Are you hiding your body behind your clothes?
While for many women clothing is an enjoyable form of self expression, for others it is a means of concealment, a way to hide perceived flaws and imperfections.
Sadly hiding your body because of pressures to conform to arbitrary ‘ideals’ of beauty is extremely common. When you compare your body to the ‘ideal’ and conclude that it doesn’t match up, you’re more likely to focus on ways to conceal it.
Hiding your body is a short term fix for the anxiety caused by body concerns. In the longer term, it reinforces the belief that your body is unacceptable. The need to hide your body comes from the assessment that it is ugly, too fat, too whatever, and the mistaken belief that others will think this too.
Reliance on clothing items that hide or conceal your flaws can cause your body image more harm than good. Feeling that you can’t be seen in public without hiding your body is a rejection of your body that worsens body image and self-esteem.
So how do you know if you are hiding your body behind your clothes, and if so, how do you kick the habit to give your body image a boost?
Are you guilty of a cover up?
Answering the following questions will help you to establish if you’re guilty of using clothes to hide:
1. Do you typically buy oversized clothes?
2. Do you tend to buy clothing in darker colours?
3. Do you wear clothes to conceal parts or all of your body?
4. Do you buy supportive undergarments?
5. If so, do you always wear them?
6. Do you feel that people notice the body parts you don’t like?
7. Are you unable to let your partner see you undressed?
8. Do you refuse to wear a swimsuit in public without a cover up?
If you answered ‘yes’ to the majority of these questions it’s likely that you are using clothes to hide your body.
Read the following 5 steps to learn how you can stop hiding your body and give your body confidence a boost.
When did the cover up begin?
At what point did you decide your body was no longer acceptable to be seen? Was it the result of some trauma or an inappropriate or unkind comment? Perhaps it began after a change in your body such as weight gain/loss, pregnancy, illness or injury? Understanding the root cause of the cover up will help you to challenge it in an objective way.
What are you hiding?
Look through your wardrobe and pull out all of the items of clothing that you use to cover up, hide and conceal. Laying all the items on your bed, take each one in turn and ask what body part does each hide? Make a list of each of the body parts and then put them in order from least to most dreaded part of your body.
Challenge your fears
For each body part listed, write your worst fear if someone was to see it. For example you might select a pair of baggy trousers that hide your thighs. Your worst fear might be “If someone sees how big my thighs really are they will stare and laugh at me”. Examine the logic behind each of your fears. Do you really believe them? Would you think this about others? Has this ever actually happened to you? Challenging the fear allows you to see it in a more objective light.
Feel the fear, and uncover any way!
Starting with your least dreaded body part, wear a garment that doesn’t conceal it. For example, if you are conscious of your upper arms, wear a top that reveals them. Set yourself a task such as going out shopping or for a walk in the park. Repeat this for each of your body parts. Although this task may make you feel anxious at first, pushing through the anxiety will reap rewards.
Re-assess your fears
At the end of the task, ask yourself if it felt as bad as you thought it would? How did others react to you? Were your worst fears realised? Chances are you’ll find that the reality was far removed from what you’d imagined would happen. It’s unlikely for example that any one stared and laughed at your thighs. This exercise will help you to realise that your fears are largely groundless. In reality you project your beliefs onto others, assuming they will react to your body the way you do.
If you’re hiding behind your clothes unpick the reasons why and challenge them. Face your fears head on to uncover not only your body, but the distorted views you hold about it.