Mental Health Awareness Week – Body Image

Body image is about how we see ourselves when we look in the mirror or how we picture ourselves in our minds.

Many people of all ages, genders and cultures struggle with their body image and may have a negative perception of their appearance. It is important to remember that there isn’t a single type of beauty and everyone sees it differently.

People with a positive body image are more likely to have good physical and mental health. Girls and women with negative thoughts and feelings about their bodies are more likely to develop certain mental health conditions such as eating disorders and depression.

A negative body image can also lead to low self-esteem. This can have a huge impact on lots of aspects of your life and may cause you to not want to be around your friends and you may start to obsess about what you eat or how much you exercise.

What causes a negative body image?

We are exposed to some much imagery about how we should look it’s difficult to ignore it. Children of parents who diet or have a negative body image of themselves are more likely to develop unhealthy thoughts about their own bodies.

Sometimes, past events and circumstances can cause a negative body image, including:

  • Being teased or bullied as a child for how you looked
  • Being told you’re ugly, too fat or too thin or having any aspect of your appearance criticised
  • Seeing images or messages in the media, including social media, that make you feel bad about how you look
  • Being underweight, overweight or obese

If you are struggling, remember:

  • Be kind to yourself and try not to compare yourself to all the images you see online and on social media. Many of those images have been retouched and digitally enhanced to make them appear to be ’perfect’. They are not a true representation of how people look in real life
  • Focus on the things you like about yourself
  • Try and spend time with people who make you feel positive about yourself. Some people find it beneficial to write down the compliments they receive and not just about the way they look. People value you for many reasons
  • Think about what you would say to a friend if they were struggling with how they look, what advice would you give?
  • Talk to someone you can trust and that you feel you can confide in

If you feel you are unable to cope, it is advisable to make an appointment with your GP.

Tips for a positive body image

  • Keep a list of things you like about yourself and remember to refer to it often
  • Remind yourself that beauty is not skin deep. Look at yourself as a whole person, beauty is a state of mind and not a state of body
  • Wear clothes that are comfortable and make you feel good about your body
  • Reduce the amount your accessing the media and social media. Be aware of images, slogans or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself and remember these are images are likely to have been edited
  • Do something nice for yourself, this can be a bubble bath, meeting up with friends or whatever you find relaxing and enjoyable