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