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Module 7: Overvaluing Appearance & Self-Management Planning
Caring Less About Your Looks
Caring Less About Your Looks
Module 7
Overvaluing Appearance &
Self-Management Planning
Overvaluing Appearance
Accepting Appearance
Appreciating the Functions of Your Body
Learning to Accept Your Appearance: A Fork in the Road
Putting it All Together
Self-Management Plan
Managing ‘Bumps’ in The Road
Module Summary
About the Modules
This information provided in this document is for information purposes only. Please refer to the
full disclaimer and copyright statements available at regarding the
information on this website before making use of such information.
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Module 7: Overvaluing Appearance & Self-Management Planning
Caring Less About Your Looks
This module will look at the ‘core’ of our model: overvaluing appearance. Learning to accept the way you
look is key to reducing the impact your appearance concerns have on your self-esteem and your life.
Overvaluing Appearance
One way to become more accepting of your appearance involves thinking about the values that you hold.
Values are a set of beliefs which guide your thoughts and behaviours and reflect what is most important to
you. At the moment, one of your key values is probably your appearance you wouldn’t be reading these
modules if it wasn’t!
There is a difference between valuing appearance and over-valuing appearance. Most people value their
appearance to some extent, however when appearance is overvalued, it can be problematic as it gets in the
way of other important areas of your life.
Let’s consider an example.
James is a 29 year old engineer. Over the past few years he has become more and more
concerned about his appearance as he believes others think he is too scrawny. He spends a lot of
time at the gym trying to build up muscle (with not much success) and is always thinking about
how he can change his appearance. Because of these concerns, he tends to either stay at home or
workout, rather than see his friends. More recently, he said “no” to joining his friends on a trip to
Bali as he didn’t want to disrupt his gym routine, and he was worried about what his friends might
think of his body. James also values being a kind and compassionate person. He used to do
volunteer work and was always available to talk to his friends whenever they needed support.
James has noticed that his appearance concerns have made it difficult for him to offer support to
others or help out like he normally would.
The more you overvalue appearance, the more it can take away from your ability to live in line with other
values. This is because a lot of your energy and effort is being directed towards your appearance, which
ends up getting in the way of how you spend your time. The pie chart below shows how overvaluing
appearance has got in the way of James living a balanced life according to all his values.
One way of reducing the value you place on appearance is to start living in a way that fits with other values
you hold that is, by enlarging the other ‘slices’ of the pie. When you start to do this (and keep at it!), you
will find that your life becomes more balanced with time. You will also find that your less affected by your
appearance concerns, and more content within yourself.
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Module 7: Overvaluing Appearance & Self-Management Planning
Caring Less About Your Looks
Let’s return to our example.
James decided to start behaving more in line with other values he held. Although he felt anxious at
first, he started going out with friends more and more. He also decided to miss a few gym sessions
to hang out with his sister, after she said she was having a hard time. Over time, he noticed that
the more he saw his friends and family (and the less time he spent at the gym), the less focused he
was on his appearance. While James was still dissatisfied with some aspects of his body, he found
that he was no longer as ‘caught up’ in thinking about them. He was starting to realise that there
were more important things in life than looking a certain way, and that how he felt about his
appearance did not need to stop him from living a happy and meaningful life. As shown below,
James’ pie chart became more balanced and in line with all his values.
What Are Your Values?
Take a moment to think about your values (other than appearance), or what values you would like to live
by in the future. Different people value different things and there are no right or wrong answers. See
below for some examples of values and circle the ones (or check the box) in the table that are important
to you. You may wish to include values that aren’t listed below using the space provided.
sporting ability
Let’s think about how you can live your life more in line with the values you’ve circled above. Ask yourself,
are any of your values being overlooked at the moment? With this in mind, choose 5 values that you would
like to dedicate more time towards, and list these in order of importance.
1. _______________________________
2. _______________________________
3. _______________________________
4. _______________________________
5. _______________________________
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Module 7: Overvaluing Appearance & Self-Management Planning
Caring Less About Your Looks
Let’s think about how you can act more in line with the five values you’ve chosen. What would you like to
be doing more of? For example, if you value compassion, you could offer to help out a friend, or do some
voluntary work. If you value your family, you might make time to see your grandma more often, or organise
a family catch up.
It’s time to take action. Have a go at engaging in the behaviours you’ve listed above. Once you’ve done this,
write about your experience below.
Another useful exercise involves considering how much you care about other people’s appearance. That is,
when you think of the qualities that you value in your friends and family, how does appearance rank? Is it a
major factor in determining how much you like them? Or are other qualities more important? How does
this compare with the importance you place on your own appearance?
Take a moment and write down your responses below.
Accepting Appearance
Another way of reducing appearance concerns is to commit to accepting your body the way that it is. You
may be thinking: “How could I possibly accept my appearance when I’m so unhappy with the way I look?”
Let’s look at an example.
