Body image and mental health
Mind Over Mirror: We all have our ups and downs on the journey to self-acceptance. It takes practice and time, and everyone’s paths are different. Here’s some tips from the Mental Health Foundation to help you maintain a healthy sense of self (or view their full campaign here).
Take note of the accounts you follow and how they make you feel
Recognise unrealistic body images posted on social media. Follow groups or people with different ideas. If you start seeing pictures that make you feel uncomfortable or unhappy, try unfollowing the pages so that they don’t keep showing in your feed.
Be mindful about unrealistic body ideals
Try not to pick up unrealistic ideas about what your body should look like. Social media often has a shiny filter to make things look ‘perfect’. It may help to educate yourself on the average UK body sizes to bring some perspective. There is a wider range of body shapes and sizes than the limited range you might be seeing online.
Take breaks from social media
Being online for long periods of time means that you can be mentally exhausted without even knowing about it. Whether you ‘follow’ influencers or friends online, taking a break from social media is always a good idea. Think about setting a limit on how long you’re online each day and have a go at a ‘No-social-media-Sunday’. You’ll feel better for taking that space. Instead use the time to go out and do something you enjoy- connect with nature and see friends in person.
Embrace yourself – what is perfect?
Practice gratitude for everything your body does for you, not just how it looks. After all, your body carries you through life. Appreciating all that your body does can lead to self-acceptance and a much more positive body image.
Build a positive feedback loop between you and your friends
Supporting each other and receiving positive comments from those you care about can affect us more than a ‘like’ or a comment from someone you barely know. Be honest in setting boundaries in your group so everyone knows what is positive for everyone to hear. Not only will you feel better but your friends will too. It’s a win-win situation!
Everyone is different in their own way – and that’s amazing!
People come in all shapes, sizes and shades, with scars, markings or different skin textures. Sometimes these differences can make us feel self-conscious about ourselves. We all feel self-conscious at times but we can re-focus our mind to become more accepting of our uniqueness. We can become proud of what makes us special… After all, variety is the norm.
Create a ripple effect
Speak to and about yourself as you would talk to a friend. You wouldn’t point out a friend’s flaws so try not to point out your own. The way we think and speak about ourselves or how others talk about bodies is then internalised as the standard. If we challenge negative comments and work to change that narrative, then we can internalise positive messages about our own bodies.
Find others that are like-minded or a support group and have an honest conversation about how you’re feeling
If you’re feeling a little down about your body image or a particular ‘flaw’, it can help to find like-minded people who struggle with the same things as you do. You are not alone with whatever you’re feeling, so don’t be alone with your thoughts either. It may help to open up and chat with others. A good place to start might be YoungMinds.
Make sure you’re safe when aiming for body changes
It’s easy to see dieting pills, steroids or cosmetic treatments as a quick way to achieve your goal. Before making any decisions about products, find out first if the product is safe, tested, and ethical. Know the product and be safe.
If you decide to go for treatments, check the facts first
Although the products used in the non-surgical cosmetic industry are standardised, there are currently no standards for training and qualifications of the person doing the procedure. If you decide that a procedure is right for you, research on sites such as JCCP (Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners) or Save Face. Read up and ask questions about aftercare, insurance, risks and possible adverse reactions.
Spread the word and check in with friends who are also thinking of getting treatments
Surveys show that a big motivation (43%) for getting cosmetic surgery is to increase confidence and self-esteem. Talk to your friends about the reasons behind getting a treatment. Is it to look better or feel better? If it’s about self-esteem, it’s a good idea to talk to someone about that first. Help your friends to ask questions about possible risks, aftercare, insurance, and costs.
Make compliments based on personality and strengths rather than just looks
It’s easy when complimenting someone to focus on their appearance , such as ‘you look like you’ve lost weight’ or ‘you look like you’ve gained some muscle’. There isn’t anything wrong with this but consider that if someone just receives compliments about their image, they will apply a higher worth to how they look and feel more pressure to look a certain way. Switch it up and compliment someone’s skills or personality, let them know that what you like about them is on the inside, not just the outside.