Aesthetic Obsessions: "I Hate My Nose and I'm Too Fat"

When people look in the mirror and they don't see what they observe daily on social media, they start to suffer. Aesthetic obsessions are the product of a society that has transformed the ideal of beauty into a seed of frustration.
Aesthetic Obsessions: "I Hate My Nose and I'm Too Fat"
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Aesthetic obsessions infect both mind and lifestyle. They mean that people no longer feel satisfied with their bodies, their features, and their self-image. In fact, they long to manipulate what they have so they can resemble what they see in front of them.

Social media, advertising, cinema, television… The media bombardment nowadays is so fierce that body dissatisfaction has taken on the form of chronic worry.

As a matter of fact, something that’s observed more and more in adolescents and tweens today is the rejection of their own bodies. They tend to analyze themselves in detail and feel absolute despair when they look in the mirror. They might want differently shaped eyebrows, longer eyelashes, smaller noses, less curly hair, and, of course, slimmer hips, legs, and tummies, etc.

As a matter of fact, the young person’s body becomes a prison and what’s trapped inside is a brain that suffers and completely distorts its own being. In fact, thousands of lives are damaged daily by these kinds of obsessions. These young people are fixated on their outside appearance, the part of them that’s publicly judged, and valued by likes. Furthermore, for many, this translates into a living hell.

“Body culture promotes an irrational desire to correct self-perceived defects.”

-Enrique Rojas-

Woman with personal devaluation due to aesthetic obsessions

What are aesthetic obsessions?

Aesthetic obsessions are the fixations of the human being towards certain canons of beauty. In fact, we’ve all become consumers, and even addicts, of certain images and ideas that are completely removed from reality.

Today, beauty is usually created through filters. When filters aren’t involved, these “beautiful” people have either undergone the cosmetic surgeon’s knife, spend an unrealistic amount of time in the gym, or adopt dubious and unhealthy diets.

In fact, the beautiful bodies that many long for are simply products of the media. It’s a sad fact that a large part of the youth population has been imprisoned by this type of aesthetic obsession. Nevertheless, it isn’t an entirely new concept.

The Wall Street Journal recently published a study that claimed that Facebook knew the impact Instagram would have on teens. Indeed, in this digital universe, where image is everything, more than 40 percent of its youngest users say they feel increasingly insecure with their bodies. However, this was something that Mark Zuckerberg knew about beforehand.

This idea follows along the same lines of a study published in 2018 by the University of Kentucky. It claimed that social media was shaping an increasingly insecure generation, with lower self-esteem and an increasingly dissatisfied body schema.

I hate my nose and I’m too fat

Half a century ago, people who went to the psychologist did so for identity problems, marital problems, or childhood traumas. Today, lack of self-esteem is the great “disease” of the 21st century. In fact, we can probably comfortably say that it’s behind a large majority of the current problems, worries, unhappiness, and psychological conditions.

Likewise, it should be noted that eating disorders have worsened dramatically. Indeed, girls as young as 13 are obsessed with losing weight because they want to reflect what they think of as the ideal of beauty.

In addition, aesthetic obsessions can cause them to develop bulimia or anorexia. They also may dream of rhinoplasty, breast augmentation, liposuction, etc.

When what young women see in the mirror doesn’t correspond with what they see on social media, suffering and rejection of the body itself appears. At that time, a clearly dangerous and pathological behavior can also begin with their long-awaited search for aesthetic perfection.

The disease of beauty and aesthetic obsessions

Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women is perhaps one of the most interesting books on this particular subject. Its author, Renee Engeln, is a psychologist and professor at Northwestern University, in the United States. In this book, she affirms that obsession with beauty has become a kind of social disease.

Engeln has conducted multiple investigations on this subject. She’s come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter how educated we might be, or what job or lifestyle we may have, deep down inside all of us, we continue to feel insecure about our own image.

Our culture drums into us the constant need to scrutinize ourselves, to analyze what might be “wrong” with us. Nose too big? Hair too curly? Flabby arms? Fat tummy? Thin legs? Skin that’s too pale? Aesthetic obsessions mean we’re constantly warring against ourselves, simply because we’ve internalized impossible models of beauty.

Young girl experiencing aesthetic obsessions

Reformulate the aesthetic narratives

Aesthetic obsessions cause us to lose our emotional energy, human potential, and physical and psychological well-being. This distortion of what’s beautiful and acceptable is leading to undeserved suffering for a good part of the population, particularly the youngest.

Denigrating and rejecting our own bodies means rejecting ourselves. We’re effectively banning ourselves as people.

Therefore, it’s time to reformulate all those internal narratives that we’ve built around aesthetic obsessions. We have to manage these pathological ideas to redirect them to healthier areas. Because letting ourselves be carried away by those filters in which only certain bodies are valid leads us to phobias, anxiety, and a complex maze of high-impact mental disorders.

However, the psychological craft of reformulating narratives and enhancing the muscle of self-esteem takes time. Therefore, we need to commence the re-education as soon as possible. In this way, we can remind the new generations that they’re perfect just as they are.

All bodies are beautiful just for existing, for the mere fact of containing a life, a great personality, and the valuable potential of being a human being.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Rajanala S, Maymone MBC, Vashi NA. Selfies-Living in the Era of Filtered Photographs. JAMA Facial Plast Surg. 2018 Dec 1;20(6):443-444. doi: 10.1001/jamafacial.2018.0486. PMID: 30073294.
  • Salomon I, Brown CS. The Selfie Generation: Examining the Relationship Between Social Media Use and Early Adolescent Body Image. The Journal of Early Adolescence. 2019;39(4):539-560. doi:10.1177/0272431618770809
  • Engeln, Renee (2018) Enfermas de belleza: Cómo la obsesión de nuestra cultura por el aspecto físico daña a nuestras chicas. Harper Collins
  • Johnson, S., & Engeln, R. (2020). Gender Discrepancies in Perceptions of the Bodies of Female Fashion Models. Sex Roles84, 299-311.
  • Engeln, R., & Imundo, M. N. (2020). I (don’t) love my body: Counter-intuitive effects of body-affirming statements on college women. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology39, 617-639.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.