How do you think and feel about your body?
This year, Mental Health Awareness Week (13–19th May) focuses on a theme that affects (or has affected) most people at some point in their life: how they see themselves when they look in the mirror. Body image issues are a common problem in a society that promotes unrealistic body ideals – but this week, the message is simple: love yourself just the way you are.
To start the discussion, the UK charity Mental Health Foundation, which hosts the event, has released a report with staggering results: one in five adults – and one in three teenagers – feel shame over the way they look. While body dissatisfaction is no surprise amongst teenagers who might struggle to accept their growing bodies (whilst facing strong peer pressure to conform), the report also highlights that one in eight adults have had suicidal thoughts because of it.
The impact on self-esteem and confidence is obvious, but if left unaddressed, this can lead to bigger issues, such as depression or eating disorders – particularly amongst young women. As media play a key role in their perception of beauty, it’s hard for them to appreciate their own bodies. Unhealthy teenage body image is nothing new, but with the tendency amongst young people to compare their appearance, social media has undoubtedly made the situation worse. To help them accept their differences and, better still, value their individuality, here is Teen Breathe’s own advice on positive body image.
Time to find inner peace and embrace the way we are…
No one is perfect, so stop being unkind to yourself and learn to love your body, quirks and all.
How do you feel when you look in the mirror? Do you find yourself criticising little details or complaining ‘I’m too fat’ or ‘I’m too short’ or ‘if only I had a different nose/bum/hair colour I’d be happy’?
If you’re frequently making negative comments about your appearance, you’re not alone. You can be confident that most of your peers will be equally as critical of their looks, especially given all the physical changes that happen as you get older. But while it’s normal not to like every part of yourself, for some it becomes so extreme it affects everyday life. This is because body image – how you see your face and body – is closely linked to self-esteem. If you aren’t happy with your body, you will lack confidence. If you have a positive body image, however, you will be happier and healthier both mentally and physically.
- This article is an extract from Be Kind, part of a four-book series released by Teen Breathe in May 2019 to help teenagers treat others and themselves with respect, compassion and care.
- Find out more and order your copies here.
- Illustrations by Maria Mangiapane. Words by Anne Guillot and Donna Findlay.