CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness and eating disorders which could be distressing to some readers. I started dancing at age 6, I represented my school throughout my childhood in sports such as rounders, hockey and netball. I used to love sports and would always throw myself into whatever sporting opportunity was available. Then when I was around 14, I started sensing a change within myself. I no longer wanted to be seen in a leotard, swimsuit, or shorts. I didn’t want anyone to see my body. I began scrutinising my physical appearance and started noticing things about myself that I didn’t like.
As I entered my adolescence and teenage years I started comparing myself to people I would see online, people in pubs and clubs and my friends. As a result, I, like many women, fell victim to the trap that is diet culture. This resulted in dipping in and out of dieting along with, exercise fads, diet cleanses and dare I say it, the occasional purchase of whatever diet solution my favourite influencer was plugging. However, my negative body image and perception of myself wasn’t just a result of my internal thoughts but a result of years of social conditioning to believe that my body was simply ‘not enough' just the way it was. Both traditional media and social media have constantly barraged women with images of the ‘perfect form’. In conjunction with marketing and brands continuing to push ' life-changing products.
With the heavy influx of constant promotion focused on feeling insecure in the skin you’re in, it’s no wonder there’s an endemic of self-consciousness among women.
For me, this negative body image, unfortunately, led into my twenties. When I reached what I thought my ‘ideal’ was, I felt no better than I had done when I was a young impressionable 14-year-old, in fact, I felt a damn sight worse.
. You see, the problem wasn’t what I looked like on the outside; the problem was what I felt on the inside. My internal perception of myself and my body image was tied only to what I looked like on the outside. And the notion that beauty defines women as bodies 1st and people 2nd began to become even more apparent to me. This has meant that women are not only suffering because of the current way beauty is being defined but because they are being defined by their beauty alone. Thus being given the impression that their worth and value are only skin deep.
This is not the case, wasn’t the case and should simply never be the case. A woman’s value and view of herself should be based on so much more than her physical appearance alone.
To change this perception, we need to redefine the look of beauty and its meaning and value of it in our lives. We need to encourage and instil self-love and positive body image in those around us, particularly in young and impressionable people. We need to understand that positive body image isn’t about what your body looks like, but rather knowing that your body is good, regardless of what it looks like on the outside. If we are able to see more value In ourselves and those around us we can then be 'more than objects, more than beautiful and more than a body'.
If anything you have read here resonates with you I encourage you to start your journey of self-love towards having a more positive image of yourself. These simple yet effective actions can help you realise your true value and hopefully make you realise that your value goes beyond beauty.
Keep a journal Whatever is taking up space in your mind. Get it all down on paper. Write down your goals, aspirations, dreams, ambitions, and plans. Think about where you see you see yourself in five years and scribble it all down. You could start with a weekly journal and through doing entries little and often, you may start to see some patterns in your thoughts, feelings, emotions and perhaps even those around you. These may be positive or negative but regardless, you can use them as a fantastic starting point for growth and it will provide you will a great source of reflection. Cleanse your social media Unfollow, delete, and unsubscribe from anything or anyone that isn’t serving you and benefitting your life in a positive way. Surround yourself with positive sources of information and people that will enrich your life, and not leave you feeling unfulfilled, unworthy or unhappy. Write a list of things you love and appreciate about yourself Jot down a list of the things you love and appreciate about yourself. If this poses a struggle at first, why not think about someone you really love and admire and write down all those things about them? I’m sure you’ll start to notice that the things you are writing down are probably not physical things but more likely character traits. You can then try applying this same energy to yourself by trying to remove your value of yourself based on your image alone. Be kind to your mind Start speaking kindly to yourself. Talk to yourself about how you might a loved one. Learn to notice when you’re being critical of yourself and stop the thought in its tracks and try and replace the critical thought with something more positive. If you’re struggling why not try writing down a couple of things you like about yourself daily, or ask a friend what they like and admire about you.