Jump to content

Growing questions and doubts around self-image...


Recommended Posts

Hey everyone,


I am mostly a lurker/commenter on the forums, but this morning I have realised I am developing some doubts around my own self-image and I thought I'd reach out for some input. This will be a fairly long post, as background is relevant. The primary issue is in the last paragraph (The Problem) if anyone would like to skip ahead.


Basic Facts


  • 35 years old, though baby-faced, so often mistaken for late 20s,
  • 183 cm (6 ft) tall,
  • 85 kg (190 lbs), average/slightly muscular body. I was overweight/chubby for most of life, but since coming to Japan I have lost 25 kgs and put on a fair bit of muscle,
  • Generally gregarious and friendly, but slightly introverted (in that social activities tend to be a bit draining rather than energising),
  • Single for 2 years in Japan.
  • Living in a small, isolated town of around 30000 people.
  • (Low quality) picture in profile (if anyone thinks that may be relevant)


A Short History


I was born and raised in New Zealand. My early childhood was spent in small, country towns, while my teens and 20s were in New Zealand's largest (and, arguably, only) city, Auckland. My parents split early in my life, and my younger brother and I moved between them fairly regularly (they don't get along). Overall, my childhood was pretty good; not without its issues, many of which have impacted my self-esteem. I don't think I need to outline them here, as I have a fairly good grasp on those issues.


I suffer from generalised anxiety, primarily in social situations. It peaked when I was 16/17, and caused me to drop out of High School. I ended up travelling for 2 years as a backpacker in Australia, and have since learned many strategies to deal with my feelings of anxiety. While I still suffer from the feelings of anxiety and often feel vaguely uncomfortable with other people, there is very little impact on my quality of life these days (most people I have meet in the latter part of my life assume I am confident and extroverted - generally when I talk about my anxiety, people don't believe me).


When I returned to New Zealand I went to University, and hold degrees in Philosophy and Law. I have worked in numerous jobs and careers. In 2015, I completed my professional studies for Law and was poised to begin practicing, however I took a different path; I have been living in Japan since June 2016 teaching English.




I have had 2 long term relationships in my life; the first was 3 years in my early twenties, the second was 5 years and ended in 2015. My most recent relationship was instrumental in my decision to move across the world, so I'll focus on that here.


My ex was 7 years younger than me. For me, it was love a first sight; we worked together at a high-end department store in New Zealand. I met her at a social event and we started chatting. She was recently out of an unhealthy, abusive relationship. At that time, I was in the 'friend-zone' and I was that fake 'nice-guy' who is your best-friend while he is actually always hoping for more. For her part, she would say those things like 'I'm not ready to date' 'You're the kind of guy I want to meet' etc. We were very close, and spent a lot of time together; effectively we were best friends. It was, of course, agonising, and ultimately came to a head after around 2 years when she did start dating someone else, and I decided I couldn't be around her anymore. I jumped into another relationship for 8 months with an extremely unstable woman, which ended up causing major disruption in my life. I was not in contact with my ex during this time, and in fact, on the direction of the other woman, sent her a very viseral, unpleasant message severing all ties. After the unhealthy relationship ended, I reached out and apologised for both my 'fake' friendship and specifically how I had acted when I was with this other woman. She wanted to meet, we did and we started dating.


Around 2 years into our relationship, my ex started experiencing anxiety. She was studying at the time, and the stress of University is probably responsible for triggering her underlying anxiety issues, many of which were residual from her abusive relationship and some family issues. In any case, it developed rapidly to severe panic disorder. I won't go into details, but the final three years of our relationship saw us move from partners to more of a caregiver/patient type relationship. She was housebound (at her parents home) with severe agoraphobia, living on disability, and did not complete her studies. Ultimately, after completing my own studies I realised that while I loved her deeply, I was not in love with her anymore, and that I was enabling her more than I was helping her. On a more selfish level, I realised that if I wanted to move forward in my life, I would have to leave her. So I did. We have remained friends, with updates flowing every few months, and she has made progress in leaps and bounds since, so I am glad the decision worked for both of us.


The Problem(s)


So here is what I am struggling with:


I feel that my standards of attraction are not aligned with my own level of attractiveness. When I look in the mirror, I am happy with how I look generally - there are things I want to change of course, but overall I think I look OK. However, when I see myself in photos, 90% of the time , I am shocked and dismayed. I feel I look very unattractive. I am consistently told I am attractive, in a variety of circumstances. I am fairly dismissive of compliments like this, particularly in such a complimentary culture such as Japan. However, there are enough circumstances where these come from people I believe to be honestly stating their opinion, and from people I consider attractive (but unavailable), that I believe them. However, in the few circumstances here where I have met someone I find attractive who is available, I have been rejected. Furthermore, I am aware of several women who are attracted to me, however I am not attracted to them. I am not shallow per se; attraction for me is both physical and personality based (i.e. I can think someone is physically beautiful, but not be attracted to them due to their personality, or, conversely, love someones personality, but won't be attracted to them physically). However, I will admit that primarily these women are not physically attractive to me. To be fair, physical attraction is more immediately knowable, and in those cases where I do know these womens' personality, there are also issues there.


I (obviously) considered my exs to be very attractive, both physically and personality wise. My past behaviours and issues actually meant that I viewed them as far more attractive than me, and led to me 'putting them on a pedestal' and causing issues in the relationship where I would end up resenting them because I would not express my needs and wants. I have worked on this extensively and I am far more confident and mature now. However, I have started to think that maybe I have 'too high' standards or desires, and I need to somehow rethink my own perceptions. I am not sure how to do this however...


Maybe this is just a vent, but input/discussion/admonishments are welcome. Just need to talk about it (and there are few to no free English counselling services in Japan).

