How do I stop obsessing about my looks (warning: some psychologically intense stuff)

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How do I stop obsessing about my looks (warning: some psychologically intense stuff)

Post by JagerMonster on Thu Feb 04, 2016 12:09 pm

Hi to everybody, I like this forum and I've been a lurker of Dr. Nerdlove for quite a while.

A warning: what I am going to discuss pretty psychologically intense, so if you find hearing about some messed up things that I do disturbing you shouldn't probably read this post. I don't want to upset or hurt anyone, and I know that some of things I think and do can upset a lot of people. If you read this warning and still want to carry on reading and even offer advice I'm already thanking you, and I hope I won't upset you too much.

My problem is pretty simple (and pretty complex at the same time): I'm obsessed about how I look.

I've been called ugly by many, many people, especially when I was a teen, and it hurt me. A lot. I was teased for how ugly I was, I was called the ugliest kid in my school, I was nicknamed "the Ugly One" and even my parents always told me that I was ugly and disgusting. Kids prenteded to throw up at my sight, or asked me to carry around a newspaper to cover my face (while plenty of others laughed).

It was horrible. I almost committed suicide until finally high school ended and I moved out of my parents' place. I found a job and I've been trying to improve my looks by any means necessary: trying different kinds of haircuts, whitening my teeth, exercising (running alone) a lot to get a toned body, getting many kinds of cremes for my skin, putting some lip balm on my lips (they're pretty big and they tend to look horrible unless I care about them,especially when it's cold), dealing with my nose hair (I know, it's a disgusting detail but it had to be done), getting rid of my glasses and getting lenses, trying flattering clothes, etc. etc.

If I think about how I look right now rationally I have to say that while I'm not, and I never will be, a male model I'm definitely an average (or maybe even slightly above average) guy. A six out of ten (maybe even a seven when I dress to impress). So the problem should be over, then, right?

WRONG.

The irrational part of my brain doesn't want to listen to reason. Every time I stare at myself in the mirror I feel horribly ugly. I feel like a monster, someone that nobody can be attracted to.

I frequently slap myself in the face while looking in the mirror and telling myself how ugly I am. I take thousands and thousands of picture and spent countless hours comparing every detail of my face and body (hair, forehead, eyebrows, nose, nostrils, eyes, ears, chin, cheekbones, jaw, arms, legs, feet, torso, knees, fingers, toes) with those of male models and/or actors who are considered "hot". I try to figure out what's wrong my body and face, what I could fix with some kind of plastic surgery (and I would have probably gotten plastic surgery if it wasn't so damn expensive).

I know that this isn't healthy, but I find it really hard to stop, especially when I'm depressed or when I think that someone else have found me ugly (which, as you'll see, happens fairly often).

I compare myself constantly to anyone I see in the streets, trying to see if they're better looking than me or not. It's come to a point that I can't leave my house unless I'm with someone else (and so I can focus on them, not my problems) or I have something really important to do, or I'm going to run in a forest, alone where nobody can see me.

I always carry something to read or my laptop when I'm taking a train or a bus so I won't look at other people, trying to figure out whether they're more attractive than me or not. An hour alone with nothing to do to get my mind busy, surrounded by people I don't know is my worst nightmare.

The worst thing is that I'm also obsessing about how others see me. If I listen to someone whispering or talking in a low voice I wonder whether they're talking about how ugly I am. I know that this is irrational and that they most likely don't (if only because people care about many, many different stuff, not just about the looks of a random stranger).

If I happen to hear the word "ugly" the first thing that comes to my mind is that they're talking about me (even though rationally they're more likely to say something along the lines of "we're going to have some bouts of ugly weather" or "this was an ugly situation to find yourself in").

If I walk before a group of people and they start laughing I think that they're laughing about how ugly I am (again, this is very likely not true). If someone coughs I think that they're about to throw up from how ugly I am. If they hum or sing I think that they're singing or humming to avoid throwing up from how ugly I am.

(Again yes, I know that this is irrational and self-centered. People cough or sing or hum for thousands of different reasons, I'm not that important).

Please don't think that I'm shallow or vain. I don't judge other people based on how attractive they are, and even if I think that they should fix something about their appearance I don't tell them, or hold that against them, or obssess about it. Sure, I'm attracted to some women and not to others, but that's just one fact of life, which is true for anyone I think (we don't really decide what we find attractive, do we?).

But this obsession with my looks is killing me. As you can imagine being so obsessed with the idea that I'm ugly hasn't really worked wonders for my dating and sex life. I've only approached a couple of women in my entire life (and they rejected me) and it was only when I was drunk.

