Mental Health Awareness Week: Let’s Talk Body Image

It’s mental health awareness week here in the UK, and it’s mental health awareness month in the US. If you don’t already know the purpose of these, it is to help break the stigma associated with mental health disorders, and to help inspire those who are suffering by sharing stories and showing support. 

It’s definitely time for change, but we can’t do that if we choose to ignore or judge people based on their mental health disorders. It’s important that we are able to understand what mental disorders are, and what they are capable of. We as humans, are too quick to underestimate the power of them – whether it’s depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and many more. 

In the last few years I’ve been a huge supporter of mental health foundations and charities, and I’m in awe of how much they do for the people that need it most. The theme for mental health awareness week is body image, and I’m supporting this cause by sharing a few stories of my own in hope that it can inspire. 

When you think about your body image, what do you think? How do you feel? Are you confident? Do you have low self esteem? Are you insecure? What contributes to how you feel about yourself?

The truth is, we see ourselves completely different to how others see us. It’s been said that if we were to walk past a clone of ourselves, we wouldn’t recognise them at all. Pretty weird, right? You have your own version of yourself, and your friends, family and people that know you have a completely different outlook. Why is this? I’m in no way an expert, I just have words of wisdom occasionally, and then a lot of sarcastic comments mostly, but anyway – it’s in our nature to pick at things we don’t like, just how when we meet someone new for the first time, our brains natural reaction is to judge them a little. Most of the time it’s something that we can’t control, our minds just like to take us for a ride of insecurities and bad habits. I’ve always said to myself that you might not be able to control a situation the way you want to, but you can control the way you to react to it. So, if you wake up one morning and your brain tells you you don’t look good today, tell your inner voice to get fucked, and work that contour like you’ve never worked it before. It’s all in the mindset, this is the most powerful. Once you unleash this, it opens up a different way of thinking and changes the views you have for yourself. 

So, that was my first rant over. The second rant you can come join me on is called ‘body shaming others won’t make you a better person’.

Society has set such high standards when it comes to body image, and in todays digital world where pretty much anything and everything can be accessed online, it makes it harder for us to avoid people’s shitty opinions on what a woman or a man is supposed to look like. Many of us preach about body positivity, and bettering mental health for all, but that seems to quickly be forgotten when we’re brainwashed with magazine articles or tweets and posts about how certain celebrities body types don’t fit or match their unrealistic idea of perfection. Then we all jump on that hate bandwagon and make disrespectful remarks just because it’ll get us a few retweets and 5 minutes of twitter fame. Frankly, it’s disgusting, and I lose brain cells whenever I come across something like that online.

A prime example of this is Taylor Swift. All throughout her music career she has been body shamed for being ‘too thin’. The woman takes a few years out from music to focus on herself, and comes back looking healthy. But every single shit-eating person decides to do a 360 and then fat shame her for putting on a bit of weight. What makes people think they have a right to judge someone’s body? Why is it SO important to someone how another person looks? Why are you making it your problem and throwing a tantrum about it? 

Story Time

Growing up, I have always been quite slim and it didn’t bother me, or play on my mind  what other people thought. Maybe it was because I was too busy head banging to Avril Lavigne or watching Nickelodeon. My mid teens was when I started to take note of the remarks people were making of my body. I won’t name drop, because I’m not that kinda gal, but let’s just say it was the occasional friend, family and family friends. I always used to hear “you’re so skinny” “do you even eat?” And the one that really grated my cheese – “you need to put some more meat on your bones”, which is ironically funny now as I’m a fucking vegetarian. But anyway:

  1. Saying remarks like these is extremely damaging to someone’s self esteem and confidence.
  2. Of course I eat, I am not a plant. Unfortunately I don’t get all of my energy from the sun. 
  3. Think long and hard about what you say before it exits your mouth.

I didn’t appreciate comments like those back then, and I certainly do not appreciate or welcome them now. It’s hard enough growing up as it is, and with the added pressure and expectations of how we should look, how we should feel and act, is it really a surprise that we are victims of internalising everything that is happening around us? Correct me if I’m wrong, but if we used all of the time, effort and energy that is used towards putting others down and body shaming them, and turned that into positive energy, maybe growing up would be a little easier on kids, so they wouldn’t have to live in a world where you have to look a certain way to be liked and admired, and not judged. 

The most important thing someone can do for themselves, is to know their own worth, and be comfortable in their own skin. This isn’t something that happens overnight, it takes time, patience and a lot of growth to get to the point where you don’t care about other people’s opinions. If you don’t like the way I look, the way my body looks, that is your own problem, not mine. You should live by this, too.

Positive Body Image – Having a positive body image means that you are comfortable and confident with your body. It means you’ve accepted your natural body shape and all of your flaws, and remain unbothered about outsiders opinions.

Negative Body Image – Having a negative body image means you have a distorted perception of your body. It can cause feelings of insecurity, anxiety, shame and make you very self conscious. This can result in developing mental disorders ranging from depression and eating disorders.

Perfection does not exist. There is no perfect body and although body image concerns affect us all, the journey to accepting yourself, accepting your flaws and becoming confident in your own skin is very rewarding. Small steps towards being body positive is still progress, and just by complimenting yourself occasionally and having a different outlook can help your overall state of mind. The body positive movement focuses on promoting a healthier body image for everyone, no matter what age or gender. You can learn to channel your negative thoughts and emotions into something positive, but again this is different for us all. 

It’s important to always be mindful and respectful of others, because you never know what battle someone is facing. I can’t stress enough how important showing your support and raising awareness for mental health is, even if it’s just sharing an informative post online, or chatting to your friends about it. Let’s break the stigma associated with mental health, and be the change we want to see in the world.

Check out this article from the Mental Health Foundation to learn why body image matters.

#bebodykind

#mentalhealthawarenessweek

mental health gif

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