Friday, 6 July 2012

DR Linda at TOWIB

A month ago in London, I attended the fourth TOWIB, aka 'The Only Way is Blogging.' Click here and here to read more about past TOWIB events. You may recognise DR Linda Papadopolous off the T.V, in particular I remember her growing up watching GMTV (oh how I miss that programme). One of the UK's leading psychiatrists, her successful career has spanned 15 years, however it was originally Journalism she wanted to venture into before she "fell in love with" psychology. 

“One of the things that really got me into psychology was a way of conceptualizing human behaviour” she admits. 

Her talk at TOWIB focused on body image and self-esteem and where and why it comes from, in particular the skin condition Vitiligo. She referred to a family member who had suffered in the past, describing how the "illness punctuated every decision she made." 

"It became psychologically handicapping and affected her perception of herself. And this is fundamental because the way we see ourselves affects every single decision we make - the job we do, the friends we make, the risks we take, the passions that we have - all have a sense of entitlement over our lives."

DR Linda believes that "if you can change the way you see something, you can change the way you feel about it."

To address the issue of negative body image, a study was conducted in which a group of people were brought in to look at the extent to which disfigurement affects the way other people react to you. Make-up artists were brought in to put a scar on each of their faces, however they weren't allowed to look in the mirror whilst they had the make-up applied. The group were then asked to stand on the corner of Oxford Street and simply hand out flyers, and then come back with their experience of how people interacted with them. Upon their return the group described on how awful it had been, describing how "no-one would stand near us and wouldn't take the flyers - it was terrible. I cant imagine what it's really like to be disfigured." The make-up artists then removed the scar and told  them to stand in the exact same place, in the same clothes the next day and hand out the flyers. Again, they were asked to come back and reveal what happened. Their experience the second time round were much more positive, they handed out all of the flyers, got phone numbers and made friends. 

The team behind the study  then revealed the truth, that the participants never had a scar  put on their face. They looked exactly the same during experiment one and experiment two - "the only thing that was different was how you thought you looked" DR Linda explained to the participants. 

“All the magazines we see and advertisements, the fairytales we read our daughters about  the beautiful princess and the ugly witch all conspire to make us think we need to look a certain way to be happy” says DR Linda. She explains how "we live in a society where we're taught to fix self-esteem from the outside in" when really "we need to start fixing it from the inside out." She honestly admits to enjoying taking pride in her personal appearance: "I get that looks are important - I like my highlights, I love my lipgloss - that's fine, but I love the fact that I can speak Greek, and I love psychology and my daughter. There's so much more important things." 

DR Linda likened negative body image to a pair of glasses which we all wear. "On these glasses are smeared on comments from bullies, people comparing us to our sisters, notions from the media - what we ought to look like. So when we look in the mirror we don't see what we are, we see what we're not. We need to re-educate ourselves to look in the mirror" she reasons. 

But how do we change our mindset? DR Linda suggests we shouldn't "distil you self-worth down to how you look." 

"There's so much more to us, that we can be, that we can do - and it's not mutually exclusive. You can like looking good, but at the same time invest in other parts of who you are" she adds. She urges people to "learn to look in the mirror." 

"We're conditioned to look in the mirror, cut ourselves up and try and fix what we don't like. Studies have shown that if you're able to look in the mirror and focus on what you do like - you'll leave there feeling more confident" thus making us more likely to make eye contact with people and smile - making us more likeable. 

DR Linda pinpoints how there is a need to get media literacy into schools to educate them about the false images we are presented with in the media. "We need to talk to them about the reality. That the pictures that they're comparing themselves with, they're forget airbrushing - they're computer-generated! They may as well be cartoon characters!" she explains. 

"But ultimately we need to learn that we all draw the self-portrait that we have, and take responsibility for that as individuals - as sisters, as mothers and as women, and take back control of what we see in the mirror" she adds. 

Click here to view DR Linda's personal website. A big thank you to KMI Club for letting me use the above photos - you can find the rest here



  1. i wish i'd been able to attend a TOWIB event; they always sound so interesting, especially listening to talks like this! great post :)xo

  2. Sounds like a great event!


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