Creating Healthy Body Images

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“Suzanne Gelb Image”

”Body Image, How to Improve It?”


Dear Dr. Gelb:

My niece is 14 and she is obsessed with having her thighs surgically reduced when she’s 18. She is not overweight but I am troubled by her distorted body image. Her mother laughs it off, saying Kim is going through a phase, but says if I can talk to Kim about it if I want. Is it normal for a teen to want plastic surgery like this?


Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Obsessed:

Generally speaking, I believe it is typical for a teenager to want to consider just about anything. Curiosity is a valuable tool in the growth process. Without it growing children would most likely not expand their horizons or direct any interest to developmental changes that occur during adolescence. Part of the parental responsibility is to guide and permit experiences that are healthy.

In this regard, although one use of plastic surgery is for cosmetic purposes (e.g., to remove bags under the eyes) and some professionals who are in the limelight and need to present an image of perfection can find such a resource very useful, since there is no such thing as perfection, I believe it is important for parents to teach children to be proud of their uniqueness. That alone can serve them well in whatever endeavor they may choose in life.

”Body Makeover, Why the Overkill?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

My mother has had every cosmetic surgery imaginable, from tummy tucks to a nose job. She did it mostly to please my father, and I feel so bad because she still has a poor self-image. She’s about to have another procedure, again to please my father. How can I convince her that her beauty is inside and that this is no way to try to win my dad’s love?

Concerned Daughter

Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Concerned:

In my opinion it is not necessarily the person who is trying to please who has a poor self image. Instead, the poor self-image more typically lies with the person who demands to be pleased. That being said, there is little that the pleaser can do to fully satisfy their mate. With body image issues, some pleasers have found it extremely useful to recognize that their body belongs to themselves and as long as they are satisfied with it, that is what counts.

The dissatisfied person needs to resolve their self image so that they do not need to ride on the coat tails of an impossible-to-achieve princess image intended to make them shine in public. Many who live by these standards only feel worthwhile if their image is attached to some external object, such as having a better car than the Jones’ or a more beautiful wife than the Jones’, etc.

If my mother was in a situation such as you describe, I’d encourage her to begin to realize this before she destroys or allows her mate to encourage her to destroy her body as she tries to make it perfect.

”’Suzanne J. Gelb, Ph.D., J.D. authors this daily column, Dr. Gelb Says, which answers questions about daily living and behavior issues. Dr. Gelb is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Honolulu. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Human Services. Dr. Gelb is also a published author of a book on Overcoming Addictions and a book on Relationships.”’

”’This column is intended for entertainment use only and is not intended for the purpose of psychological diagnosis, treatment or personalized advice. For more about the column’s purpose, see”’ “An Online Intro to Dr. Gelb Says”

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