I have plenty of female friends but I'm relaxed about them because they're friends. I enjoy friendship because it's not based on how good looking you are, or how sexually attractive you are, it's based on whether they like your behavior and personality.

Indeed I prefer female friends because some men are going to talk with me about why they don't see me with a woman (I usually lie and say that I'm seeing someone) while most of my female friends have understood that I really don't want to talk about that argument (even though I've never told them why).

I rarely talk about myself anyway, especially when it's about relationships or dating. People have told me that they feel like they barely know me. I ask questions, I listen a lot and I can talk about nerdy stuff, or work, or art, or politics, but the idea of having to confess these thoughts to anyone you can see me is beyond terrifying.

Sometimes some of my friends have tried to "fix" me with some of their friends, but I've always refused with some excuse (like saying I was already seeing someone) because I was deathly afraid that their friends would find me ugly. In these days they don't bother anymore.

I've been kissed a couple of times at parties (I never started the kiss). The only relationship of any kind I've ever had was with a woman who kissed me at a party (with absolutely no initiative from me) and then after we made out asked me to come to a room in the place where we had this party, where she took my virginity at the whopping age of 26. I didn't see her again after that night, and I was too scared to try and contact her.

So you'd think that since some women clearly found me attractive enough to kiss me, and in one case even to have sex with me, then my obsession should be over, right? Wrong. Nothing changed. Rationally I know that this means that there probably are other women who will find me attractive, but my irrational brain only tells me that they were into me because of some kind of fetish for ugly men.

(I know that this is highly offensive to them, and very likely isn't true. Please forgive my irrational brain).

The thought of asking a woman out or of simply just terrifies me, because I'm utterly afraid that they will tell me that I am ugly (even though rationally I know that even if they found me ugly they wouldn't be likely to tell me that I am ugly).

I've carefully hidden this obsession from anyone I know. The thought of discussing this issue with anyone who knows me also terrifies me, because I'm afraid that they're going to tell me "yes, you are ugly and there's nothing you can do to fix it" (again, irrational thoughts).

I'm writing all of this here only because I'm pretty sure that you can't see me. Incidentally, I'm not going to put up any pictures of me in here. I know that you wouldn't tell me that I'm ugly, but I won't do it. Sorry.

Anyway, how do I deal with this obsession? I know I should probably see a therapist, but the idea of telling those things to someone who can see me is something that makes me incredibly anxious. Rationally I know that a therapist would never call me ugly, but the idea of telling those things to someone while they're looking at them fills me with dread.


Last edited by JagerMonster on Thu Feb 04, 2016 12:29 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: How do I stop obsessing about my looks (warning: some psychologically intense stuff)

Post by JagerMonster on Thu Feb 04, 2016 12:26 pm

By the way I've chosen this place because it seems to be supportive and not judging of people with various kinds of issues, and because I like Dr.Nerdlove's advice. If this is too much for the forum to handle, I understand.


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Re: How do I stop obsessing about my looks (warning: some psychologically intense stuff)

Post by Enail on Thu Feb 04, 2016 1:48 pm

Man, JagerMonster, that sounds like an awful thing to be feeling/thinking about all the time, I'm sorry you're experiencing that.  It's absolutely fine to be posting about this here, as long as you know that we're just a bunch of internet strangers and aren't equipped to do anything other than offer suggestions and thoughts based on our own opinions and experiences (which it sounds like you do, so no worries there! Smile).

I think you're right that this is something you should see a therapist for. Do you think it might be more manageable if you printed out what you've written here for them to read rather than having to start off by saying it out loud? Or maybe ease into it a bit at a time rather than telling them the full extent of what you're going through all at once? If that just doesn't seem like something you can do, what about trying online counseling? There are a number of sites out there, both free and paid, where you can talk to someone through chat, which seems like it would be an easier starting point for you, though I can't speak for the quality.

For the sort of day-to-day stuff, do you think it could help to try and focus on people who might be less comparable to you, like kids and old people? I'm guessing when you look at those pictures of the world's oldest person celebrating their 119th birthday, you're not thinking about whether they're good-looking or not, so if that's true, maybe spending some time looking at people who don't trigger that thought pattern, maybe even trying to notice what's interesting about their faces rather than what's attractive, might give your thoughts a rest?
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Re: How do I stop obsessing about my looks (warning: some psychologically intense stuff)

Post by JagerMonster on Thu Feb 04, 2016 2:23 pm

Thanks for answering!

Do you think it might be more manageable if you printed out what you've written here for them to read rather than having to start off by saying it out loud? Or maybe ease into it a bit at a time rather than telling them the full extent of what you're going through all at once?

