The Oxford English Dictionary defines a hang-up as “an emotional problem or inhibition”. From a psychological point of view, it means focusing on a real or imaginary flaw, either physical or mental. People with hang-ups have a distorted image of themselves. There are several types of hang-ups: physical, psychological and social.
> Physical hang-ups: these affect women more than men because women are subjected to more pressure to look good, fuelled by society’s obsession with appearance. We feel we have to look gorgeous and attractive all the time. Our hang-ups are usually over our bodies: not our faces, but often our weight, breasts, bum and tummy.
> Psychological hang-ups: these may focus on a lack of culture, intelligence or sharpness.
> Social hang-ups: these result from issues related to money, your career or your roots.
The causes of hang-ups are rooted in childhood
Hang-ups stem from demands and errors made in the family environment that either consciously or subconsciously imposed a model of perfection on the child. Hang-ups are closely related to self-confidence and they are also caused by comparisons. The things that people draw comparisons with change as they get older: in our youth, we make comparisons with the people around us (parents, neighbours, etc); but as an adult, our comparisons are made with images driven by the media, which have their own laws and make feelings of inferiority worse.
Also, people with hang-ups sometimes have a predisposition to perfectionism and subconsciously refuse to be average or ordinary.
Isn't it normal to have hang-ups?
Of course it’s only human to have hang-ups, and for one simple reason: imperfection itself is human, and it’s normal to be aware of this....and what really counts is how you live with it. Some people become slaves to their hang-ups and do all they can to hide their flaws; others go on a relentless quest for perfection to try and make up for their weak points. The best solution is to accept your imperfections. Of course there may be times when you want to try and correct your flaws, but be sensible and don't get worked up about them.
When should you start to worry about your hang-ups?
In the case of physical hang-ups, obsession can turn into something more serious in extreme cases. This is dysmorphophobia or Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). It’s a fear of revealing your body’s defects and, more specifically, an inability to see your body as it really is. Sufferers are unable to look at themselves objectively as a whole and only see all the little details they hate. They no longer see themselves as human beings, but as an object to be modified.
The problem with this level of anxiety is that it risks affecting daily life: you stop going to the beach because you’re not comfortable with your body, you won't wear sandals because you don’t like your feet... When you let a hang-up become too important, you end up withdrawing into yourself and convincing yourself that the imperfection is the reason behind all your failures. This lack of self-confidence is considered normal during adolescence but it takes on a whole different dimension in adulthood and can easily lead to depression. Psychoanalysis is used to cure it.
How to overcome your hang-ups
> First off, you need to accept that you can’t be perfect and you should stop trying to please everybody at all costs. Also, convert your differences into positive features and focus on what you’re good at. Think about developing all the areas you're confident in. Learn to look yourself in the mirror and see yourself as a whole person, not checking if your nose or hips are too big. Remember that charm is born out of selflessness, unlike physical beauty.
> Choosing the right friends is also essential. In other words you should surround yourself with people who accept you for who you are. It’s also important to be able to listen to them and not cultivate false illusions. Being able to look at yourself objectively is a solid basis for a new start.
As a last resort:
Seeing a professional might be a good idea if your hang-ups are really weighing you down. Cognitve Behavioural Therapy (CBT) aims to alter the patient’s behaviour by focusing on the symptoms, through role-playing games and relaxation. For more comprehensive treatment, psychoanalysis is the best option. This helps the patient understand the reasons for their insecurities and also involves analysis of the patient’s image of perfection and the reasons for it.
Finally, cosmetic surgery can be a solution in certain cases, but only in certain cases. Some people will still think themselves ugly after endless surgery, even if the operations are successful, and may seek solutions for new faults. This is proof that hang-ups are a question of self-esteem above all else.