Every year on this blog, I like to give great attention to mental health awareness week, as it is something that is very important to me personally, but also to us all. We are constantly fluctuating in our health and wellbeing, as nothing ever remains constant for as much as we will it to be. We are only human after all. Yet, despite the outstanding progress we have made in recent years surrounding how essential it is to look after our mental health, the statistics for diagnosis and experiences of poor mental health conditions are increasing at an alarming rate.
One of the greatest epidemics that we are currently facing is in relation to body image and appearance.
This year’s focus for MHAW is highlighting how prevalent this is in modern society and the implications this is having across all age groups. In a survey conducted last year in 2018, it was found that 30% of adults experienced stress because of their body image and appearance, so much so that it becomes overwhelming (1).
For as advantageous as social media can be for connecting us together, it is simultaneously creating critical damage to our self-worth and self-esteem relating to how we feel about our bodies. We are continuously engaging with online platforms and technology that is overloaded with media messages and social expectations to meet the ideal image of how to look and how to behave.
Highly-visual social media (HVSM), such as Instagram and Snapchat, has received significant attention in recent years, which in turn in contributing to poor mental health and increased internalizing symptoms in adolescence (2) and young adulthood (3). One study that was conducted in 2018, found that student who had higher levels of HVSM usage were more likely to have higher body image concerns and internalising symptoms compared to peers reporting no use of HVSM (4).
I know firsthand just how much the media and social media can impact on body confidence. During the first few years of my eating disorder, Instagram was starting to grow in popularity, which became a platform for social ideals and current health/fitness trends began to dominate my feed. It wasn’t too long before I was swept up with the pressure to aspire towards these social ideals and ultimately fall deeper into my eating disorder.
Thankfully, nearly five years on I have learned that what we are being told or shown in the media (or even by other people) isn’t always what is in our own best interests. To truly find confidence in ourselves and in our body, we need to focus on what works for us as an individual. Health is different for every single person, yet we don’t seem to respect how wonderful it is to be who we are and the body we have.
“We are all intimately aware of the particular idiosyncrasies of our own body; its strengths and wonders and its limitations. No piece of technology that you will ever buy will match the complexity, sophistication and regenerative powers of your body.
And yet… For too many of us, our bodies are sources of shame and distress.”
Mark Rowland, Mental Health Foundation CEO
This is a fantastic campaign that has been set up by the Mental Health Foundation to get us thinking about times during our lives when we have felt positive and comfortable in our own skin. Although I have had far more ups than downs when it comes to my own body image, there are times when I have truly felt happy with myself and the body I have been given. Throughout recovery from my eating disorder, I learnt just how remarkable my body actually is for all that is does for me, and what it enables me to do.
To get involved along with me, just share a photograph of yourself on social media, at a time or a place when you felt comfortable in your own skin. It doesn’t have to focus on the present, it could be looking back at a time in your life or even somewhere in your future that you are aspiring to be (like myself).
Make sure you use the hashtags #BeBodyKind and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. Also, tag @mentalhealthfoundation on Instagram and Facebook, and @mentalhealth on Twitter!
I Dare to Bare
The photos that I took for this blog post were my way of facing my body image battle and embracing the body that I have right here right now. It has been a very difficult few months as I have been trying to overcome the negative thoughts about my body since things are still working progress from a relapse. But I knew that I needed to show a sense that I do “practice what I preach”. Our bodies are beautiful, remarkable and wonderful for what they do for us. Yet, society as misplaced appreciation for them with aspiring to ‘ideal physiques’ which is clouding our judgment and beliefs about our bodies.
No matter what shape or size we may be, we have every right to feel confident in our own skin. We ought not defined by our appearance but by our personality, passions, and actions to make a positive difference in this world.
- Body image – Words from CEO of Mental Health Foundation Mark Rowland
- Sampasa-Kanyinga, H., & Lewis, R. F. (2015). Frequent use of social networking sites is associated with poor psychological functioning among children and adolescents. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 18(7), 380e385.
- Rosenthal, S. R., Buka, S. L., Marshall, B. D. L., Carey, K. B., & Clark, M. A. (2016). Negative experiences on Facebook and depressive symptoms among young adults. The Journal of Adolescent Health: Official Publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 59(5), 510e516.
- Marengo, D., Longobardi, C., Fabris, M. A., & Settanni, M. (2018). Highly-visual social media and internalizing symptoms in adolescence: the mediating role of body image concerns. Computers in Human Behavior, 82, 63-69.