Pretty or Ugly... what role does perspective take?

Pretty Ugly

 I’m very ugly

So don’t try to convince me that

I am a very beautiful person

Because at the end of the day

I hate myself in every single way

And I’m not going to lie to myself by saying

There is beauty inside of me that matters

So rest assured I will remind myself

That I am a worthless, terrible person

And nothing you say will make me believe

I still deserve love

Because no matter what

I am not good enough to be loved

And I am in no position to believe that

Beauty does exist within me

Because whenever I look in the mirror I always think

Am I as ugly as people say?

By Abdullah Shoaib

How would you think you would feel if you said this to yourself everyday?

Now try reading it from the bottom up. 

Surprising right? 

Isn’t it amazing how simply shifting your perspective can change everything 

In my sessions, I often talk about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’s (CBT) three factor model of mood, thoughts and behavior. I add the fourth factor, body, to highlight how the three factors are inherently connected to our body perceptions and sensations. 

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If we tell ourselves each day that we are ugly, it may make us feel sad, upset, depressed and worthless (mood). Our body might then feel heavy and lethargic. One might notice their head and shoulders rounding forward (body). Often, when we feel this way we tend to isolate ourselves, avoid certain situations and places and shut down even more (behaviors). 

On the other hand, if we tell ourselves that we are beautiful, more than likely we will feel happier and more confident (mood). One’s body may feel lighter and one might be observed standing tall, shoulders back and head held high (body). When we feel this way we often want to be around people and have energy to get things done (behaviors).

The cool thing is, because of the interrelationship between mood, mind, body and behaviors we can intervene at any one level in order to shift our mood. 

 1.    Body level:Using opposite action to emotion (DBT), when feeling down simply making a choice to sit/stand up tall, shoulders back, arms by your side and head up will send the message to our brain that we are feeling happier and safe. (Need to hold this posture for at least 10-15 mins)

2.   Behavior level:  Pulling from CBT, one can use the principle called behavioral activation, which includes doing physical activity, something fun and/or social. Yes, easier said than done. If you can get started and get through the first 10 minutes, the rest will work itself out. (Always helps to have a good friend or a family member to encourage you to go do something with them.)

3.   Thought level:  Cognitive flexibility is one of the first techniques I would try in this moment. Anxiety often puts blinders on our perception and leads us to only focus on one possibility, often the worst possible outcome; when there are actually so many other options. Cognitive flexibility is about pausing and considering all the options, not just the first one that comes to mind. In order to do this here are some questions to ask yourself that can be helpful.

a.    What is the complete opposite of my thought?

b.   What would be an option somewhere in between?

c.    What real concrete evidence do I have to prove that my first thought is true or not?

 Again, this is all easier said than done and even I am not always aware when I am falling into the traps of anxiety. Just the other day in my own therapy session my therapist asked me about a thought that I was having about not being able to tolerate a certain experience. She asked me to consider what if I could tolerate the experience and what if it turned out to be one of the most healing experiences of my life. I honestly hadn’t even considered that…. And ever since I have been considering another option, things feel lighter, and elements of hope and choice have emerged. One of the realizations that I have come to over the years is that I indeed have a choice about what thoughts I actually focus on and choose to believe. That choice affects how I feel. Though, sometimes it is hard to see our blind spots and that’s why we go to therapy. Our therapist is often more objective and can help us identify our blind spots and when we are not looking at all the options.