Link to comment

Well, you're a handsome guy (as long as you keep your tongue in your mouth), so I think you may have Body Dysmorphic Disorder which is also connected to Depression and Anxiety. This is medically treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and/or SSRI antidepressants. If you can't visit a doctor, you can help yourself by chanting a mantra, that you're a handsome guy and any girl would be happy to date you.


As to picking girls to date, you may have a touch of Obsession Compulsion Disorder which again is connected to Depression and Anxiety. You pick extremely attractive women but you feel you can't live up to your and their expectations. The medical treatment is the same as above. The real-life answer is that this is why we date, because we're looking for someone we click with and they're looking for the same. And a lot of time, it doesn't work out. So you have to keep dating until you find that special person.

Link to comment

Thanks for your input Danzee,


I do have a bad habit of sticking my tongue out in photos... may be its even a subconcious effort to 'ruin' the shot, so I can avoid my usual response when I see the photo?


I have often wondered if I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or some variation of it, beyond more generalised self-esteem, depression and anxiety. On reflection, those photos of myself I do like are almost always where I am alone in the photo, so maybe its something to do with how I compare myself to others in terms of physical appearance (which may also explain why I feel okay when I see myself in the mirror). I have to say, over my life, and particularly in the last two years this has improved a lot. I actually have engaged in CBT before, and continue to use many of the strategies and techniques in dealing with anxiety today. I will continue to do so, and maybe read up to refresh/re-educate myself on those techniques.


I am definitely picky when it comes to potential partners, maybe too much so. I also think in the past I have had a bit of White Knight Syndrome, where I have picked women who I think I can save and therefore they will love me. I allso think the prolonged chase period with my ex was something of a pattern - I tend to be the pursuer, which ultimately leads to me feeling that I wasn't good enough to begin with and I have somehow tricked them into liking me. This feeds into what might be called Imposter Syndrome I guess, where I feel that one day they will figure out I am not good enough. I have actually made a list of rules now to avoid my past behaviours and these feelings, and I have put them into action (my other posts kind of outline this). I will say, I think part of the problem is where I am living - there is just a very limited pool of potential partners. I am moving in July to a more populous area, so maybe that will change things. I am happy enough being single, but my life is good at the moment and would like someone to share things with.


Anyway, I appreciate your input and will take it on-board.



Link to comment
were in New Zealand's largest (and, arguably, only) city, Auckland. .




Hey Cuz, I too am from our 'only' city and I find that funny as all get out.


I've gone through a lot of what you have, with anxiety, depression, a fear to look in the mirror because I don't like what I see there. It took me a long time to just be happy with who I am and to accept that that people can still think I'm fun and interesting, even if I don't have much hair up top, or I'm grey and that I can't seem to shift those extra couple of kg around the gut no matter how hard I train or diet. I am me and I accept me.


A few years back, I decided to take break from women and to be honest, I've felt so much better about myself. When I take how I feel about myself based on dating, I am better able to focus on who I feel I am and my self acceptance, and self esteem sky rocketed. And I have had so much more time to focus on the things that I really want to do. This perception that we have to be this amazing version of ourselves or else we will not attract the right women, is just wrong. Just focus on being you and not trying to jump through the ever higher sets of hoops society puts before us to 'win' the best relationship.


Oh and my friends would swear blue in the face that Levin is the only city in NZ.

Link to comment

Is it hard to date or integrate into Japanese culture? That along with being homesick may contribute to all this.

I am definitely picky when it comes to potential partners, maybe too much so. I think part of the problem is where I am living - there is just a very limited pool of potential partners.

Link to comment
Oh and my friends would swear blue in the face that Levin is the only city in NZ.


Ha ha! Nothing wrong with a bit of Levin mate! To be honest, that was a bit of a test to see if I could lure out any other Kiwis here ;) Glad to know I am not the only antipodean representative here!


Thanks for the advice. When I first arrived here, I did exactly that. I was very self-focussed and made huge strides in my self-confidence and just general happiness. Maybe I have gone back to 'looking' too soon, especially with these issues flairing up. Of course, I guess you never really know where you are at until you start trying again. I will mediate on it all, and just keep moving forward. I really am in such a better place here in Japan than I was in New Zealand, and I am truly happy in so many ways. Relationships may continue to be a thorn, but almost everything else is roses.



Link to comment

Hey Wiseman2,


That's a good question. I definitely don't think I am homesick, in fact I don't think I will return to NZ in the foreseeable future. I feel more at home here now than I did there. My family is somewhat itinerant, spread accross the globe, so many that contributes.


In most respects, I haven't found it too difficult to integrate and adjust here. I have many friends, both Japanese and ex-pat, and find most of Japanese culture very agreeable (the politeness, the hospitality, etc.) I am in a small, rural area, and I find the people here so warm and friendly, which is great. I think the dating issues are more my personal issues, exacerbated by the cultural differences and language barrier. I definitely find it difficult to read interest in women, and tend to assume noone is interested unless there are very clear signals. And Japanese women are generally speaking VERY demure. In Japanese culture it is also very common to avoid directly saying 'No', which leads to a lot of flaking or half-agreement, which is actually means no. That can be confusing. Also, my Japanese is very low level, so at this stage I can only really communicate with women with fairly good English.


I should mention, I am not exclusively interested in Japanese women, and in fact, the only woman I have met who I was interested in and who was available was an American (which was a rejection). Of the female friends or acquaintances who I would be interested in, were the available, they are maybe 50/50 Japanese and ex-pats (around 4 women by the way, not a huge number).


I think if anything its all a sign to continue to focus on myself and my journey and wait and see how things evolve after I relocate. I love travel, exploring, painting, even studying Kanji, so I have plenty to refocus on.





Link to comment


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...