HSPs And The Struggle With Body Image

Source: 738run-lilya4ever-secondsky - Flickr
Source: 738run-lilya4ever-secondsky – Flickr

Growing up highly sensitive can have its disadvantages, for sure. You already know that, and it’s different for each and every HSP. There’s a lot of crossover between us, but we each get to have our very own unique experience. It’s such a journey, right?

What I want to talk to you about today is what I would consider one of the more common “crossover” themes that we experience as HSPs: poor body image.

More specifically—working on perfecting your body.

Self Acceptance And Body Image

As an HSP, I have a strong tendency to want to be in control. This way I am not so overwhelmed. A certain degree of control is healthy and good. The control I’m talking about today is when the control goes to a place where we are sacrificing health to be perfect.

I’m talking about those of us who feel we need to be a different weight to fit in. I’m talking about the ones who feel like they are struggling on a daily basis with loving their bodies, just as they are.

Years ago, before I knew anything about my HSP trait, I was always trying to “get better.” Somehow I landed on using my body image as a way to improve myself. I could not see what was right with me. When I looked in the mirror I focused on every ounce that needed improvement: the scars on my face, the cellulite on my thighs, the bloat in my belly. I set out on a journey to get better quick—because once I got to that magical place surely I would feel less overwhelmed.

I truly felt like people were fixated on my every flaw, just as I was. I believed my thoughts (a dangerous habit for HSPs) and even got into the habit of creating other people’s thoughts for them. My thoughts were so loud, I felt that other people could hear them and were saying things like, “Yes,” in agreement, “you need to lose a few pounds.”

I often joked around that when I grew up I wanted to be somebody. I lived life from that place of not having enough and not being enough. Happiness was surely on the other side of having attained firmer thighs and a flatter tummy – the elusive perfect body image.

So in the midst of working out and trying to control my every bite with food, tirelessly creating my “perfect body” so that I could finally feel free in my own skin and love myself, my therapist at the time had other ideas. She burst right through my perfect bubble when she said something to me that stung hard.

“Maybe you’re supposed to be a different size.”

Um, excuse me?

“Maybe you’re supposed to be a different size.”


How dare she! Couldn’t she see that my body wasn’t perfect yet? Did she not see how hard I was working?

“Maybe you’re supposed to be a different size.”

It stayed with me like an echo. I couldn’t shake it.

And she wasn’t talking about a smaller size.

Reframing My Body Image

At the time, I was nowhere close to being overweight. But the thing was—I had never (ever!) considered gaining weight. Why would I do that? It went against everything I had ever learned. I needed to control my weight, right? Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do so that I can feel good about myself?

I felt so found out. Did I need to gain weight? It didn’t matter. I was put face to face with a new possibility, which was exactly where I needed to be. Somebody saw me, really saw me, and let me know about something new. The rest was up to me to figure out.

We are saturated with images—daily. We see how we are “supposed” to look, what we are “supposed” to eat, how we are “supposed” to be. The message is seemingly simple: if we succeed—if we become more and more “perfect”—we are granted access to happiness, feeling amazing in our bodies, and feeling loved by everyone around us.

Let me tell you—that is one hard path for anyone to follow, especially if you are an HSP. So why would you want to? It leads to more suffering and more overwhelm. The very things we already often have plenty of in our lives.

Of course, I didn’t get what my therapist said right away. I just took offense to it. I internalized it as I do with most everything and eventually came out on the other side having finally heard what I needed to hear. The message that came through for me was that I get to love myself NOW. In this body. And that I get to love myself in the future—at whatever size body I become.

Somewhere in between now and the future is some “bettering” myself, sure. But the self love can start right now. There’s no need to wait for my thighs to become “bikini ready” (they’re ready NOW when I put on my bathing suit, thanks!)

What do you think? Do you struggle with body image and how do you deal? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


  1. Kristie says

    Thank you so much for writing on this topic. As a fellow HSP that has struggled with loving my body over the years, I can totally relate. I have found that having as close to a chemical free environment and diet have helped me be the happiest of my life. Along with daily exercise to fight anxiety and depression I’m doing better than I have my whole life. I have a Facebook page if you would like to check it out called Size 18 to 8. My blog is listed their as well. Peace be with you. Thanks again for sharing.

