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Mind over matter: The link between body image and better performance at work

There is much to be said about the link between self-confidence and performance at work, but could the difference between success and failure really just be skin-deep? Dr Ravi Jain discusses

As an aesthetic physician, I’m constantly meeting people who have concerns about their body and believe that fixing these issues will help improve how they feel about themselves. Many of the people I meet are professional businessmen and women and they would go as far as to say that their lack of self confidence is negatively affecting their performance at work and even their job or future career prospects. This link between business performance and body image was one, which I was keen to explore more and so I selected a sample of recent patients to find out more. The results were fascinating.

I found that 87% were noticeably more self confident now than previously and 17% had seen an improvement in their career as a direct result of tackling their body hang ups.

Many of the professional people I speak to often feel they are ‘on display’ in front of their peers, teams and boards. This amplifies their body-image concerns and for some, it reaches the point where it is affecting their future career prospects. 

The ‘celeb mum’ syndrome 

Another group of people who are feeling the pressure to look good are return-to-work mums. We constantly see photos of new ‘celeb’ mums who are back to their pre-baby shape in just a matter of weeks, an outcome which for many is simply not realistic. What new mothers have the time, finances and inclination to embark on a super-intensive diet and fitness programme?  And even if they did, I’m pretty sure most would trade it for a good night sleep anyway!   

Nevertheless, the pressure does remain to return to work looking pert, tucked and gleaming from their recent transition into motherhood. Don’t get me wrong, many women are able to return to work with no problems whatsoever, but for some, it isn’t proving to be that easy. For some, the stress of having to return to a working environment looking different to what they did pre-pregnancy can be significant.


Women on the up 

I definitely think the rising number of women in senior positions is responsible for the rise in treatments by professional women. Many of the people I speak to are professionals who often feel they are ‘on display’ in front of their peers, teams and boards. This amplifies their body-image concerns and for some, it reaches the point where it is affecting their future career prospects. Image is important to them and helps them to feel confident in their roles. 

Recently former MP Louise Mensch admitted that she had several cosmetic procedures during her time in parliament for ‘maintenance’. She kept this quiet whilst in parliament, but disclosed the information after she left, at which point Jeremy Paxman questioned whether she was setting a good example to other women. 

So, whilst it is acceptable for men to have hair implants (Wayne Rooney) and cosmetic treatments (Gordon Ramsey) which arguably boost their self confidence and therefore, their performance in the careers, why is it that middle-aged women such as MP Louise Mensch are still criticised for not wanting to grow old gracefully, but maintain their looks for longer? 

I certainly don’t think that people should be judged on their decision to lose weight, have a cosmetic treatment, dress a little more stylishly or even have a hair transplant! I think there is still a taboo in the workplace about people who don’t choose to grow old gracefully, but in a highly visual world where we are constantly exposed to young, slim, forever-young people, it would take the strongest of minds not to be influenced by it all. With increasing pressures for women as they continue to accelerate up the career ladders and into boardrooms, it would seem that the desire to stay looking younger for longer, isn’t going to disappear any time soon. 

The concern is that performance at work could be hindered for those who feel self-conscious about their current image. My advice to anyone who feels that their body is holding them back from achieving their full potential at work is to first try some cognitive techniques to change the way you process negative thoughts and beliefs. The next step is to embark on a health and fitness drive to improve your diet and start partaking in regular physical activity. Only after this point should you consider whether a cosmetic procedure could be the way forward.


To find out more about the work of Dr Ravi Jain visit www.riverbanksclinic.co.uk









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