We’re taught from a young age that nothing in life is perfect. Everything comes in different sizes and shapes, so why can’t we accept that when it comes to ourselves? Megan, our communications assistant, has written us this blog on ‘body confidence,’ a subject which affects all women at some stage in our lives.
Issues surrounding body image and body positivity have been relevant and widely discussed for as long as I can remember. According to the Mental Health Foundation, over the last year, one in three teenagers (age 13-19) has felt ashamed of their body in the United Kingdom alone. That’s 33 percent! And I have a feeling it’s even more than that in reality. Body confidence isn’t just isolated to teenagers either, 34% of adults have admitted to feeling disgusted or ashamed of their bodies as well (Mental Health Foundation, 2019).
Whilst there are advocates and individuals sticking up for those of us who don’t fit the cookie cutter model standard, the negativity surrounding our own bodies continues to persist. The media, as we know, is a large factor in burgeoning body dissatisfaction with their forced ideals of what men and women should look like in order to be accepted into society as ‘attractive’. 40% of teenagers, according to the previous study, determined that social media had an impact on their own body image. Newsflash, these body types aren’t actually physically attainable for most of us!
Advertising also plays a significant role in the way we perceive our own bodies in relation to societal expectations. We all know the age-old motto of advertising: ‘sex sells’. This practice creates a stereotyped and negative view of women’s bodies in the process. Not cool. Companies advertise to convince a consumer that their life will become significantly better and promote a certain lifestyle by buying their product. When companies specifically target a demographic of impressionable young women by using thin models to advertise their product, young girls become conditioned to believe that by buying the product they will be the same or that they need to look like the girls in the ads. When the media and advertisements become saturated with one singular body type, it becomes difficult to accept oneself when that is the expectation.
So, enough doom and gloom, let’s talk about ways we can work to improve our body confidence!
Unfollow those accounts getting you down!
Put your hand up if you’re sick of seeing fabricated lifestyles and women of only one size plastered all over Instagram! In September almost 300,000 British women deleted Instagram to decrease negativity towards their bodies. However, in the age of social media, it’s unlikely that young adults will want to give up things like Instagram permanently. I know I can’t go a few hours without checking mine, so instead unfollow those accounts that are making you think badly about yourself! Follow body positive individuals instead! Create a community and feed for yourself which will empower you and encourage you to appreciate your own body.
Create a supportive community for yourself
Surround yourself with supportive people outside of social media, including friends and family, you can talk to when you’re feeling down. An unassuming source of body negativity comes from our parents and the way they treat themselves in regard to body image. Have a chat with your parents and create a mutually supportive and empowering environment to decrease the feelings of negativity towards your bodies. There are also helplines and online forums which can provide you with support if you need them.
Easier said than done, trust me. I can’t help but compare myself to other people on the daily. She has nicer hair than me, she’s skinnier than me, she has nicer clothes than me, blah, blah, blah. Each of us are individual! If we all looked the same, life would be boring. Each of us and our bodies are capable of so much. It doesn’t matter what they look like, it matters how you use it.
Focus on parts of yourself you do like
Don’t hyper focus on the parts you don’t like, instead focus on parts of yourself you do like! Even little things! The parts you like don’t always have to be physical attributes either! Brains are sexy, appreciate them!
Eat a balanced diet
Eating healthy, good! Dieting, bad! I’m not condoning diets as studies show they can do more harm than good, especially in young women who haven’t fully developed. It’s important though to eat well and allow your body the food it needs. Diets can lead to unhealthy eating habits, harmful fluctuations in your body weight and a deterioration in mental health so steer clear of fad diets and listen to your body!
Regularly being active is an effective way to boost your self-esteem and release endorphins which decrease feelings of depression. Finding fun and enjoyable ways to stay active will help, whether it’s dancing, yoga or even just walking a dog. Working out with friends is a great way to add some fun into your routine and can provide a distraction from focusing on your body. If you workout alone, be sure not to overdo it as over-exercising is harmful on your body. Instead of focusing on losing weight, focus on building up your strength and set short term goals for yourself. I’ve found this tip particularly useful. Beth Oliver from the Nike SPARQ Training Network says, “The beauty of exercise is that you focus on what your body can do, rather than what your body looks like”. Last tip on staying active, if you don’t enjoy the workout, don’t do it. Stick to things you enjoy doing that don’t necessarily feel like working out.
Preoccupy your mind
Keeping busy and finding ways to give back to the community will make you feel good about yourself. It doesn’t all have to be about your body. Volunteer at a local charity or shelter! If you work to improve your inner self, the outer self is sure to follow suit.
Write down your negative thoughts
I once read that someone wrote down on a sticky note every bad thing they thought about themselves, so they could read them out later and see how ridiculous they were being. For example, I have a habit of comparing myself to strange things. “Do I look like a schoolgirl to you?”, “I feel like I look like Loki”, “Do I look like 1920’s flapper?” … you get my point, these are all ridiculous! Other people would never even consider these things! You would never say these things to someone else, so don’t say them to yourself. The more you say something negative about your body, the more you’ll believe it. Bonus tip: tearing them up afterwards might even make you feel better.
Encourage one another
I have never met another soul who doesn’t struggle with their body image. Even the most confident of individuals struggle as well, so encourage other people! Compliment one another. They don’t always have to be physical compliments, in fact they’re more effective if they aren’t about their appearance. Rather compliment the person’s intellect or personality. Take the focus away from the body. You should also bring an awareness to the language you use when describing yourself and others appearances. The way we so flippantly make comments about one another’s weight and physical appearance, whilst unintentional, can have a lasting effect on the way a person thinks about themselves.
If you see a potentially harmful or offensive ad, report it!
If you see an ad that you think promotes an unhealthy body image for people to aspire to and will cause harm, you have the right to report it the Advertising Standards Authority. Chances are if you find it harmful, someone else has as well.
I hope these tips help boost your body image! I have found some of them particularly useful myself. Remember if you are struggling with your body confidence and image there are people out there to talk to. Don’t let society dictate how you feel about yourself, take control!
If you have any comments or feedback for Megan contact firstname.lastname@example.org