Body image is something that in recent years has been heavily discussed and rightfully so, but there are a few myths about body image I’m going to quickly bust.
Body image impacts everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, age and so on. Secondly, just because someone looks a certain way does not mean that they do not struggle with their body image. On that same note, just because someone looks a certain way does not mean that they do. You cannot assume someone’s relationship with body image because of the way they look. Thirdly, people that have a negative relationship with body image do not necessarily have a body dysmorphic disorder. Equally, that does not mean we should trivialise body dysmorphic disorders as they are serious and deserve to be treated as such. There will be more I have not mentioned, however I can only speak from both personal experience and from the experiences I have heard from others.
When I googled body image, the definition, from our intellectual overlord Wikipedia, essentially said it is how one perceives how their body looks in comparison to societal standards. People have extensively talked about what governs these standards, and if I attempted to write a comprehensive list, I would be here all day. What a lot of these do have in common, however, is the role of the media (both traditional and new) and what we, the consumer, are being exposed to. Despite the damage done by social media, it has also been where we have seen movements grow to try and change this distorted idea that the media (and society as a whole) should be able to govern how we should look. Whilst this discussion has been useful, I think that it needs to shift to being more about how to help when someone has a negative relationship with their body image.
There is no simple answer to the question ‘how do I improve my relationship with body image?’, which on the surface sounds incredibly unhelpful. However, it is the truth. The relationship everyone has with body image is a personal one, meaning that there cannot be one universal answer. However, it does mean that when people express the ways they have dealt with it, you can see if any of that works for you. All I can offer is how I have dealt with body image and hope that someone out there finds my tips and tricks helpful.
I was bullied in primary school for my appearance and, despite the fact I left primary school 10 years ago, I can still feel the effects of that today. I was lucky enough to escape my bullies. I was not bullied in my secondary school, but this did not mean that my relationship with body image was improving. I felt like I couldn’t talk about it, so I kept quiet. Then college came around and I met someone who, for the first time, genuinely made me feel beautiful. However, I felt that I had to work on my relationship with my body image by myself. A while after University started, I joined Zumba and flooded my feed with images from the body positivity movement, and this is what has really helped me with my body image. The Zumba made me feel more healthy and exercising releases what is known as ‘happy endorphins’. The body positivity movement exposed me to more body types that took away the illusion of the perfect body I had believed in for so long. This may not work for everyone, and it took me a while to find what worked for me, but finding a movement of like-minded people is not a bad start. They may be able to give you different advice that works for you. Even writing this article is my way of trying to continue to improve the relationship I have with my body image.