Overcoming Self-Consciousness About Body Image


How can one overcome self-consciousness about looks whether good looks or bad?Everyone seems to value looks a lot.How can one overcome such superfluous attachment?

—Chandan, India


Dear Chandan,

The most important direction is to meditate and anchor yourself in God. It will transform and elevate your consciousness, away from “such superfluous attachment.” In time it will drop away like the cucumber which falls from the stem when it is ripe, naturally and without effort.

In daily life try to be vigilant about that tendency. Whenever you notice a self-conscious energy in you, immediately offer it up to God, like a constant purification ceremony. You can inwardly say “Om swaha,” or “Please take it, Lord!”

Yogananda explains that saints are full of “NO-power.” Maybe there is a tendency to look at yourself in the reflection of windows. In that case tell yourself , “I won’t look now!” Or if you do anything else in moments of self-consciousness, like sweeping your hair back, train yourself to stop it. Or cover the mirror at home if you look into it too often.

Consciously strengthen your resolution to overcome that tendency, firmly remembering this observation of Yogananda: often the attraction in couples “is between a pretty shade of lipstick and a smart-looking tie!” Say, “I don’t want to be in that superficial club!”

Swami Kriyananda tells this story in Conversations with Yogananda: “One time, while traveling by car with a group of nuns, the Master made them stop by the roadside on a main highway, get out, and consume a large, very juicy watermelon. He cut it into unwieldy pieces which made sure the juice got all over their arms, hands, and faces: not the sort of spectacle that women- especially young ones – like to present for public inspection. The Master was unconcerned for their embarrassment. They too, after their initial shock, accepted the situation with good humor.”

You can do something similar. A healthy (though tough) practice for the ego would be to dress yourself in a way which people will probably laugh about, and go through that ordeal saying with good humor, “What does it matter what people think?” You might come out of it purified.

In general, never dress in a fancy way. Dress simply, with taste, but nothing that attracts the attention of others.

To give less importance to the physical reality, Swami Kriyananda teaches to tell yourself in the shower: “This body is nothing. It will be ashes in a short while.”

Lastly, you might have that karma because you started it with your own actions in the past. Now is the time to change it: try your best to see the souls of people, not their looks. See the beauty in fat or “ugly” people. Avoid places, magazines and people who give a lot of importance to appearance, and surround yourself with spiritual influences as much as you can. Environment is powerful.

God bless you in your efforts,

with divine friendship,