This Body Is: Holli Rubin, psychotherapist

by Holli Rubin, 14th May 2019

"I empathise with women and men’s body struggles and I believe that bodies are not only about bodies, they are about our underlying emotional world," says renowned psychotherapist and body image specialist Holli Rubin...

Holli Rubin is a psychotherapist, body-image specialist and mental health practitioner based in London, UK

As a psychotherapist, you specialise in body image. What drove you focus on this subject?

I always wanted to combine my interest in fashion and therapy but I was not sure how I was going to do that. I did a fashion buying and merchandising degree at FIT then worked as a buyer at Bergdorf Goodman. I knew after a year that I was more interested in the people than the industry itself. I loved seeing a great handbag, but I was always more interested in the person carrying it.

How has working in this area affected your feelings about your own body?

I did a lot of personal work on my own self-development as working in the field of psychology forces you to do. This allowed me to understand my inner world better. This interconnection between body and mind took time to articulate and understand – putting the theory into practice really helped. It became clearer through things I did that they either helped or worsened how I felt.

For example, when I was physically active, I felt better. Being active made me feel better both physically and emotionally. Eating healthily fueled my body and I had better energy. I began to make that link between my body and my mind. 

I empathise with women and men’s body struggles and I believe that bodies are not only about bodies, they are about our underlying emotional world which can sometimes get tangled up and expressed through or onto our bodies.

Are any women exempt from the pressure to look a certain way?

I think all women feel some degree of pressure to fit society’s beauty standards and ideals. Most women are affected by the pressure to look a certain way but how they choose to manage those feelings is different for everyone. How much they buy into these beauty standards varies from person to person. Appearance related pressure tends to matter less with age, experience and confidence. That said, ageing is a huge concern for people. Luckily, the definition of beauty is widening, and we are beginning to see much more diversity in the advertising/fashion world.

Within your own practice, what do you believe are the main ‘limiting beliefs’ that women have about their bodies. For example…  I don’t like my ________ and it stops me from doing ________.

  • I don’t like my body and it stops me from dressing a certain way.
  • I don’t like my body in a swimsuit, so I avoid beach holidays.
  • I don’t like my nose and it stops me from socializing.
  • There are often very specific things that we don’t like, but within my own practice I tend to see men and women having an overall discomfort and malaise with women being in the bodies that they are in, without necessarily knowing why.

What are your top three tips for women who are at the very beginning of their journey to accepting their bodies. Where should they start?

The most important thing is to start with accepting where you are right now – if you hate how you look, being honest about that and admitting that to yourself is the first step towards accepting.

Function over form – praise the actions of your body and how much it does for you, focus less on appearance.

Watch your language – become aware of negative self-talk or “fat talk” and catch yourself. We may not think this affects us but over time it can have a detrimental impact.

Social media usage – limit your time and keep a mentally healthy feed. What I mean by this is to follow accounts that make you feel good about yourself, or that inspire you, motivate you, make you smile. Do not follow accounts where you are constantly comparing yourself to someone else. These ultimately make you feel bad about yourself. Remember that this is a highlight reel and not the full picture.

Can you recommend any good books/articles/podcasts that will help women to accept their bodies?

  • Bodies by Susie Orbach
  • The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
  • Embrace by Taryn Brumfitt
  • Appearance Matters: The Podcast
  • Happiful Magazine

Have you tried the new 'Body' section in Clementine App? It's all about supporting women to accept their bodies, just as they are, through hypnotherapy

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