I just thought about doing something else, like lying to the therapist and saying that I'm obsessing over something different that I actually don't care about so much, like being called stupid instead of ugly.

Do you think it would work or do you think it's like lying to a doctor and I'll get a wrong diagnosis?

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Re: How do I stop obsessing about my looks (warning: some psychologically intense stuff)

Post by litterature on Thu Feb 04, 2016 2:41 pm

JagerMonster wrote:Thanks for answering!

Do you think it might be more manageable if you printed out what you've written here for them to read rather than having to start off by saying it out loud? Or maybe ease into it a bit at a time rather than telling them the full extent of what you're going through all at once?

I just thought about doing something else, like lying to the therapist and saying that I'm obsessing over something different that I actually don't care about so much, like being called stupid instead of ugly.

Do you think it would work or do you think it's like lying to a doctor and I'll get a wrong diagnosis?

I think it'd be best to play it as straight as you're able to, because you might end up having to second-guess your therapist all the time.

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Re: How do I stop obsessing about my looks (warning: some psychologically intense stuff)

Post by Enail on Thu Feb 04, 2016 2:48 pm

I agree, lying seems like it would be counter-productive. But starting out by only talking about a corner of the full picture seems like it would be okay.
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Re: How do I stop obsessing about my looks (warning: some psychologically intense stuff)

Post by Werel on Thu Feb 04, 2016 3:03 pm

Yeah, outright lying to a therapist seems like it'd be counterproductive. From what you've said, it sounds like a big component of what's bothering you is the need to be secretive about your anxieties-- like not only are you hounded by these thoughts about being ugly, but also shame at the prospect that anyone will find out how you feel. Therapy might help by forcing you to verbalize all this to someone who's trained in being a neutral, nonjudgmental observer. For me, anyway, keeping irrational anxieties and persistent thoughts to myself is a shortcut to driving myself crazy (and giving the thoughts more staying power); sometimes it goes a long way just to say it out loud.

Enail wrote:For the sort of day-to-day stuff, do you think it could help to try and focus on people who might be less comparable to you, like kids and old people? I'm guessing when you look at those pictures of the world's oldest person celebrating their 119th birthday, you're not thinking about whether they're good-looking or not, so if that's true, maybe spending some time looking at people who don't trigger that thought pattern, maybe even trying to notice what's interesting about their faces rather than what's attractive, might give your thoughts a rest?
I think this is a good idea too.

Anyway, that sounds exhausting. That really sucks that your parents and peers have been so nasty to you. Sorry you're having to deal with it.
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Re: How do I stop obsessing about my looks (warning: some psychologically intense stuff)

Post by reboot on Thu Feb 04, 2016 5:45 pm

I am going to agree with the rest. It is expensive and counterproductive to lie to your therapist. Think about it. Would you go to a doctor and say that you have been having stomach cramps when the real problem is headaches? Probably not, because you want relief from your headaches. This is no different.
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Re: How do I stop obsessing about my looks (warning: some psychologically intense stuff)

Post by Archetype694 on Fri Feb 05, 2016 2:51 am

Damn bro, I am really sorry you are going through this.

The thought that one is ugly, unfit, unworthy, all of the horrible and cruel mental indictments of self can be a heavy burden to bear. To add to it depression and thoughts of suicide. It is such a persuasive and poisonous line of thought. It can shade how we interpret the words and actions of others, leading to mistaken conclusions of people's intent, or finding malice where none lay.

I think the cruelest part of it is how even though a person who suffers from the above can judge themselves so harshly, would never think to place another under such a scale. Perhaps some people realize on a logical level how ridiculous it is, but emotionally it is like a great weight attached to us, weighing us down in a sea of despair.  

I deeply hope you address these issues, please do not wrestle these demons alone. If not through therapy then find the support from people you love and trust.  I do note that I am a regretful hypocrite in stating such, as I think I would have been the better for talking about my self loathing with my close ones instead of struggling with it for over a decade.

I hope you don't think I am presuming to know what you are going through. I feel some of these things are areas I have struggled with as well. I hope you are able to successfully confront these issues. I can promise you at least it is worth doing so.

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Re: How do I stop obsessing about my looks (warning: some psychologically intense stuff)

Post by jcorozza on Fri Feb 05, 2016 10:37 pm

Ugh, that sounds like some awful stuff going on up in your brain box. On the other hand, just reading what you wrote it sounds like you're already training yourself to attack your jerkbrain thoughts with logic - if you do take the advice about seeing a therapist, definitely look for someone who uses a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy!
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