02 Jun Is looking good all about body image on the outside? Frightening facts to be aware of
This blog kicks off the start of the Back on Track Teens body image series.
The inspiration for this series came from a gorgeous 15-year-old girl that I had sitting on my sofa a few weeks ago. One of the goals this innocent young lady wanted to achieve from her coaching sessions with me was to be happy with the way she looked.
I smile to myself as I write because she was a gorgeous young girl and had no reason to be concerned with body image. She had beautiful pale blue eyes and long wavy blonde hair cascading over her shoulders. She was stunning without even trying. No fillers, no filters. A natural beauty.
“My weight? It is what it is. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow. It’s about being content. And sometimes other priorities win.”
An unhappy society with body image
So many people aren’t happy with the way they look. They complain about being too fat, too thin, too hairy, not hairy enough, too tall, too short, too curvy, too pale or too dark. They don’t like their nose, eyebrows, lips, bottom, boobs etc. But why are they too this and too that? Compared to who? And that’s the problem.
Even the people who have everything, the ideal body, the gorgeous, perfectly defined face, still aren’t happy if they don’t feel happy inside.
Six essential human needs drive us:
These six elements are needs, not nice to haves, and they have a lot to do with how we see body image. The need for certainty is to look good and fit in. The need for variety is to express yourself with your own identity and style. The need for love and connection is to feel loved, liked and accepted by peers, role models, family and teachers. The need for significance is to be noticed and recognised for all the right reasons and freedom to express yourself.
These needs are met positively through positive self-image, high self-esteem and confidence, or in a negative way by comparing, being self-critical, over-compensating, self-harming or by working harder to be even better. The problems arise when you strive to meet these needs by spending ridiculous amounts of money, as an example, and still don’t feel good about yourself. Why? Because if you don’t work on the inside first, you’ll never be happy with the outside.
What makes you attractive from the inside out?
Feeling incredible is an inside job, not an outside fix.
Self-worth and inner confidence are what make you shine and radiate positive energy. It’s essential to understand what body image and self-worth have to do with each other, and I want to start by making you aware of some of the frightening facts about body image.
“Feeling beautiful has nothing to do with what you look like.”
The state of our body image epidemic
Be Real carried out a UK-wide survey in 2017 that found that 79% of 11–16-year-olds felt that looking good was important to them. Over half (52%) of the participants said they often worried about how they look, and 36% said they would do whatever it took to look good.
Mental Health Foundation figures suggest 35% of young people between the age of 13 and 19 said their body image causes them to often or always worry.
Research suggests that girls are more likely not to like their appearance or body weight, but that’s not to say that the boys don’t care.
A total of 46% of girls reported that their body image causes them to worry often or always, compared to 24% of boys.
Young people also told the Mental Health Foundation that body image is a ‘substantial concern’ – strong use of words, isn’t it?
Youngsters aged 16–25-years-old identified body image as the third biggest challenge currently causing harm to young people following ‘lack of employment opportunities’ and ‘failure to succeed in the educational system’.
Can you feel the negative energy of some of the statements expressed in the survey and the desperation of the underlying message?
Of participants, 57% had considered dieting and 10% had considered cosmetic surgery. Amongst Secondary schoolboys, 10% said they would consider taking steroids to achieve their goal!
Dieting, cosmetic surgery and steroids are drastic measures. Let that sink in for a moment. These are significant decisions, sometimes life-changing decisions for our bodies that may cause harm in the search to look good!
Some of these so-called solutions are easily accessible. Take steroids as an example. If you talk to a few people at a gym, it won’t be long before you find somebody to hook you up with anabolic steroids. It’s a quick fix with potentially long-lasting health considerations. It’s not a good idea.
And then there’s cosmetic surgery. It’s risky and not even permanent sometimes. Is it worth the risk to get rid of the dark circles under your eyes when you have concealer and more sleep as a more natural way to tackle the issue? It might not even be an issue at all. It could be an inside problem.
Why are young people feeling the need to take such drastic actions?
Are you a young person who feels this way? Do you feel the need to live up to specific expectations? Do you feel shame if you don’t meet specific standards? But who said there were standards? Where do they originate? Who’s measuring them?
The only answer I can find as to why such myths are accepted as truth is because large corporations have something to sell to make us feel better. It’s a marketing ploy that appeals to our insecurities, and its rubbish! Even when we buy certain products or services to make us look better and feel better, they don’t always. All that remains is an empty purse or wallet because, as I’ve said before, the issue is often on the inside, not the outside.
I say this from experience. I understand your thoughts, feelings and emotions.
The only person to put me down is me. All my perceived faults, imperfections and criticisms over the years were down to me. I ask myself the question, ‘How did I not see that I was lovely and beautiful during my younger years?’
Years have passed now and I’ll never look younger. I’m currently in my 50s and I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my skin and with the reflection in the mirror.
I want you to get there faster than I did. I want you to look in the mirror and say sincerely, without being vain or arrogant, ‘hey, you look great’ ‘you are incredible’. You already are – you just need to believe it.
What is self-worth?
Let’s consult the dictionary about what self-worth means:
“Self-worth is the value you give to your life and achievements. It’s self-respect, self-value.
Self-worth is a feeling that you have good qualities and have achieved good things. Respect for or of a favourable opinion of one’s self.”
What do you think?
Not once does this definition mention what you look like, how much you weigh or how tall you are. It mentions your qualities, achievements and the value you bring to the world. And you absolutely do.
Self-worth is in your attributes, not your eye colour or body weight. Self-worth is your positive qualities, and people remember you for who you are and how you show up energetically.
Would you rather be with a gorgeous guy/gal with a perfect physique who is mean, self-centred and rude or with someone who is kind, generous and radiates positive energy? When you stop and appreciate this in others, you will see it in yourself too.
When you are busy acknowledging faults, there is no space left to notice the good stuff. Pay attention to the side you’ve disconnected from for so long.
See your self-worth
Grab your journal, a piece of paper and a pen or open a new electronic page.
Write down a list of ten positive qualities about yourself and add a sentence of evidence to back it up – how and when you use these qualities. Where and with who?
Once you have completed the full list, find a mirror. Preferably a full-length mirror or somewhere where you can see your entire reflection.
Next, I want you to look at yourself and appreciate ten things about your appearance. It could be the colour of your eyes, the shape of your lips, your neck, your flexible wrists, your supportive shins – consider all the awesome parts of your body that allow you to do things.
The important lesson here is that you need to start accepting yourself just as you are before others can.
Next, write down ten things you are proud of achieving. What have you performed well in at school or afterschool activities? Maybe something you do with your peers, siblings or parents. When you have done this, reflect on how great you feel. I guarantee you will feel good about yourself and what you have achieved.
“I can’t think of any better representation of beauty than someone who is unafraid to be herself.”
Choose the life you want to lead
Over the coming week, I’ll share more action-focused and practical exercises to encourage you to feel self-worth and to spot the incredible things you already have. Together, we will remove the pressure of feeling the need to be perfect.
Do tell me your experiences, stories and challenges. Let me know how you’ve overcome any body image issues or share your struggles. Let me know if you wish to be interviewed or have a conversation in private – email me here or message me on my mobile with a text or WhatsApp on 07886 234197.
Next week we’ll explore how body image came about but until then, appreciate yourself, be kind to yourself and know you are gorgeous.