“Could I really stop seeing myself negatively?”

“Could I really stop seeing myself negatively?”
March 28, 2017 Ann Weiser Cornell

Focusing Tip #552

What can help with those painful self-judgements about body image like ‘I am not beautiful’? Read on…

A Reader writes:

Can Focusing help when we think we are not beautiful? Can I stop thinking I am not beautiful? Could I really stop seeing myself negatively?

Dear Reader:

My heart goes out to you, it’s so painful to carry these negative views of ourselves.
I know… because for many years I was obsessed when I looked in the mirror by how “not beautiful” I was. Today, it’s not an issue at all… (I like how I look and I don’t label my looks)… but that is after many years of Focusing with deep issues of hurt and longing.

I discovered that a very young place in me was waiting in vain for my father to love me and had become convinced that he would have loved me if I was “beautiful.”

It was sure that the inadequacy was not in him, it was in me – that I was not good enough, not lovable enough, not beautiful enough.

That very young part of me was longing for any man to gaze at me adoringly and find me beautiful…. convinced that that would fill in what it was missing.

And guess what? It didn’t. The longed-for gazing and adoring happened a fair number of times, at least two or three, but it did not heal the wound, it did not fill the lack, and it didn’t make the child stop longing to be seen as beautiful.

(And it also didn’t make me feel beautiful.)

This is what Barbara McGavin and I would call, in the Treasure Maps to the Soul (Untangling) work a “displacement,” where the real longing gets displaced onto something else and therefore can never be truly met.

What can you do to start the process of change? Use this language: “I am sensing something in me that feels not beautiful,” and begin to make a relationship of caring and compassion with that part of you. You will probably also need to say Hello to a part of you calling you “not beautiful.” It seems harsh but it is actually worried about you and trying to help you. It’s quite a journey but it leads to freedom and those are its first steps.


  1. Maarten Aalberse 1 year ago

    Thank you, Ann…

    And an idea that came up after having read this and having it let sink in:

    Do you have any experience with, at a later stage,
    put one hand on the “place where not-feeling-beautiful resides” and one hand on the “place where the critic resides”?

    If so, what were your experiences?

    I haven’t tried this myself, on relate dissues…

    Warm wishes

  2. Author
    Ann 1 year ago

    Hi Maarten – Interesting comment! No we have not. But I wonder why? And the answer is that criticizing parts are not usually found in a body location, especially at first, and therefore they are not available to be put a hand on.

    But we definitely hold both parts respectfully using an “AND-sentence” — I am sensing something in me feels not beautiful and I am sensing something in me calls it not beautiful… and both are there.”

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *