Identifying with Physical Appearance

by Aug 5, 2021Theme: The False Self

Continued from yesterday…

Almost every day, I go for a hike or a run for 40 or more minutes in my neighborhood. Although the weather is usually quite warm, even in the wintertime here in San Diego, the daytime temperature drops into the 40s a few times every year. In that brisk cold air, I wear warm workout clothes, including a hoody over my head and a pair of sunglasses to shield against the glare of the sun. (One time, a friend suggested that my cold weather outfit makes me look like the Unabomber. Of course, that’s not the look I’m going for, but you get the picture: I’m covered up when it’s cold outside.)

On one such cold California day, a fellow runner passed me, and I noticed he was wearing shorts and no shirt. His attire seemed a bit outrageous, but when I saw his bulking physique and how the people inside the passing cars seemed unable to look away, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was something more going on. What’s undeniable is that to varying degrees, most of us identify with our bodies, whether that’s our looks, the clothes we wear, or our level of fitness.

That body identification raises a question: What happens when age creeps up on us, and people stop admiring our good looks, or when we cannot afford new designer clothes because we lost our job, or our Instagram following is upended by a younger influencer, or when cosmetic surgery goes wrong, and we are left to handle the terrifying humiliation? Pain and anguish await anyone whose self-identity is based on their appearance because age and bad breaks have a way of catching up to us all.

Undoubtedly, it’s good to take care of our bodies. To work out is good for our health, and to completely disregard our appearance can be a sign of mental health issues. Besides, when we present ourselves well, we honor others. In a way, care for our bodies is a symbol of love.

But when our physical appearance is tied to self-worth and self-identity, we will inevitably experience suffering at some point. That’s we must awaken to our deepest and truest self – love -to end the suffering in our minds.

To be continued tomorrow…

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