How we think and feel about our bodies can have a massive impact on our mental health. It is common to be unsatisfied with our bodies at some stage in our lives but in some cases it can be a contributing factor of mental illnesses such as eating disorders, body dysmorphia etc.
After doing some research, I came across a statement: “Higher body dissatisfaction is associated with a poorer quality of life, psychological distress and the risk of unhealthy eating behaviours and eating disorders.” (Link here).
And I wasn’t actually shocked at all.
We are constantly being shown the ‘perfect’ body through social media; cosmetic surgery is on the rise and there are more people being diagnosed with mental health problems every day.
Now, I know that the latter may be down to more research and more people reaching out for help, but I also believe how we live our lives nowadays contributes highly to mental health problems. I am in no way blaming anyone for having a mental illness; how could I? I’m in the same boat. But I know from personal experience how some aspects of my life can exacerbate my anxiety. And I can take responsibility for that as I choose to have social media and I choose to watch certain programs that may distort my own view of myself through comparison. But I also think we all have a level of responsibility towards others too.
Our words and opinions are all within our rights to be voiced; but with what consequences? So often on social media I see people leaving spiteful comments or ridiculing people for their looks or how they choose to live their lives. You won’t ever get through life without someone disagreeing with you in some aspect; but to have someone publicly shame you or attempt to hurt you through their words is so damaging. It’s no wonder that the younger generation are struggling to deal with the ideology that they have to look and act a certain way in order to be accepted or liked. For the record: you don’t.
I can remember back when I was 17, there was a group of girls who disliked me. They would walk past me in college making spiteful comments about my glasses or my nose. They once got hold of my number and left me a voicemail chanting “concorde nose” over and over again. It probably bothers me more now than it ever did then; maybe I had more tolerance of bullies as a teenager having already been through it at 13. But now as an adult it makes me feel sad that those girls felt the need to pick apart my appearance to make themselves feel better somehow. I’m thankful that I had enough acceptance of myself at that age to not let it affect me greatly but it has still impacted my life.
However, confidence in general is something I struggle with a lot more now, despite being 8 years older and (supposedly) wiser. I would have thought that with time my confidence in myself would only increase but this isn’t the case. Anxiety has definitely played a huge part in my lack of confidence but also the way I feel about how I look knocks it down a peg or two.
People always seem to think that ‘slim/skinny’ people don’t have issues with their bodies. How could they? They’re not fat; they should be grateful. This view is so ignorant. People are all the same; we all have things we dislike about ourselves, the same as we all have things we pride ourselves on. I see more articles and arguments about slim women not being ‘real‘ women than I do about fat-shaming. Both are detrimental to people’s mental health.
Here are some statistics that were conducted in March 2019 via an online survey of over 4,000 adults and over 1,000 teenagers aged 13-19:
Over one third of adults felt anxious or depressed because of their body image.
- Over 1 in 5 of adults and 40% of teenagers said that images on social media caused them to feel worried about their body image.
1 in 5 adults felt shame, one third felt down or low, and 19% felt disgusted because of their body image in the last year.
- 1 in 8 adults experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings because of concerns about their body image.
These statistics are shocking.
The report on www.mentalhealth.org.uk recommends ways in which we can help, these are as follows:
- Effective regulation of how body image is portrayed.
- The need for commitment from social media companies to play a key role in promoting body kindness.
- Taking a public health approach to body image by training frontline health and education staff.
- Individually being more aware of how we can take care of ourselves and others in relation to body image.
I hope that our current and future generations can learn to treat themselves and each other with respect and kindness. I hope that we can learn to allow people to be themselves without fear of judgement or ridicule. I hope that we can let ourselves be rid of our negative thoughts regarding our bodies; we are all so much more than how we look.
We are funny and thoughtful and loyal and smart.
We are kind and passionate and creative and determined.
We are enough.
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This is perfect timing as I bang my head into the desk trying to find a swimsuit that hides this, tucks this, and keeps these where they should be. Getting older seems to be the pathway of negative body image for me. Trying to brush it off.
I’m sure this time of year only exacerbates people’s body concerns due to finding suitable swimsuits and upcoming holidays! The only time we’ll feel truly relaxed is when you accept your body and praise it for keeping you alive, rather than detest it. And think sod it, that swimsuit with everything out in its glory is EXACTLY the one I should wear!!
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