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Human beings are always in search of happiness. Happiness is the ultimate goal of every person and it remains a constant motivation in their life. However, there are many obstacles that human beings experience in the path of happiness. One of the major obstacles is the body image of a person. If a person is overweight, then it becomes difficult for them to become a happy person. A healthy self image depends not only on personal achievements but also on the physical and social image that a person has.
In today’s material and media driven society, it has become important to have a fit and shapely body if one is to enjoy a healthy self image. The tendency of overeating and accumulating fats lies in the psychological and emotional makeup of a person. This means that if one has to achieve a perfect weight and a shapely body, then one has to change not only the eating habits but also the psychological aspects of the personality.
Hence, to become a happier person in life, what is more important than reducing weight is to gain a healthy self image, emotional clarity and peaceful relationship with ‘self’, because one can achieve happiness only when one is at peace with the ‘self.’
Happiness is the most important aspect of a fulfilling life. People feel worthy and content only when they are happy with themselves. Sadly, instead of attaching happiness with the internal feelings and personality, it is related to appreciation, social success and social acceptance.
Hence, people become happy only when they get appreciated and accepted by people around them. However, this leads to a major problem as it makes people depend on others for their happiness. Instead of doing things that make them happy, people start following the goals and ‘living standards’ that are set by others for them. This leads to misery and self destructive behavior patterns (Chopra, 1994, p. 42). Genuine physical beauty and emotional happiness can be achieved only when a person practices self-acceptance (Chopra, 1994, p. 42). However, self-acceptance does not come easily. The idea of ‘perfect life’ and ‘perfect body’ is shaped by the television and print media and not on the basis of self knowledge. However, it is necessary to understand that every human being is unique and hence, has a unique body and mind system (Chopra, 1994, p. 18). If a person tries to copy other people’s weight pattern or food habits, then he becomes vulnerable to losing his individuality and health. Hence, the healthier way to reduce weight is to understand the root cause of the problem and try to treat it rather than trying to reduce the weight only through exercise and diet. However, to analyze and understand the root of the problem, it is necessary to look at the problem through the psychological perspective.
Studies have found that people who lose their weight through strict diet gain it back within a year’s time (Chopra, 2004, p.66). People who lose their weight through strict dieting end up gaining more weight than losing it in a long term period (Chopra, 2004, p.66). This inconsistent pattern of losing and gaining weight by going on and off the diet is worse than being overweight as it is dangerous to health (Chopra, 2004, p.66). Moreover, information regarding the quick fix diets are always conflicting. Some studies say that margarine is better than butter as it maintains healthy cholesterol (Chopra, 2004, p.66). However, other studies have revealed that margarine is dangerous to health as it reduces good cholesterol and increases cholesterol in body (Chopra, 2004, p.66). In this way, the conflicting claims made by different ‘quick fix’ diets create doubt over the authenticity of the diets and its positive effect on the body.
Every problem that human beings experience is rooted in the core of their being. The core of human beings is their emotional and spiritual aspect. Hence, if a problem is to be solved permanently, then it needs to be treated from the roots. Hence, a humanistic approach to resolve a problem is a right approach. Humanistic approach believes that every human being is born with a unique potential and hence, rather than developing him into a robot by making him learn through behavior modification tools, he should be encouraged to actualize his own potential (Bernstein, 2011, P.443). According to Goldstein (1939), people who adopt humanistic approach believe that people can fulfill their own unique potential and achieve their ideal goal because their behavior is driven by an innate drive to grow towards their potential (Bernstein, 2011, P.443). Humanistic approach respects the ‘individuality’ in every human being and helps him to achieve his own potential rather than training him into becoming a robot-like creature by behaving like others.
Abraham Maslow was a humanistic psychologist. He believed that for a human being to be happy and healthy, he needs to fulfill his basic needs first and then grow towards achieving the higher needs of self-actualization (Wong, 2006, p.198). To describe what needs are important in what stages of life, Maslow designed a theory called ‘the hierarchy of needs.’ He divided these needs in five levels and stated that if a particular need at a certain level is not fulfilled, then the person gets stuck at that level and his growth is stunted. The five levels are as follows:
Physiological Needs: The physiological needs are fulfilled when the biological survival needs like food, shelter, sleep, sex, water, oxygen etc., are fulfilled (Goble, 2004, p.52). As these needs are directly related to the health and survival of a person, these are the most powerful needs (Goble, 2004, p.52).
Safety Needs: Safety needs are second level needs and emerge when physiological needs are completely satisfied (Goble, 2004, p.54). Safety needs are found in need of a child to live in a predictable, stable, consistent and fair environment (Goble, 2004, p.54). Fulfillment of safety needs provide a child with feeling of security in life (Goble, 2004, p.54).
The Belongingness and Love Needs: This need makes people to find support, relationship and attachment to people (Goble, 2004, p.54). According to Maslow, fulfillment of love needs are necessary because it can help a person to express himself fearlessly, and encourages him to behave naturally rather than wearing a mask in front of others (Goble, 2004, p.55). Love helps people to develop trust in others which is essential for growth of a person (Goble, 2004, p.55).
The Esteem Needs: According to Maslow, there are two types of esteem needs and they are, ‘self respect’ and ‘esteem from other people’ (Goble, 2004, p.56). The qualities of confidence, competence, mastery, adequacy, achievement, independence and freedom help human beings in developing self-esteem (Goble, 2004, p.56). Social recognition, prestige, reputation and status help a person in gaining respect from others (Goble, 2004, p.56).
Self-Actualization Needs: Fulfillment of the first four levels of needs brings a person to a level of self-actualization, where he is able to achieve everything that he is capable of achieving (Goble, 2004, p.57). That is, a human being achieves his complete potential at this level. However, even if a single need in the first four levels is not fulfilled, then he gets stuck at that level and becomes unhappy.
The hierarchy of needs can help a person in finding out which of his needs is not fulfilled and at what level is he stuck. In this way, he can understand the root cause of his problem and try to fulfill the unmet need so that he can grow towards becoming a happy person.
Carl Rogers was prominent humanistic psychologist and believed that personality of a person begins to develop right from his childhood (Bernstein, 2011, P.443). According to Rogers, approval from others is the basic need of a child and when this need is not fulfilled, he begins to evaluate himself negatively (Bernstein, 2011, P.443). He was in favor of ‘unconditional positive regard’ as according to him, showing affection and love with a ‘condition’ attached to it, makes a child feel worthless rather than making him feel loved and important (Bernstein, 2011, P.443). The attempt to gain approval from others makes a child do things that are not in congruence with his nature and this makes him to develop a disintegrated personality in later life (Rogers, 1995, p.167). Hence, it is very necessary to show affection and love to a child without demanding something in return for it. An unconditional positive regard helps a child to develop a healthy personality and to become a self-actualized person by bringing out the unique qualities in him.
The above discussion shows that problems in life are not due to external reasons. They are the manifestation of the disintegrated personality. When a person goes against his own nature and his spiritual self, he suffers from misery and unhappiness. Hence, rather than searching for happiness in the outside world, people should search for happiness inside themselves. Happiness does not lie in external factors but lies in finding the ‘true self’ and the ‘highest potential’ which is hidden in the heart of every human being.
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