thin. It’s normal to have life show on your face. Your boobs do not need to be perky or perfect. Your stomach does not have to be washboard flat. Your butt is the way it is and that’s great. Your clothing expresses your uniqueness; it doesn’t have to fit a certain model prescribed by social norms because you’re female.

4. Decide how you want to behave and ditch the “shoulds.”

Women are subject to different rules when it comes to behavior in work and social settings. Instead, you get to decide if it’s okay to correct the facts in a conversation, be the smartest person in the room and talk as much as you want, even if the person you’re correcting is a man, the person you’re smarter than is your partner and the person you’re providing with a lengthy explanation is your boss.


5. Make a plan to honor your body.

This might mean having an exercise and healthy eating routine. I’m referring to a strategy to be healthy, not one to lose weight or that floppiness under your upper arms (good luck with that; it’s skin not fat!). Find some type of movement that you enjoy (walking, running, biking, yoga, anything). As for your aesthetician, moderation is probably the key.

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If you’re looking for that sense of well-being, it will never come out of a cosmetic bottle, your closet or your next shopping spree. It will not be attained with a scalpel, an injection or a laser.

You’re far more likely to find improved life-satisfaction from enjoying your work, being in satisfying relationships and engaging in fun, healthy activities. You are awesome inside and out. You don’t need to be fixed.


Judith Tutin, PhD, ACC, is a licensed psychologist and certified life coach. Connect with her at drjudithtutin.com where you can request a free coaching call to bring more passion, fun and wellness to your life.