Tammy is 150cm tall. She wished she was taller like most of her friends. In her teens, Tammy
kept hoping she would grow, and was miserable when she didn’t. By age 19, she started to realise
that since both her parents were fairly short, it was unlikely that she would end up growing any
more. She decided that since she couldn’t change her height, and being miserable about it didn’t
help, she would start to try to accept it for what it was. She reminded herself that height was not
the most important quality in a person and if she didn’t judge others based on their height, then
why should she be judging herself in this way. Tammy knew she was a kind and loyal person and
that these qualities were more important than appearance. She worked hard to accept her
height, and with time, she was able to focus on and enjoy the more important things in her life.
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Module 7: Overvaluing Appearance & Self-Management Planning
Caring Less About Your Looks
As we saw in the example, many aspects of our appearance (e.g., height) are strongly influenced by genetics
and are therefore outside of our control. Yes, you can make some changes sometimes, but these may
come at a significant cost (as we have talked about in previous modules). With this in mind, it is really
worth considering whether or not you are better off learning to accept your appearance just the way it is.
Let’s consider the pros and cons of this.
Pros of accepting your appearance
What are the benefits of accepting your
appearance, rather than trying to change it?
How would your life be different?
Cons of accepting your appearance
What negatives do you expect to occur if you stop
trying to ‘improve’ your appearance?
e.g., I’ll be able to spend my time doing more
important things rather than trying to
change my appearance.
e.g., I’ll have to stop looking for a way to
make my skin better.
Appreciating the Functions of Your Body
Another way to help you work towards accepting your appearance is by appreciating what your body does
for you and acknowledging the positive aspects.
We often take for granted what our bodies do for us each day. Our body is a vehicle that
helps us live our lives. It can walk, talk, breathe, smile, stretch, embrace and dance. Our
bodies also adapt to help us through the course of our lives, growing and changing to meet the demands of
our environment. Instead of focusing on how our body looks, we can learn to appreciate what our bodies
allow us to do. Whether it’s running to catch the bus, staying up late and talking on the phone for hours,
letting you stay on your feet all day at work, bending down to give your kid a hug, or duck diving under a
wave, what our body can do is pretty impressive!
What does your body do for you?
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Module 7: Overvaluing Appearance & Self-Management Planning
Caring Less About Your Looks
One important way to help you appreciate your body is to engage in healthy exercise.
Research has shown that regular exercise can improve body acceptance, regardless of
whether or not it results in a change in appearance. Exercise can make you more aware of
what your body can do, increase your self-confidence, improve your fitness and lift your
mood. People also often experience a sense of accomplishment when they are able to run a
little further, master a new yoga pose or kick a goal in a game of soccer.
What exercise are you doing at the moment? Would it be helpful to include more
movement into your week? It is very important to choose a form of exercise that you enjoy rather than for
the purpose of changing your appearance (otherwise this can become another one of those unhelpful
appearance altering behaviours!). When thinking about exercise, remember to include all forms of
movement such as dancing, stretching, yoga or going for a gentle walk.
Learning to Accept Your Appearance:
A Fork in The Road
At this point in the module, you may find yourself faced with a fork in the road. It is now up to you to
decide whether you are willing to work towards accepting your appearance as it is.
If you choose not to accept your appearance, you will probably remain really preoccupied with thoughts
about your looks and how to change them, and continue to engage in many unhelpful behaviours. Chances
are that despite your efforts, you will still be unhappy with your appearance, and this will continue to have a
big impact on your life.
Alternatively, if you choose to accept your appearance as it is, you will continue to take steps towards
creating a meaningful and fulfilling life that is less affected by your appearance concerns. This path may have
some bumps in the road, and may require some hard work at times, but in the long run, the challenges will
be so worth it. Not only will you develop resilience, you will experience the satisfaction of not letting your
appearance concerns dictate how you live your life.
Remember the image you brought to mind in Module 2? This image reflected what life would be like if you
weren’t so concerned with your appearance or caught up in thoughts about your body all the time. When
faced with challenging times, it will be helpful to bring this image to mind as a reminder of why you’re
working so hard to accept your appearance.
What will help you commit to choosing the path of acceptance? What can you do to help you persevere
when this seems hard?
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Module 7: Overvaluing Appearance & Self-Management Planning
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Putting It All Together
Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned in these modules and revisit the key factors that maintain your
appearance concerns. Now is also an opportunity to put together a self-management plan so you have a
clear ‘road map’ to guide you as you continue this journey.
Let’s begin by reminding yourself of the factors that keep you overly focused on your appearance and the
strategies to address them, as outlined below.
Self-Management Plan
Step 1. Reducing appearance focused attention
The first step to addressing appearance concerns is to recognise when you are getting caught upin
thoughts about your appearance. At these times, it is important to redirect your attention away from
appearance worries, and to re-engage in the activities of the here and now. You learn this skill by practicing:
(1) mundane task focusing, which involves learning how to focus your attention while engaging in everyday
household tasks; and (2) postponement, where you choose to postpone or delay thinking about appearance
thoughts until a particular time each day.
How can I ensure I continue to use these attention strategies each day?
