How to feel happy in your own skin. Dr Jessamy
The worst thing about very dry and flaky skin is not the itching, the discomfort, or even how it looks. It is how it makes us feel inside.
Body confidence is something that many people take for granted. But when you start to have a physical problem, such as uncomfortable dry skin, that causes you to feel embarrassed of your body to the point of covering up or avoiding certain activities, it can feel very lonely and distressing.
How we feel physically is intrinsically tied up in our self-worth. Our appearance is there on display, whether we like it or not, and if you don’t feel good about how you look it can shape your whole world.
Everyone feels insecure about their appearance at times, it’s when these thoughts start to change how you think about yourself and live your life that it’s time to act.
The good news is that even though your skin may stay stubbornly dry, you canimprove your body confidence and feel happier in your own skin. In my work as a clinical psychologist, I often help people overcome difficulties by changing their thinking patterns and rebuilding their self-confidence.
Here are some easy ways to get back to living a full life – despite dry skin.
Thoughts aren’t facts
When your mind is chatting away and anxious thoughts are running through your head you often don’t even stop to question them. Instead you accept them as ‘the truth’, especially when you’re feeling insecure: ‘I look awful’, ‘everyone will notice my skin’, ‘people think it looks horrible’. These thoughts feed into your mood, leaving you feeling even worse. But as real as it might feel, it’s just a thought, opinion or evaluation – it’s definitely not a fact. For all you know, nobody will notice your skin!
Next time you have an anxious thought, make sure you catch it and step back:⠀
- Remind yourself that thoughts aren’t facts!⠀
- Try to consider alternative ways of looking at what’s going on
- Think what you might say to a friend in the same situation and use the advice for yourself
Stop comparing yourself to others
Sadly, there is ever more pressure to be perfect. Be it beautiful princesses in childhood, or beach-body Instagram posts in later life, we live in a visual culture and are constantly bombarded with images of what is currently considered ‘beautiful’.
When you’re feeling low, comparing yourself to others can put you on a downward spiral of negative thinking patterns. Thankfully, these thoughts can be beaten if we remember to stay alert for them.
The next time you catch yourself comparing yourself negatively:
- Notice the thought pattern and choose to stop. Often, comparison happens automatically so we’re not always aware we’re indulging negative thoughts – simply noticing them gives you the chance to change your mindset.
- Remember you’re only seeing part of the story. Often the public image we portray is very different to how we feel underneath; on social media, in magazines and at parties, people will show their best bits (often with digital enhancement), but it’s not the whole story.
- You never know what’s really going on underneath the surface so don’t judge your behind-the-scenes by their highlight reel.
Look at your whole self
Problem dry skin can make you preoccupied with how you look. Your thoughts and behaviours feed this preoccupation, which in turn provokes more negative thoughts and unhelpful behaviours, such as constantly checking mirrors or reapplying makeup.
It might make you feel relieved in the short-term, but constant checking makes it difficult to think about anything else. There is a direct correlation between seeking regular reassurance and your mood. Your appearance becomes something you think about all the time, which then affects your mood, leaving you feeling low, anxious, ashamed, guilty or frustrated.
But remember, beauty is linked to how we feel about ourselves – not just how we look. Don’t beat yourself up about your skin, it is only one aspect of your appearance. Concentrate on the things you do like about yourself, be they physical or parts of your personality. You don’t need to be physically perfect to be beautiful!
When we stand in front of the mirror or think about how we look it can be easy to zoom in on what we believe to be our problem areas, but no-one is looking at you in that much detail. If we looked at anyone else with the same close focus we’d be bound to find problems in them too.
- Think about how you take in an image and do the same for yourself.
- You need to start seeing yourself as an entire package rather than a selection of parts.
- Write down three things you like about yourself.
It might feel like no-one else experiences the same problems, but in fact we know these problems are common and many people struggle with the psychological aspects of having dry, itchy skin.
It can be hard for friends and family to understand how you feel. Often, skin conditions can be trivialised by people who haven’t experienced them, leaving you feeling very alone.
Remember that this is a natural and normal response. It’s rare to meet someone who doesn’t care about their appearance; looking after your body is a key part of feeling good about yourself both emotionally and physically.
Compassion doesn’t mean just being positive, or only focusing on what’s going well and ignoring all your faults. It means being strong, non-judgmental and kind. Think brave, warm, fair and wise – these are the core ingredients for feeling good about yourself.
Next time you’re considering criticising yourself take the compassionate approach instead:
- Encourage yourself
- Speak kindly to yourself
- See your strengths
- Remind yourself that physical flaws are not a sign of personal failure
- Remember you are not alone