How we look is who we are?

This post has been bouncing around in my head for some weeks. I guess it was prompted by Angelina Jolie, but something I had been thinking about for some time. Also it was pointed out that in this sector, there are few males, writing, and the perspectives are very different, so it is interesting to hear things from the male side of the fence.

Recently there was a furore when a commentator at Wimbledon, passed a personal opinion on the looks of one of the female competitors. This produced a massive reaction, calling him sexist etc. But it highlighted for me, the importance that we place on our looks. Not only how others see us, but  more importantly how we see ourselves. There is no truer saying than, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ We would all like to see ourselves as attractive, and hope also, that others might see us that way. Thankfully for us all, we are attracted by different things. In my eyes, that makes us all attractive to some people, in some way!

When watching TV or reading magazines, I see actors who have had ‘work’ done. Teeth whitening, hair transplants/extensions, Botox, nips and tucks everywhere. It is now so common. Faces are often airbrushed in advertisements. Is this because people feel they are unhappy with their appearance? Are we seeking to look forever young?

I saw a tweet a few days ago from a young lady, who had just been diagnosed, with cancer and would require chemotherapy. Her comment was that she was determined not to  ” look like a cancer patient.” I wondered briefly, what her vision was?  Which leads me nicely into thinking about how our appearance during illness, can be even more important to us.

Those of you who know me, will be aware that I have always been reasonably relaxed about my appearance. Never really a snappy dresser, mainly a casual guy, but would always wish to be seen as ‘presentable,’ particularly in female company! However, I was distraught at the ravages of cancer and it’s treatment on my body.Fat, skinny, with hair, bald, yellow, pale, and any combination of those. When I looked in the mirror, I felt worse than I did before. Even though I was fighting for my life, I was concerned with my appearance.It felt that my body was actually reflecting the way I felt physically.

We can argue forever, whether we live in a sexist society, and if that is right or wrong. I suggest we do, and I am fully appreciative of the ladies out there, and the importance of looking and feeling good. My work and personal experience has shown me close up, some of the massive emotional and psychological issues that are faced by people going through cancer. I have been involved in numerous conversations regarding the pros and cons of surgery, and how life would be affected afterwards. For several, it was a close call between their appearance and  long term health.

Thankfully things have progressed in recent years. There are now more options than a basic N.H.S wig, if you are losing your hair. Even newer treatments, to stop hair loss in certain cases. A lot of  companies have specialist staff to help with clothing and lingerie etc after any breast surgery. Even whilst in hospital you maybe offered some complementary therapies, to help you feel a bit better. There are now also a lot of specialist products to help you with some of the side effects you may experience with your skin etc. 

I have only touched on a few examples of some of the ways we may be affected by our disease and it’s treatment. The point I would like to emphasise is that to most people, their psychological and emotional well being is linked to their appearance. My experience has shown me that this is more prevalent in ladies but affects us all to some degree. If we are not careful we can get on a downward spiral, particularly in the early stages of treatment, where our physical changes may be more apparent.

In my own circumstances, it seemed that what I saw in the mirror, was very different to how I was seen by everyone else. My perception of things was worse than reality. Everyone was kindly insisting that these things were trivial, and that things would improve. Some of them have, but some not. However in the grand scheme of life I have learnt to be happy with how I am now. Even when I was healthy, there were still things I wasn’t happy with, and that is still the same today!

My thanks go to Jennifer Young, who inspired me to write this piece. Jennifer has got a fabulous website with lots of information and products created specifically for people going through cancer treatment.Please check out her fabulous site and you can find her on Twitter @JenniferSkin

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