“You are more than your thoughts, your body, or your feelings. You are a swirling vortex of limitless potential who is here to shake things up and create something new that the universe has never seen.” – Richard Bartlett

It’s always tough to look in the mirror and dislike what you see. Whether you’re unhappy with how you look because of unsightly and uncomfortable bloat, belly fat that just won’t go away no matter how much you exercise, flabby arms, cellulite on your legs, a nose that’s too long, wide or misshapen, Rosacea, acne, breasts too small or too large or any other emotional body issue or body image, you want a way to cope that works.

Most of all, you want to feel better about yourself in your own skin, not to mention feeling the confidence that others aren’t judging you for your looks.

I can relate. I’ve experienced many of these body issues and had my ups and downs in being able to effectively deal with them. Over the years, after much research, visiting many doctors, buying all manner of creams, lotions, devices, gym memberships, tried various diets, meditating, prayer and networking with others I trust, I’ve accumulated a few tips that have proven somewhat beneficial in coping with body image and other emotional body issues.

Maybe they can help you.

Recognize that there’s no instant fix.

While the notion of taking a pill, or getting a procedure done that will immediately and forever fix the body issue that’s causing you emotional pain is enticing, the truth is that there’s simply no such thing. Even plastic surgery to correct a perceived or real issue doesn’t get at the psychological damage that having lived with it for so long has already done. Besides, noses and breasts and such are external. No matter how much they’re altered, you’re still you underneath. If you fail to regard yourself highly, changing your physical appearance won’t make you happy, in and of itself. The same holds true for buying the latest hotly hyped cream or so-called miracle cure for aging skin, creating a more youthful appearance, regaining your strength, passion and boosting your cognitive abilities.

If you want to make changes to your physical appearance, realize why you feel the need to do so, understand what the process will entail, be willing to put in the time and effort to achieve the results you desire. There are no shortcuts.

If surgery will correct a facial or bodily defect or abnormality, consider having it.

Why suffer the anxiety and depression that can occur because of having been born with a defect or abnormality on the face or body? Research shows that young children between the ages of 8 and 10 are especially susceptible to such emotional distress, particularly from cleft palate, cleft lip and other facial anomalies. Indeed, researchers found that, compared with teens and older kids, the 8-to-10-year old kids were at highest risk for “psychosocial dysfunction.”

I wasn’t born with anything abnormal on my face. I do, however, know of children who did suffer from something other-than-normal on their body, such as a prominent strawberry mark in the middle of the back. I know the mother of that child had it surgically removed and prevented a lot of teasing and unkind looks from his peers.

The point is, if you have insurance to cover the type of surgery that will remove, correct or lessen the defect or abnormality, or are willing to pay for it for yourself or your loved one, opting to do so can make a difference in the quality of life for the person affected.

What about scars – from an accident, cancer or illness?

Here I have two experiences to relate. In the first, my mother had a double radical mastectomy and removal of lymph nodes under both arms after being diagnosed with cancer. This greatly affected her self-image of her body, caused her to shun contact with others, and drastically altered her otherwise cheerful attitude and outlook on life. After the incisions healed, and receiving visits from breast cancer outreach survivors to help her cope with her body changes after treatment, my mother opted to wear a breast form prosthesis. Then, recalling the support and encouragement she received from other breast cancer survivors, she became an outreach volunteer herself. I know that she would have had reconstructive surgery, if that had been available to her when she was told she needed the surgery. She was (she’s now deceased) a fighter, strong, determined, smart and loving.

The other experience I’ll relate concerns my own reconstructive surgery following recovery from a near-fatal car-train accident. I went through a total of 6 reconstructive surgeries to rid my face and neck of Frankenstein-like scars. Before the surgery, I hid in the corner whenever anyone came to the house. Forget entertaining. It was all I could do to mumble a quick hello and dart away. After the last surgery and healing, some scars remained. They’re still with me, although much faded and hardly noticeable. I laugh when I remember one of the follow-up visits I had with my plastic surgeon about a year after the last surgery. He looked at me intently before saying, “I did a great job on your nose.” I told him he didn’t do my nose. We both laughed. This incident reminded me that when I was a teen, I obsessed that my nose was too wide and wished I could have it changed.

Your belly fat isn’t who you are. Neither is bloat.

Two other common and emotionally troubling body issues are belly fat and bloat. Again, I’ve had to learn how to deal with both. I must say that I’ve had minor success with the former and better success with the latter. Increased exercise, walking vigorously every day, going on a fat-free (for the most part) diet, low carbohydrates, no sugar, lots of vegetables, fruit, meat, fish and poultry and drinking 8 full glasses of water daily help with the belly fat. Yet, it’s an ongoing challenge. The bloat I’ve mostly overcome with dietetic changes, chiefly eliminating dairy.

I know that psychiatrists and other mental health experts say that you are more than your external looks, and that includes whether you think or have been told that you are too fat, too thin, or too whatever. In other words, none of that is who you are. Your essence, what makes you, you, is internal. That’s what counts. Remember that.

By the way, I never went for breast augmentation, although some friends and others I know have. I got used to and learned to love the way I look – just the way I am.

I still work very hard to make positive changes in my life, to accentuate my best features and minimize others with makeup, concealing clothing, complimentary colors and so on. Love yourself. If I can do it, so can you.