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Well being - help with keeping your mind healthy

Dr Brenda Dawes-Burritt (Psychologist)

1 March

In the bar of the New Inn last week someone I didn't know was telling me about problems she has with expectations about her appearance. Frankly I thought she was rather well dressed, fairly pretty and had clearly spent time and money on her make-up etc. Compared to me she was a beauty queen.

However, she was saying that society judges her on her appearance and it harms her self esteem. So for the purposes of the discussion I went along with that.

It set me thinking so I thought in this column I'd say a few words about appearance. The first thing to say is that everybody looks the way they do. That is simply life. It's not ideal. We'd all like to look like filmstars but none of us do. I don't. You don't. Even the filmstars don't actually.

Once you've accepted that, the important thing is not to let it get you down too much. You're never going to become Sharon Stone by buying some lip gloss, and it doesn't matter how long you spend in front of the mirror in the morning. You will fool no-one.

But on the other hand, try not to give up entirely. Wearing track-suit bottoms to work will kill your promotion chances. Heavy jumpers with holes in the elbow make people treat you like a tramp. Partially it's in the mind. You need to convince yourself that you are not a slob. But if you aim to high you'll only fail and then you'll naturally feel even worse. So do the minimum.

Try buying self-iron clothes, hard-wearing high quality materials and styles which are not much affected by fashion - for example suit jackets. Keeping up with fashion is a losing game and only likely to make you feel like a failure.

With the minimum of effort you can then pass muster and be 'good enough' not to be laughed at. As long as you have set your ambition as being "I don't want to be laughed at" you will be okay.

Try to wear something different every day, use deoderants and mouthwash, adopt a tidy hairstyle you can keep under control (short ponytail is fine). And importantly, tell yourself that you look fine and your real value and worth is in your skills and what you do.

The more you repeat something the more likely it is you'll believe it. You can genuinely fool yourself this way. Amazing but true - they've done lots of studies which have proved it.

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