    • says

      Thanks, Kristie,

      I appreciate the feedback about your experience. It sounds as if You are doing great. I will stop by on FB, thanks for letting me know about your work.

      All the best,

    • says

      Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts here, Kristie. It’s great to hear that you are doing well and have found what works for you when it comes to living a happy life. I will look you up on Facebook. :)


  2. Sarah says

    Thank you. I can relate to this exactly. I feel like you are talking about me. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one dealing with these feelings every day. Please keep sharing articles/stories. You’re helping many people, including me :-)

    • says

      Hi Sarah,

      I am glad you enjoyed Kathryn’s article. She is very knowledgeable in this area. Anything we can to for self care and healing is wonderful.

      All the best,

  3. Jaemae says

    I’ve always known I was sensitive..far more than anyone else I knew but until I just read this I never put the two together. My constant inner voice criticizing my self on my body image..face…how I sound, what I say, how I say it, what others think of it all. I really dislike being like this because it comes across as being self absorbed or self centered which I have worked my whole life to not be. And when people say ” stop worrying about it..if you only knew how little people even thought of you at all you wouldn’t worry so much” it bothers me. It’s dismissive even if it’s true. It’s far beyond vanity…far deeper. It has effected my life to the point of paranoia..that when people look at me I’m surprised they don’t recoil. I only have two mirrors in my house and they’re medicine cabinets in the bathrooms. No full length for me. It could alter my mood and day and everyone else’s around me. I have days where I think…ok…not overtly hideous today and somehow end up in a picture and seeing it makes me never want to leave the house. How could I have thought that I looked good enough to walk around like this? It’s sad because there aren’t many pictures of me for my kids now to have after I’m gone since I avoid the camera like the plague. I’m trying my best to keep this to myself so I don’t pass this on to my daughter and I only teach her self love and acceptance…but I’m a fraud. I can’t even do it for myself. In my worst moments I’ve self harmed, starved myself, forced myself to vomit etc etc. Now I have an auto immune disease that is going to disfigure me. For some reason…it’s helping to balance it out for me…somewhat…I still have bad days with the negative talk in my head but when you’re looking at having at least 10 years knocked off the end of your life…I guess it makes me think differently now. I can’t afford nor do I want to waste any time now worrying about what others think of me. Like I said..I still struggle with what I think but I’m less destructive about it. Thank you for writing this and sharing it….It’s really made me think more about the connection of HSP and other ways it’s affected my life in ways I didn’t even realize..

    • says

      Hi Jaemae

      Thanks for sharing your story. I am glad that you have resolved some of this issue for yourself. May I suggest that the next step is to start noticing the beauty in yourself? We all have it and you do also. It could also be a useful meditation for you. IN addition listening to new age music can be very useful for helping you to detach from stressful feelings and stay in a positive place.

      I hope this helps,

  4. Eija Searle says

    I don’t like to be photographed, because I look ugly in the pics. I have been insulted too many times about my out look that it has taken it’s toll. I don’t accept the way I look and ageing doesn’t make things any easier to accept. I feel that what ever garment I wear it will not look any good on me. I am not fat, but I keep on eye on my eating and eat healthy food and try to do exercise. I have struggled accepting my body image as far as I can remember.

    • says

      Hi Eija,

      Some people are more photogenic than others but that does not mean they are ugly. I do not take great pictures either but that does not mean I am ugly. I would love to see you find someone who can help you with styling so you are able to feel better. Sometimes minor changes can make a big difference.

      All the best,

  5. Liz says

    As an HSP, this was powerful to read..I’m getting married in just 10 short months, and almost as soon as I was engaged I started thinking to myself “sheesh, I need to drop a size or two and get rid of all this arm flab I have before I can even THINK about putting on a wedding dress…” Funny thing is.. I’m 5 foot 4 inches tall, and I weigh around 120 pounds.. So after reading this.. I had some hope. I don’t need to drop a size, I’m already a healthy size. Love this.

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