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How to Do The Work on Your Looks

Last updated on July 21, 2021

Fading Tulips
Are your petals not quite smooth enough, fresh enough, beautiful enough?

What Thoughts Make “Your Looks” Stressful?

If you’re a human being, you’ve probably had some kind of thought at some point about your looks. “My nose is too big, too narrow, too wide, too broken. My eyes are too boring. My hair is too curly, too straight, the wrong color. My teeth are too yellow, badly spaced, crooked. My cheeks are too sunken, too fat. My skin is too bumpy, too oily, too dry, too wrinkled.”

The list goes on to every part of the body: too big, too small, too saggy, too weak. How do you react when you believe it’s true? Suddenly, there is something wrong. And instead of accepting it as it is, the mind gets very busy trying to find ways to change it.

And the world encourages this obsession. Dieting programs, exercise programs, cosmetic surgery, botox, skincare products, makeup… there is an endless supply of professionals ready to help you try to change your appearance.

But Even Successful Outer Changes Are Not Enough

Once you fix one thing, you want to fix another. The same unquestioned mind that found fault in the nose now finds fault in the teeth, and it will turn on the skin next. You might think you’re making progress, but the root of the problem lies untouched by all the outer work. 

The same stressed mind is looking for faults in everything. Even if you get surgery, the mind will look for how it could have been better, or what else needs surgery. Until the thinking itself is questioned, there will be no end to it. 

So how do you question your thinking around looks and features that you are not satisfied with?

Look for When It Started

Did you notice that this kind of obsession became active recently? Maybe it’s been active for two years. Take note. What was going on around the time when the obsession started getting stronger? Were you going through a breakup? Did your biological clock start ticking – gotta find a mate? Did someone say something that hurt you? 

If you look, you will often find something else that seems unrelated going on right about the time when the obsession started up. The obsession, in this case, is how you react when believing the other stressful thoughts related to that situation: “I need a partner,” or “She rejected me,” or “I’m a failure because I lost my job.” 

When you go back and work those original stressful situations, you are dealing with the source of the obsessive thinking. Just working these original situations often has the effect of lessening the emotional need to fix physical features with surgery or botox.

Ask Yourself Why You Need to Fix Your Looks

What do you think you would have if you fixed everything perfectly? Make a list:

If I fix my teeth, I will be able to attract a better partner.
If I augment my lips, I will be irresistible. 
If I botox my wrinkles, people will think I’m younger than I am.
If I fix my quirky nose, people will respect me more.

Each of these can be questioned with the four questions and turnarounds of The Work of Byron Katie.

And keep digging. Keep asking “why?” This is how you can find more stressful thoughts to question underneath the first ones you found.

“Why do I want people to think I’m younger than I am? Because I want to be seen as strong and in the prime of my life. But why? Because it’s a disadvantage to be older and to have wrinkles? Why? Because people like young people better. Why is that important? Because I want to be liked.”

Each of these answers to the question “why?” can be questioned too. (I love the turnaround to that last one: “I want to be liked” turns around to “I want to like other people.” I can immediately feel the difference in my heart. But you have to work through it step-by-step.)

The Trap of Perfectionism

The mind is a funny thing. When it sees something as good (a beautiful feature on someone else, for example), the same feature, by comparison, on me becomes not good enough. This is especially true since the “perfect” people are seen over and over again on TV, in the movies, in magazines. The mind doesn’t care that those faces are often Photoshopped to make them impossibly perfect. It only sees an ideal, and everything by comparison is only “second best” at best. 

There is a desire in there that can be questioned. “I want to be the best.” Or, “I want to be among the beautiful people.” Or, “I want to be better than average,” or “I want to belong.” The ego loves this idea and attaches to it as an escape from the other thoughts, “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m below average,” “I don’t belong.” 

These thoughts can be questioned. I like to focus on the “want” or “need” thoughts especially: “I want to be better than average,” or “I want to be accepted.” These
wants often tend to get closer to what is really bothering me, and can be easier to work.

The Key Is to Do The Work in a Specific Situation

All of the ideas that I’ve shared above are helpful, but they become much more helpful if you can find a specific situation. Find a time when you compared your nose to someone else’s. Maybe you were at a party and you saw someone with your ideal nose walk by. 

Use that moment as a reference as you do your work, “I want a nose like that, is it true?”  Answer the questions from that situation. For example, “Who would you be without the thought, ‘I want a nose like that’?” (when you’re looking at her nose). 

The more you can hold a specific situation, the more meaningful The Work becomes.

Join Us for Nine Weeks of The Work, Sep 13 – Nov 14, 2021

If you want to explore more deeply this elegant process of self-inquiry known as The Work of Byron Katie, join us this fall for my online course. We do a lot of work together and cover a lot of nuances of the process.

Learn more and sign up for The Work 101 here.

Have a great week,

“Nothing outside you can ever give you what you’re looking for.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

Further reading: Practicing Public Imperfection

About the author

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.

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