This week, 13-19th of May, is Mental Health Awareness Week and this year the focus is on body image.
Body image is loosely summed up as the way we see or perceive our bodies and how we feel about this. It is a critical part of our self-esteem or self-worth. Having a negative body image or low self esteem are in themselves not mental health problems however they can have a significant impact on our mental health. Having an existing mental health problem may also eventually lead to a negative body image or low self-esteem.
Everything around us from magazines to television commercials and movies, and more recently, Facebook and Instagram reinforce the very flawed idea that we will only be beautiful or acceptable or good enough when we meet impossible and unrealistic beauty standards that grossly disregards the majority of the world’s population. A recent report by The Curate Escape has highlighted the enormous pressure felt especially by young people to always look their very best online and be “selfie ready”.
Steps to strengthen a positive Body Image:
- Don’t compare yourself to others. Recognise that no-one is perfect. Social Media and Magazines show a “glamorised” version of reality. Remember even supermodels are only human and have imperfections.
- Take care of and be kind to your body. Eat well, hydrate well, exercise and get enough sleep or rest. Try to have alcohol in moderation. These are kind things to do for your body.
- Take a Social Media Sabbatical. If you find that your news feeds are negatively affecting you and making you feel bad about your life or body consider unfollowing those accounts that are causing you to feel this way or even better yet take a complete break from social media. Remember social media is not necessarily the reality.
- Realise that you have your own unique beauty and the world would be a very boring place if we all looked the same. Make a list of all the things about yourself that you like and the things you are proud of. Come back to this list every so often and add to it. If someone gives you a compliment, thank them for it and note it down with your list. When you speak about yourself make a conscious effort to speak positively.
- Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable and happy. You do not need to follow certain “fashion rules” about what you can or cannot wear. Wear exactly what you want.
- Do things that make you feel good in your body. Dye your hair pink, get a tattoo or don’t, have a manicure or a pedicure. If it reinforces your sense of who you are and your personality and it makes you feel happy in your body then do it.
- Recognise your body is your “friend” not your “enemy”. Your body is a miracle of nature and it works very hard every day to keep you alive and able to function. Be grateful for it, thank it and look after it well because you only have this one.