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Comments on Your Physical Appearance Can Hurt — Here’s How to Handle It

A woman sits on a chair with her hands over her face and body

In my first year of university, I had to take a picture for a press card to allow me to do on campus reporting. I had my hair tied up, but decided to let it down before for the picture. After a quick glance in the mirror, I sat in the chair and I began to pose when my soon to be professor blurted out, “your hair looks messy, someone get her a hairbrush.” I felt my smile fade. Did he have to say that out loud? It wasn’t like it was a graduation photo. For days after, it was all that I could think about.

As gruesome as it is, we’ve all been in situations where someone has “casually” commented on our physical appearance.

You look awfully tired. You’d look better with makeup. That dress doesn’t fit your body type.

These types of comments can place us in awkward situations that can easily throw us off for the rest of the day, making our brains repeat the insensitive comment over and over. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter what the comment is, but rather how it changes the way we feel about ourselves.

If you find yourself in this situation, it can be challenging to not let these comments derail your day. With that said, here are some strategies that may be able to help if you’re faced with a comment or question about your appearance.

Disclaimer: This advice is not intended to substitute as advice of a qualified mental healthcare professional. Always seek advice that is specific to your situation if you are struggling or in distress.

A woman sits with her hands over her face

Avoid the staircase of emotions

Whether you want it to or not, an abrupt judgement about your appearance can cause deep embarrassment, feelings of anger or sadness. It is perfectly normal to feel these things, but becomes problematic when the feelings last longer then they should.


In some cases, this is called catastrophic thinking, when one terrible thought can lead to other terrible thoughts creating what feels like a never-ending cycle of self-deprecation. It can feel as if you’re on infinite “staircase” with only your deepest insecurities to keep you company.

Evidence suggests that people are more productive when they hear more positive comments versus negative ones. Positivity drives us to be creative and productive, while negativity drains motivation. That is why we must learn to move forward after hearing someone’s unwanted opinions about the way we look.

Related: What are meta-emotions? How to process emotions in a healthier way.

A frustrated-looking woman stands next a man outside

Breathe, don’t waste your breath

When faced with a negative comment about how you look, instead of jumping into a pool of negative thoughts, you can instead try stepping back and challenging the negative thoughts by asking yourself questions. For example, ask yourself “is what this person saying a real threat to me?” Most likely the answer is “no.”

There can be many reasons to why a person may say what is on their mind without thinking, but in reality it is not your problem to figure that out. Your job is to focus on you. Don’t rush to react or shoot the person down; instead take some time to reflect on what it is you like about your appearance. Write them down. This small action can reaffirm confidence and allow for further room of self-affirmation.

Additionally, practising mindfulness can release a great deal of tension from our bodies. It can be as simple as a breathing exercise, taking a walk or listening to your favourite song. All these activities put our energy into healing modes moving us further away from bad energy.


Related: Why we’re obsessing over mind gardening.

A woman walks up a road

Think about how you react in the moment

Hearing negative things about yourself can build up some pressure internally. There are many afterward solutions to help you heal from a rude comment. But how does one remain calm in the heat of the moment?

While it’s not always simple or easy, this can be done by simply removing yourself from the situation by walking away or ignoring the comment, rather then talking back. Both these actions can act as a way to escape from a harmful-seeming situation. Whatever and whomever the comment stems from remember that feelings have a beginning, middle and end — and the pain will ultimately fade with time.

See also: 8 ways to embrace your beauty, love your body and feel more confident.

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