The Work on ‘I need to be beautiful’

I need to be beautiful.

Is that true?


How do I react when I believe the thought ‘I need to be beautiful’?

I feel terrible about myself when I look in the mirror. I focus on the parts of me that I think are unsightly.

I agonise over what to wear, and will often take an hour to get dressed, getting thoroughly stressed out trying different combinations. I put myself into debt by buying things I think will make me more beautiful — clothes, beauty products, nailpolish, expensive haircuts, etc. This is extremely stressful and financially draining. I do things that adversely affect my health in order to appear more beautiful and stylish: I wear a handbag, wear make-up, nailpolish, perfume, dye my hair. I compete with everyone in terms of appearance. I feel extremely jealous of people I see on the street who are thinner, or who I believe are more beautiful than I am. I compete with my friends, wanting to be the thinnest and most beautiful of them all. This leads to a LOT of stress, and also to the aforementioned frequent stress over the perfect outfit. I look at everyone in terms of their appearance (usually strangers) and internally ridicule them. I judge strangers according to their weight and level of attractiveness. I feel guilty and I attack myself for doing things I believe will make me fat and therefore not beautiful, mostly eating junk food.

I displace my anger at myself for judging according to appearance onto others and condemn them for doing the very same thing. I experience a profound sense of stress and self-hatred when I see an unflattering photo of myself, or when I think I look fat, or when I forget to pluck my eyebrows. I have ‘fat and ugly’ days when I feel completely depressed and powerless. I feel deeply uncomfortable in social situations on ‘fat and ugly’ days. I even consider cancelling social engagements. I compare myself to people in magazines, ads and other fashion-related images and feel awful about myself.

Who am I without the thought ‘I need to be beautiful’?

When I look at myself in the mirror I see only my love and compassion radiating out. I wear whatever is clean, and it only takes me a few minutes to get dressed. I put on make-up only if I want to. I look on people with love, and only love. I find what they wear and their bodies completely charming, if I notice their appearance at all. I wear whatever to gatherings with friends, and I don’t look at fashion photos because I’m not that interested. I am so full of love and joy, for everyone, and for myself. I know my value, and I know the value of others.

Is there a peaceful reason to believe the thought ‘I need to be beautiful’?


Turn it around.

– I don’t need to be beautiful.

Reasons it could be better to not be beautiful:

1. I don’t have to deal with unwanted attention.
2. I get to save a lot of money.
3. I get to save a lot of time and energy.
4. I won’t work as a model, actress, flight stewardess, or any other occupation that depends on my appearance.
5. People will be more likely to converse with me because they’re interested in me, not because they’re dazzled by my appearance.
6. I can eat whatever I want.

– My thinking needs to be beautiful.
This is what I’m actually after. I want to beautify my thinking, and remove attachment to negative thoughts, so I can be happy! I’ve tried to appear beautiful because I think it will make me happy (it doesn’t); making my thinking beautiful is what will actually make me happy.

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How To Do The Work

The best information on how to do The Work of Byron Katie is at the official site for The Work:

However, this is a tutorial I wrote for a friend, who was already slightly familiar with The Work. The Work consists of four questions and a turnaround that you can apply to any stressful thought, in order to find out the truth about it.

Question 1: Is it true?

Close your eyes, get very quiet and still, and test each answer internally. Spend the same amount of time with each answer. Pick the answer that feels the best to you. For me, the answer I pick feels good in my chest and relaxes my muscles (I notice it most in my arms and legs). If neither answer feels particularly good, pick ‘I don’t know’. There is no right answer. Just choose the most honest answer for you.

Question 2: Can I absolutely know that it’s true?

Close your eyes again and test the answers internally. If you’re stumped, ask yourself if you could know more than God, or if you can really know what’s best for you. There is no right answer for this one, either. Just pick the most honest answer.

Question 2a: What’s the evidence?

This is an unofficial question that Katie sometimes uses. If you’re working on an old or particularly chunky thought, asking this question can reveal thoughts that underpin the original thought (be sure to answer q 1 and 2 first). For example:

Boyfriend doesn’t care about me.

What’s the evidence?

– He plays video games while I’m talking
– He talks over me
– He is never on time to our dates

If we take the first piece of evidence as an example, you could start with ‘He plays video games while I’m talking, is it true?’ which may turn out to not be true (maybe he pauses the game to listen). If it is true, you might try ‘That he plays video games while I’m talking means he doesn’t care about me – is it true?’ and go from there.

Once you’ve finished working on the evidence, go back to ‘Boyfriend doesn’t care about me – is it true?’ and answer the remaining questions.

Question 3: How do I react when I believe the thought that …?

Be as thorough as you possibly can. How do you feel emotionally, how do you feel in your body, what do you say to yourself, what do you say to other people (how do you treat them), what do you do. Consider all possible consequences, even if you don’t write them all down.

Question 4: Who am I without the thought that..?

This is a very important question, so you need to give it time. Close your eyes. Imagine your life exactly as it is now — nothing has changed, except that you aren’t able to think the thought. Don’t use your brain for this, be passive and receptive and wait for the person you are without the thought to arise within you. Embody that person and feel what it’s like to be him. Once you’ve sat being that person for as long as you like, write down your answer. Answer in the present tense, e.g. ‘I feel very blessed and very loved. I am relaxed and free. I am so grateful for Boyfriend. I look at him with love and bless every cell of his body. I feel so grateful when he shows up for our dates. When I look at him or think about him I burst with joy and love. When he plays games I just stare at the back of his head, lost in his beauty. I feel amazing and so happy.’

After you’ve answered these questions, read over your answers and notice the difference between the two. Realise that the only difference between these scenarios is THE THOUGHT. Your pain has nothing to do with the situation, and everything to do with the thought.

Question 5: Is there a peaceful or stress-free reason to keep the thought that …?

This is another unofficial question that I find particularly useful when I’m feeling unsure or weird about the process thus far. If I can think of a stress-free answer I write it down, then immediately do The Work on it. Once I finish, I look for more stress-free reasons to keep the original thought. If I can’t think of any, I put ‘No’ and move on to the turnarounds.

Turn it around.

For each turnaround, come up with at least 3 reasons why the turnaround is as true or truer than the original thought. It doesn’t matter what these reasons are as long as they’re real, concrete and honest, and don’t contain any ‘positive thinking’ e.g.:

– Boyfriend cares about me

1. He does my chores when I’m sick, tired or feeling lazy.
2. He holds me when I’m scared and says very logical and reassuring things.
3. He lifts heavy things and opens stuck jars for me.

An example of a positive thinking reason might be: ‘Because I am awesome and worth caring about’, i.e. not a real reason based on fact.

If you have a thought that starts with ‘I need’, I find it can be useful to list 3 reasons why it would be better for the feared thing to happen. e.g. if the original thought was ‘I need to be published’:

– I don’t need to be published

Reasons it could be better not to be published:

1. I wouldn’t have to go to stressful book signings
2. I wouldn’t have the stress of writing to deadlines, I could just write whenever I want
3. I wouln’t have to do any travel.

General pointers:

Sometimes rephrasing the original thought does wonders. I get great results from rephrasing the original into something beginning with ‘I need’. For example, ‘I need Boyfriend to care about me’. Often things I thought I wanted or needed aren’t actually important to me.

Remember that you’re not being asked to give up the thought, or stop thinking the thought. You can keep it if you like, so don’t feel threatened. This is just an experiment. Remember that the thought may come up again, and that’s ok. If it comes up again and you feel stressed, there’s more Work to do. If there’s no stress, you’ve given up believing the thought, which is where the stress comes from. Be happy!

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