It’s a bit like a bad memory, and it can leave you feeling guilty and upset.
But it can also be the start of a whole new relationship, according to an article in the medical journal BMJ.
A study published in The Lancet suggests that people who are aware of their body parts may be able to change their minds about them and their appearance in the future.
This is because, the authors suggest, people can learn how to use body parts to change the way they feel about themselves.
“People who have a body image problem, or who have been feeling uncomfortable about their appearance for a long time, may be at a greater risk of future health problems,” said lead researcher Prof Francesco Vitti, from the University of Pavia.
“These individuals are at increased risk of developing psychological problems, and this may help them to get better,” he said.
The researchers conducted an online survey of over 600 women who were dissatisfied with their appearance.
The participants then answered a series of questions about their bodies.
They were asked to list their body part(s) and how they felt about them.
For example, if their arm was small, they listed their finger, thumb or index finger.
If their arm had a lot of curves, they identified their elbow, hip, elbow or knee.
Participants also answered a number of questions relating to their appearance and appearance in general.
They also completed a self-evaluation questionnaire that measured their perceived physical attractiveness, perceived social class and perceived attractiveness of other women.
These factors were then combined to produce a composite score that included perceived physical and social attractiveness, as well as perceived physical strength and perceived physical ability.
“When we combined the three, we got an overall composite score for attractiveness,” Dr Vittis said.
“The overall composite of physical attractiveness was higher than the individual scores for attractiveness and appearance, which we believe was the result of the social class component of the self-report question.”
People who were aware of what they liked and disliked about their body were also more likely to change those preferences.
They could therefore choose to change what they considered attractive or undesirable.
The authors also examined how women changed their body image in response to a variety of situations.
“One interesting finding was that people’s responses to a wide range of scenarios were influenced by their perceived body part,” Dr Pritam Kaul said.
For instance, in one study participants rated how attractive a woman’s face was based on the number of fingers, thumb and index finger that she had on her body.
However, in another study participants were asked whether the woman had any scars, and in the case of a woman with scarring, their responses were more positive.
People who had more scars tended to prefer a woman who had been physically stronger.
However in another experiment, people who felt uncomfortable about being in a relationship were also less likely to like a woman that had more tattoos, piercings or scars.
“We have found that the perception of physical attributes and the perception related to appearance is linked,” Dr Kaul explained.
“In this study, the more women who had tattoos, tattoos, scarring and scars, the less likely they were to like the woman.
It was also the case that people with more physical attributes were more likely not to like attractive women.”
Dr Vettis said the study provides an intriguing link between perceptions of appearance and body image.
“This study is a proof-of-concept that there is a connection between perception of appearance as well a perception of health and wellbeing,” he explained.
It is possible, he said, that the connection might be more complex.
“Our study has only looked at women, and we need to see if women also show the same sort of changes in their body images that we do in men,” Dr Liza Luzzatto, from Stellenbosch University, said.
Dr Kanku said the findings also highlight how important it is for health professionals to be aware of body parts.
“It is important that health professionals understand their body shape, size and shape of the genitals, and if these characteristics are associated with body image, then the person will need to talk to a health professional,” Dr Janna Venter, from Tilburg University, told ABC News.
“What we need is more research on this subject.”
For more information on body image and how to improve it, visit the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website.
Source: ABC News (Updated February 20, 2019)