This week has been Mental Health Awareness Week, focusing on Body Image. The #BeBodyKind is encouraging people to share a photo where they felt comfortable and share their story. Body Positivity has become an increasing trend on social media, but why is it important and how is it linked to Mental Health?
Body Image is how we think and feel about our bodies. This then, in turn, affects our well-being. If we feel satisfied in our body and appearance, we are more likely to have positive mental health and well-being. However, not feeling comfortable in who we are and what we look like can lead to body image concerns.
All sorts of factors affect how we think and feel about our bodies and appearance each day. What we wear, if we've showered, what we've eaten, if someone has paid us a compliment or given us a look. There are wider factors such as any health conditions, our gender and sexuality, how our family and friends see us, and our faith. We are also bombarded with pictures of models and celebrities trying to sell a new clothing style or diet, women with thigh gaps and men with cloud-shaped muscles telling us how to get "beach body" ready. There are so many filters and editing tools now in apps, that anyone can be a photoshop master.
This state of comparing and not feeling like you fit in can feed negative thought cycles which can make us feel anxious or depressed. It can be hard to break these thought cycles, and this is where it can lead to mental health difficulties such as eating disorders and body dysmorphia. Our self-worth can become linked with how we think other people see us, which is so hard to change if the messages around us stay the same.
The message I want our young people to grow up knowing is that they were made good from the beginning. God saw who they were going to be and said "Yes, I want them as they are". There is no perfect way to be, but we have all been made unique and wonderful in God's eyes. We are loved children, no matter what shape, size or colour we are. I constantly need to remind myself of this, as there are many parts of my body I would change if I could. Yet I am on a journey to being healthy and happy, which may be different to what makes you healthy and happy.
The challenge following on from this week is looking at how we can continue to be more body kind. Are there people that we can say thank you to for being who they are and encourage them? Do I have to use a filter every time I post a photo, or can I just leave it? Are there little things that I do which aren't kind to it, such as the food I eat or not getting enough movement? Can I support someone who is struggling with their own body image?