Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we’ve spent a lot of time using Zoom, FaceTime, and other video-call apps to feel together even when we couldn’t be together.
For some people, “Zooming” was enjoyable, or at least bearable. For others, seeing that little picture of ourselves in the corner of our screens day after day made us cringe and chipped away at our self-esteem, making us avoid people and even feel less confident in our work.
About 1 in 50 Americans suffer from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which makes people overly critical of some element of their appearance, such as their skin, hair, face, teeth, or some other aspect of their body. They see a defect where there is none, and they compulsively spend a lot of time — and sometimes money — on “fixing” it.
But people who don’t suffer from BDD often struggle with their physical appearance, too.
People with a healthy body image “showed signs of distress and anxiety” when left to look at their own reflection for 10 minutes in a study published in Behaviour Research and Therapy. After a year of virtual interactions, the increased demand for cosmetic procedures when COVID-19 restrictions eased is known as the “Zoom boom.”
This is all to say: If you’re struggling with body image, you’re not alone. And there are resources available to help you feel better.
Healthy Body Image Tips
From Zoom hacks to counseling, here are some tips to worry less about your appearance.
- When on a video call, hide your image, or tape a piece of paper over it to replicate talking to someone in person, where you don't have your own face staring back at you!
- When you look in the mirror each morning, compliment yourself.
- Avoid looking in the mirror multiple times throughout the day or taking “selfies,” since we know that fixating on your appearance can lead to anxiety and self-criticism.
- Notice your thoughts. When you find yourself focusing on your appearance, redirect your attention to something else. Here are some great tips on how to do so.
- Limit social media. Fact: The more time you spend on social media, the more likely you are to feel worse about yourself and your body.
- Eat a healthy diet, exercise, and get good sleep. Keep in mind that lifestyle changes shouldn’t be centered on your appearance, but on self-compassion (being kinder to yourself) and your overall health.
- Think about what really matters. What kind of person are you? Write down your great qualities. What non-physical traits are you most proud of?
- Plan meaningful, in-person experiences where you can connect with others — without your reflection staring back at you. Try a book club, brunch or long walk with a friend.
- Talk to a professional. Speaking to someone about what you’re going through can make all the difference. A counselor can provide unbiased guidance, support and the tools you need to get your self-esteem back on track.
Talk to a Counselor
If your school or employer provides you with First Stop Health Virtual Counseling, you can talk to a counselor via phone or video at no cost to you. Here’s how it works (VIDEO).