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Self-concept, Body Image, Self-depreciation and Shyness and Social Anxiety

Ruy Miranda
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Depreciating one’s body or part of it is common in Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder / Social Phobia. It is part of a set of concepts a person has of himself and it determines a standard of attitudes and behaviors.

This interrelationship among a negative self-concept, concept expectation, and Shyness has been generically examined in another article. If you have not read it and find it hard to grasp what is explained here, it may be worth reading it.

Self-depreciation is not an expression from psychiatry and psychology as such, the more so since depreciation has a sense of value, an economic sense, although here it refers to something inner, internal, and, thus, abstract. The more adequate technical expression is low self-esteem, which, in this case, would be low esteem towards one’s body or part of it. I’d rather use the term depreciation because it is more synthetic.

A depreciated image of one’s body or part of it is also found in Phobia/Social Anxiety. Thus, whatever we say here also applies to it.


Depreciating the Body's Image: What It Is


It is an unfavorable image that a person has of her own body or part of it and which threatens her social insertion. This image is integrated into self-concept, meaning that it is part of a set of things a person thinks about herself and which determines her attitude and behavior towards the world and towards people.


Self-concept is not translated into constant thoughts regarding its features, but it rather determines a standard of behavior, either the whole time or in specific situations. Examples follow. Self-esteem is translated by someone into the thought, “I have a well-shaped body.” If this person is not inhibited by other concepts, he will have a wholesome attitude towards others, will not be always thinking, “I have a well-shaped body,” and will exude natural confidence. At the other extreme is someone whose self-concept partly translates into the thought, “I have a horrible body,” as well as other unfavorable concepts towards oneself. This way of regarding one’s own body may bring about social inhibition.


A natural confident attitude in social contacts is the outcome of many favorable concepts of oneself. An anxious or inhibited attitude comes from a good number of unfavorable concepts or from the sheer power of a few.


Depreciating Part of One’s Body



Depreciation could concentrate on part of the body, causing inhibitions and constraints as great as those aimed at the whole body. A couple of examples follow. Someone may keep mumbling, “My nose is ugly.” Upon better examining this concept, he may realize that essentially the concept boils down to the idea that “my nose is big and, therefore, it is ugly.” Although concentrated only on the nose, this depreciation may lead to anxiety in social contacts.


Once I handed a piece of paper and a pencil to a client who often referred depreciatively to his own nose and asked him to draw a silhouette of his face. Sure enough, the nose was drawn way out of any proportion to the rest of the face. It showed that he imagined his nose to be far larger than it actually was.


The image one has of her own body—and not reality itself—determines whether the concept will be favorable or unfavorable.


One characteristic of depreciating part of one’s body is that this is seldom a stand-alone, isolated instance. In other words, when someone depreciates part of her body, more likely other parts will also be depreciated. However, one of the depreciations stands out as compared to the others. Example: Someone whose mind is set on the idea that “my nose is ugly” will, in all likelihood, also think “my face is not interesting” as part of her self-concept. Yet, this inhibition will be strongly dominated by the nasal concept.


Distorted Body's Image



Anyone is potentially capable of good accepting his own body, regardless of bodily shape. Nevertheless, as we are examining actual instances of depreciation, reflected in attitudes and behaviors, we must ponder this image’s distortions.


In the aforementioned example, wherein a nose was seen as far larger than it actually was, we have an instance of what I would call a distortion of the bodily image, pointing to a clear exaggeration in the perception of one’s body. Other examples: A person may be 30% overweight—perhaps more—in terms of his height, which leads to depreciation. Another one, plagued by nervous anorexia , is underweight but thinks the opposite, thus embarking on a serious weight-losing diet . In the first case, the person has actual objective data to conclude that he is fat, while no such objective data exist in the second case. In the first example, the person may say, “I am fat; my body is ugly,” yet this may lead to no social inhibition whatsoever. In the second case, a thin person thinks that he is in fact fat and becomes socially anxious.


Social inhibition or anxiety in social situations is the end result of a rather complex interaction among bodily image, self-concept, depreciation of one’s own body, and expectations in relation to others.


Changes in Parts of the Body and Shyness



Let us image that somebody does not like her own hair and this leads to some social inhibition. Let us further suppose that she finds a way to change the hair and make it look just as she always dreamt it should be. Very likely this person will go through a period of euphoria, given this transformation, and will become very interested in social contacts and feel quite confident in such contacts. In time , the new hair visual is incorporated into the self-concept, the euphoria goes away, and social relations become normal; that is, there is neither euphoria nor inhibition.


This type of physical and mood transformation is fairly common following plastic surgery, which brings about sudden changes.


Unfortunately in many cases, once the euphoria is gone, dissatisfaction with one’s body returns, partly or as a whole, and Shyness is back. The person will drive to his financial limits in seeking new esthetical and surgical interventions. Psychotherapy is indicated in such cases, as an alternative or concomitantly with the bodily changes. One’s goal is self-acceptance, to like oneself, regardless of what the body may look like.

December, 2004


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This web site, the Social Anxiety Disorder and Shyness Directory and these articles contained on this web site are not solicitations, are not medical advice and are not intended as medical advice. This web site, the Social Anxiety Disorder and Shyness Directory and these articles are intended to provide only general, non-specific medical information and are not intended to cover all the issues related to the topics discussed. This web site, the Social Anxiety Disorder and Shyness Directory and these articles do not create any physician-client relationship between Ruy Miranda and you, and they do not replace the eventual relationship between you and your physician, psychologist, or other healthcare professional. This article’s author recommends no particular medication and does not represent the interests of any person, company or pharmaceutical laboratory.


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You may want to read other articles on Social Anxiety Disorder / Social Phobia and Shyness:

Basic Articles:

Self-Concept/Self- Actualization – Shyness Nucleus

Self-concept, Body Image, Self-depreciation and Shyness

Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder: Neurophysiological Approach

Shyness Articles:

What Is Shyness? Fear, Anxiety, Anguish?

Questions and Answers on Shyness

Humiliation Stories, School Spankings: Examples of Shyness Causes

Social Anxiety Disorder Articles:

Social Anxiety Disorder: What It Is, The Anxiety Attack Symptoms

Social Anxiety Attacks: Incidence, Onset, History, Evolution

Social Phobia / Anxiety Disorder: Treatment

Social Phobia / Anxiety Disorder: Differential Diagnosis

Avoidant Personality Disorder

Medications in Social Phobia: Side Effects - Part 1

Antidepressants Tricyclics: Side Effects - Part 2

Metabolic Pathways Individual Differences and Medications Side Effects - Part 3

Genetic Changes: Medications Side Effects - Part 4

First Line Antidepressants - Side Effects - Part 5

Social Anxiety and Shyness Articles:

Panic Disorder, Shyness, Social Phobia - Differences

Why Self-Help in Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder / Social Phobia Doesn’t Help You

Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder:Medication Action

Facial Blushing, Redness of the Face, Ears and Neck

Psychoses, Shyness and Social Phobia


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