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Module 7: Overvaluing Appearance & Self-Management Planning
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Step 2. Reducing body checking and reassurance seeking behaviours
The more you engage in body checking behaviours or seek reassurance from others, the more tuned in
you’ll be to noticing aspects of your appearance that you dislike. This will not only have a negative impact
on your mood, it will also keep your appearance concerns at the forefront of your mind. To escape this
cycle, we have learnt to limit how much we engage in these behaviours by either stopping them
immediately or by taking gradual steps to reduce their frequency and/or duration.
How will I continue to reduce body checking and reassurance seeking behaviours?
Step 3: Addressing appearance altering behaviours
It is normal to engage in some appearance altering behaviours, however we know that doing this
excessively not only maintains appearance concerns, but can also become expensive, time consuming and
have negative consequences on your physical health and mood. You can reduce unhelpful appearance
altering behaviours using a stepladder approach, or by using behavioural experiments to test out whether
your predictions about reducing your behaviours are accurate or not.
In what ways can I continue to address unhelpful appearance altering behaviours?
Step 4: Reducing avoidance behaviours
If you avoid situations because of your concerns with your appearance, you miss out on opportunities to
have positive and meaningful experiences. This can quickly start to have an impact on your mood,
relationships, and your overall quality of life. To reverse the vicious cycle of avoidance, it is important to
start by approaching feared situations, and examine the impact this has on your life.
How can I continue engaging in meaningful experiences that I’ve previously avoided?
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Module 7: Overvaluing Appearance & Self-Management Planning
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Step 5: Addressing overvaluing appearance
The more you overvalue appearance, the more it can take away from your ability to live in line with other
values you hold. To combat this, it’s helpful to first look at valued areas of your life that may have been
overlooked, before starting to dedicate more time and energy towards them. Another way to reduce the
value you place on appearance is to commit to accepting your appearance for what it is, and to start
appreciating what your body does for you, instead of just focusing on how it looks. Exercise can help with
this, as it can highlight all the remarkable things our bodies can do.
How can I ensure I live my life in accordance with all my values?
How can I work towards appreciating my body?
Managing ‘Bumps’ in the Road
Congratulations on making it to the end of these modules! We hope that the information and strategies
shared have been helpful in facilitating meaningful change. Remember, the goal of these modules is to help
you live an enjoyable and meaningful life that is not consumed by worries about your appearance.
There is no doubt that reducing your appearance concerns will take time, practice, persistence and
patience. We need to expect that there will be both good days and bad this is how change works! There
will be times where you feel comfortable within yourself and enjoy getting on with your life, and there will
be times when you slip back into caring too much about your appearance. As long as you commit to change
for the longer term, and regularly review these modules, there is no reason why things can’t continue
getting better and better for you!
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Module 7: Overvaluing Appearance & Self-Management Planning
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Module Summary
To reduce overconcern with appearance, it is important to work on:
- Letting go of preoccupation with your appearance.
- Reducing unhelpful checking and reassurance seeking behaviours.
- Reducing avoidance and safety behaviours (by engaging in new and meaningful experiences).
- Reducing excessive use of appearance altering behaviours.
- Living your life in accordance with all values.
- Committing to accepting your appearance the way it is.
Reducing your appearance concerns will take time and lots of practice.
Expect setbacks, but rather than focusing on them, use these modules to help you get back on
Remember, change is hard… but so worth it!
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Module 7: Overvaluing Appearance & Self-Management Planning
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About the Modules
Dr. Louise Andony (DPsych
Clinical Psychologist
Centre for Clinical Interventions
Dr. Stephanie Hill (DPsych
Clinical Psychologist
Centre for Clinical Interventions
Dr. Bronwyn Raykos (MPsych
; PhD
Senior Clinical Psychologist
Centre for Clinical Interventions
Dr. Bruce Campbell (MPsych
; DPsych
Senior Clinical Psychologist
Centre for Clinical Interventions
Doctor of Psychology (Clinical Psychology)
Master of Psychology (Clinical Psychology)
Doctor of Philosophy (Clinical Psychology)
The concepts and strategies in these modules have been developed from evidence based psychological
practice, primarily Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy (CBT).
These are some of the professional references used to create the modules in this information package:
Cash, T. (1997). The body image workbook. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications.
Fairburn, C.G. (2008). Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Eating Disorders. New York: Guilford Press.
Waller, G., Cordery, H., Corstorphine, E., Hinrichsen, H., & Lawson, R. (2007). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
for Eating Disorders. Cambridge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wells, A. (1997). Cognitive Therapy of Anxiety Disorders: A Practice Manual and Conceptual Guide. Chichester,
UK: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Wells, A. (2008). Metacognitive Therapy for Anxiety and Depression. New York: Guilford Press.
Veale, D. (2010). Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Psychiatric Annals, 40, 333-
Veale, D., Willson, R., & Clarke, A. (2009). Overcoming body image problems including Body Dysmorphic
Disorder. London: Robinson.
Veale, D. & Neziroglu, F. (2010). Body Dysmorphic Disorder: A treatment manual. UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
This module forms part of:
Andony, L., Hill, S., Raykos, B., & Campbell, B. (2019). Caring less about your looks. Perth, Western Australia:
Centre for Clinical Interventions.
ISBN: 0 9875479 3 4 Created: December 2019