Here at HOPELINEUK we hear from many young people contacting us because of their negative body image and how this is affecting their life.
Many young people tell us that they feel that they have an added pressure to present in a certain way.
For example, some men feel that they need to be a provider for their family, or that they need to be physically fit and strong. We’ve received calls from men who believe that their body does not conform to what, they feel, society is telling them.
Some people call us about relationships, viewing these as a goal they need to achieve. Indeed, some of our callers share their struggle to find a partner with us. Perhaps after trying online dating or blind dates they might begin to view struggles to form relationships as their fault. This may result in them calling us to say they are experiencing thoughts of suicide because of how they look.
Some of our callers have gone to surgeons and doctors expressing concern over what they perceive as deformities. They might stop performing in fields such as arts or sports because they aren’t comfortable with how they look, or they believe they do not conform to how they should look.
Unfortunately advertising and interactions on social media can reinforce these negative thought and often they can fuel or validate feelings of inadequacy.
We’ve heard from people who are successful in all other parts of their life, but can’t focus on anything but their body image, and these are not isolated calls.
Although we cannot turn negative body thoughts into a positive body image automatically, there are healthier ways we can look at ourselves. Here are a few steps which might help with your thought processes:
Appreciate your body and what it does for you – Whatever way that may be. Many bodies have many abilities and these should celebrated.
Try to find things you like about yourself – These do not have to specifically be about your body but rather strengths you have as a person.
Try to put yourself around positive people – Negative people will be dangerous when you are working on your body image. You want people around you that encourage you.
Remember thoughts are not facts – On HOPELINEUK people often describe these as a voice in their head telling them You are ugly or You are worthless. We ask people to challenge that voice, to say Actually, that isn’t true and then shut that voice down.
Be mindful about social media messages – Remember that many social media messages are designed as adverts. They are created to make you buy things. Be mindful of their slogans and images – often these are designed with the intention for you to feel bad about yourself.
Keep a journal – Write down how you are feeling. See if you can spot patterns. It can help to write things you are grateful for. Indeed, for every negative thing you write, you could write a positive thing also.
Self-care – You should be your main focus. Even if you have people who depend on you, you cannot look after anyone if you are not looking after yourself. Accepting your body is a long process, so reward yourself as you go.
While many identities and problems are focused on within the body positivity movement, it is vital that we create a space for those who are struggling with the idea that their body has to conform to a specific gender. There are so many different bodies and so many different lifestyles that a one-body-fits-all approach is not only irrelevant, it can in fact be harmful.
Telling people that their body is already perfect, or all bodies are good bodies, can cause more harm. Sometimes the body someone is born in does not actually represent who they are, or they live with a disability which makes daily living hard. Their body could be the source of trauma and pain, which is why many people like @samdylanfinch suggest we say “No body is worth any less than another body, despite what society tells us” and “all bodies have value. All bodies deserve care.”
The body positivity movement is becoming a large aspect of social media. Learning to love your body or even accept your body is difficult alone. It is understandable why having influencers from the body positivity movement in the public eye makes it feel do-able. You can relate to these people, you can see their struggle, it makes the process more human. There are so many different people out there to follow and just finding the right account can be overwhelming but we have included some that have spoken a lot about the importance of you and the importance of self-care.
Have a look at the following profiles: