Written by: Shani Fowler
How do you feel when you look in the mirror? Are you always happy with the reflection peering back at you? Do you worry how others see you? Body image is about how we see ourselves and how we understand others to see us, but it can be influenced by attitudes and beliefs as well as our society. Now of course social media now plays a part with everyone putting on their perfect selfie which can leave the rest of us feeling a little inadequate! Few of us could lay claim to perfection so how can we learn to accept and even love the skin we’re in?
Healthy or unhealthy?
Firstly there are two types of body image, healthy and unhealthy. Having a healthy body image means you are happy with the way you look, comfortable and accepting of yourself – warts and all! Having an unhealthy body image often sees a person having a skewed perception of their own body, perhaps believing themselves to be bigger or even smaller than they are.
What causes an unhealthy body image?
A variety of reasons can lend themselves to someone having an unhealthy body image, the most common being society and media. Often society breeds the ideals and we only have to flick through a glossy magazine to see the super-slim, long legged ladies modelling the latest underwear range or the buff men complete with their six packs to suddenly feel we don’t quite fit the bill.
Men and women of all ages, shapes and sizes can feel pressure to try to conform to the images portrayed and as a result they can try to lose weight and then breed an unhealthy conception of themselves; never being happy with quite how they are.
How can we love ourselves?
Having an unhealthy body image can place a severe dent in self-confidence. Feeling bad about the way we look can impact on other areas of life and lead us to feel generally unworthy, so look to the following aspects to try and help:-
Relationships – always surround yourself with people who are supportive. If someone tends to leave you feeling rather flat after spending time with the avoid them. Keep with those who leave you with a glow, those who enjoy you for being you.
Avoid body talk – keep conversations to positive topics, the things that interests you and the common pursuits that link you with the people you know.
Learn from media – challenge those images you see that are promoting a certain and often unrealistic ideal of beauty. Remind yourself too that even the model in the picture isn’t perfect – there was probably an air brush involved somewhere along the line.
Be kind to yourself as well as others – treating yourself well is a great starting point in not only self-acceptance, but compassion and this in turn can create more kind self-care.
Do things that make you happy – don’t run for hours on a running machine if you love dancing and would much rather engage in that. Listen to your body when it needs food and when you don’t, when it needs rest and when it has energy.
Find your fashion – just because Posh is wearing the latest skinny jeans doesn’t mean you have to go out grab a pair and force yourself in them. Find what suits you, fashions are in and out quicker than you can say Gok Wan, but true style never dies.
Getting help when needed
If you find that things feel so bad for you, there is help available and getting help in those circumstances is advised. You could talk to a trusted friend, close family member or even a trained counsellor. For serious issues where eating disorders have developed, an appointment with your GP is essential.
The concept of an ‘ideal’ body shape has long been with us, but over time even the ‘ideal’ body shape has changed. Styles differ now from the 1950’s where women embraced curves and their hourglass figure; which bears stark contrast to todays must have of the waif like willowing figure. But we are not all the same. You need know that no matter how you look you are beautiful. Knowing this and feeling comfortable will help you feel more confident. We are more than just a body, we are people inside our bodies and we have to love ourselves if we are to expect the same treatment from someone else.