I’m a 29 year old; I have my degree in psychology. I’m hoping for some insight on why I might be having the thoughts and feelings that I do about my own physical appearance.
Although I don’t talk about it, I am inwardly obsessed with the idea of people finding me attractive. I understand that a lot of women probably feel this way, as we’ve had the importance of beauty bombarding us from all sides as we’ve grown up. But I believe that my thoughts and feelings are much stronger, more intense, and probably abnormal in some ways.
I’ve been both bulimic and anorexic on and off since I was 15. I’m aware of the general understanding that eating disorders are often about control. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on why I have the issues with food that I do, and I’m positive that for me, it’s not about control but solely about wanting to be physically desirable.
I often go through phases where I obsess about getting plastic surgery. I’ve gone so far as to meet with a plastic surgeon and to look into taking out a loan, but my husband wasn’t in support of the idea and in the end, I’m not frantic enough about it to put us into debt over it.
The ONLY thing that turns me on sexually, is to be complimented on my physicality. If a stranger online compliments me, I’m instantly horny. I’m a staunch feminist, and I wouldn’t say this in any other forum as I believe that it would minimize the more important voices of woman who feel threatened by it, but I love being cat called.
I don’t care at all if people compliment my intelligence or sense of humor. It ALMOST feels like an insult when they do because I’d prefer them to be complimenting my appearance in some way.
While at one point in my life I was definitely consumed by self-hatred, I don’t feel that way anymore. On most days I feel pretty neutral about my appearance. I just have this deep, deep seated yearning to be praised for my physical beauty. It seems like the only thing that really satisfies me or makes me feel (what feels like genuine) happiness.
Developmentally, what could have happened to me to make me this way? (From Canada)

A:  First, I applaud your courage in being so open and reflective of your own process. Whatever it is that will help — you have already shown the first ingredient in the process of healing and transformation. I am not sure looking to the past will help us as much as understanding what is happening now. To reframe this and to use the survey on character strengths perspective (via character.org) if you haven’t taken this survey I think it would be helpful) you are overusing your strength of appreciation of beauty and excellence. In other words, you have taken a normal element of your character and are using it to the degree that it is causing anxiety. Since you are in the profession and I think it would be helpful, there is a very recent article I can share with you that will show you how the overuse of the character strengths can lead to social anxiety. I encourage you to check this out and see if it makes sense: Positive psychopathology: Social anxiety via character strengths underuse and overuse.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral