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Too ugly for love

I’m overweight, and my self hatred is driving my boyfriend away.

You are more than the numbers on a scale, says our elder. Your best years are ahead of you.

Dear EWC

Hello, I’m a 37 year old female. I have always been very uncomfortable with my appearance… too ugly to date, 10 pounds overweight. I am now about 50 pounds overweight and have a boyfriend who loves me and is good to me. However, I hate myself and appearance so much that I don’t feel worthy of love. I’m afraid of him leaving me and I get moody, depressed, unable to talk to him for days at a time, just drowning in shame and self hate and the belief that I don’t deserve love. I’m completely miserable. I don’t know what to do about this. I already eat under 1800 calories a day, mostly veggies, and work out at the gym regularly, so unless I give myself an eating disorder my body isn’t going to change anytime soon — all the hard work of diet and fitness are just to maintain my present weight without making it worse. I’m also stuck with the face I have. What can I do to stop unconsciously sabotaging the relationship that I have and value so much?

PJH replies

You’ve written for an elder’s perspective on appearance, ‘looksism’, self-image, and self-respect. Oh, what a fraught topic this is! When we’re with strangers we’re all aware of how we all look and how we present ourselves, and we instinctively draw generally false conclusions based on what we see. While it’s totally unfair to generalize, we also assume conventionally attractive people are aware of their advantage and can’t help trading on their looks from time to time. And we know, too, these superficial judgments and assessments need to be suppressed and ignored if we’re going to be socially accepted and successful. Of course the same applies in company with people who’ve never been blessed with conventional good looks.

Smart people discount looks as they get to know people. Character is so, so, so much more important than appearance, and congruence of interests and intellect is what draws people together and creates friends and family.
Your letter instantly called to mind a music teacher my now-grown children loved. She’s a person who lacks every conventional aspect of visual appeal yet she’s universally respected, loved, in our community. Everybody knows her because she’s front and center at anything musical. Her teaching schedule is always crammed with students lucky enough to have found their way on to it. Her kindness and patience are legendary. I could add more raves but I’m sure you know people with similar status who get a pass on looks because they’re too good to ignore.
I’m not about to suppose you’re equally appreciated, but I do know there’s one guy who sees through your shame and self-hate to the woman he loves for her character and worth, and I’m quite sure he isn’t alone in his opinion. I’m also sure he’s deeply saddened by your silent withdrawals when what he needs and wants most is your loving support and companionship, and what he dreams of is a recovery of your self-respect and a loving acceptance of your healthy wellbeing.

All I’ve written so far is common sense and common knowledge. While I hope you find it confirms what you already know, I suspect you’ve written in hopes of reading something more insightful — a key to escaping the prison you entered when you decided you were too ugly to be loved. Here’s what I know: depression is pervasive and deceptive. It hides in concepts that seem logical, sensible, inescapable, in truths we hold to be self-evident. The conditions you’ve described, “moody, depressed, unable to talk…for days at a time, just drowning in shame and self-hate and the belief that I don’t deserve love….completely miserable” sound to me a lot more like illness than health. So my advice is talk to a competent mental professional and take a shovel to your symptoms.

As an established octogenarian I can look back to when I was your age, in the 1970s, and see a plethora of life events I could never have contemplated looking forward to. So let me dress up the advice to seek help with the idea that you have your most interesting years, decades, ahead of you and you need personal peace and confidence to fully enjoy them. You need to get past the notion that you’re not a worthy person, and soon! There’s so much more to life than numbers on a scale! Please thank your boyfriend for loving you, and give him what he wants and you badly need.

Letter #: 452794
Category: Dating/Relationship

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