4th November 2017
We hear a lot about the link between mental and physical health. Keeping fit, maintaining a healthy diet, self-care. But what about how we actually feel about ourselves, and our bodies? How does our body impact on how we feel about ourselves, and how does it influence our wellbeing?
We live in a superficial culture. The media is littered with gender stereotypes, sexualised and objectified portrayals of women, macho and dominant depictions of men through various media platforms like magazines, films and music videos. Online dating apps like Tinder are created with a format designed to encourage sole focus on the appearance on another to determine whether it’s worth giving the other person a chance. How does this make us feel? What impact does it have on us?
Whenever I eat something unhealthy, I always, always, always, think about my body. There is always a voice telling me that I’m going to put on my weight, that I will never be the shape that I want to be if I continue this way, bla bla bla. It’s automatic. Why? Why do I have those thoughts? My motivation to keep fit is always driven by some kind of goal regarding being in better shape and having a better body, despite me having a Psychology background and being so passionate about the importance of emotional wellbeing.
I believe that I am happy with my appearance. But that’s only when I have on clothes that conceal my figure, and cover up the excess fat I have on my upper body. I like my face (I think) and I don’t feel envious about people around me, yet I don’t particularly like my body. I remember telling my nurse this the other day, and she said “everyone has excess fat”. So why am I so self-conscious and dissatsfied? Despite being avidly against the way that women are portrayed in the media, maybe these depictions are subtley and subconsciously influencing how I feel about my body. Maybe I really do feel a pressure to look like the girl in the magazine.
There are comments that I remember regarding my body. I remember speaking to someone online, and when they realised I wasn’t going to pursue anything with them they started attacking my body image, degrading me and insulting my shape. It doesn’t upset me to think about it, but I remember it. I remember asking my mum whether she thought I’d put on weight last year, and she said yes. I always remembered that, and I remember feeling really hurt and self-conscious. I felt scrutinised. What does this say about how I feel about my body image?
Not being the shape I want to be reduces my confidence. It makes me feel low sometimes, and dissatisfied. I feel as though I’m not good enough, and I feel like I’ll go home and my mum will notice my weight. I remember my sister used to be slightly overweight before she lost a lot of weight, and I’ll never forget the look on my mum’s face when she walked in on Christmas day, in a tight dress. I almost wanted to cry. To me, my sister has always been beautiful and I’ve never seen her in any other way, regardless of how much she weighed. But my mum has a different perception of what beauty is. She looked disgusted when she looked at her, she was judging and scrutinising her. What has created this kind of attitude? It’s as though we are only good enough once we have the bodies portrayed in the media, in pornography, in various platforms that encourage the perfect body. I strongly believe things such as this influence levels of insecurity and low self-esteem regarding body image. This needs to stop!
I was in a relationship in secondary school for 1 and a half years, and I remember my then boyfriend said I should eat loads of bad food to put on weight, and that I was too skinny. He talked to me about the kind of body he liked, and that he wanted me to change. I was such a naive little girl, I never challenged him, but I internalised all of those messages. Slightly unrelated, but I remember plucking my eyebrows once and he rang me and said “are you turning in to one of those sluts”? Yes, of course I know now that he was just a dick. But look at this obssession with bodies! Being the right body, changing one’s shape to satisfy a partner, or the opposite sex, or the same sex. And can I just say, the word “slut” is a horrible term (another blog post, Emily).
Part of me wants to send out the message that we should love our bodies, regardless of what we look like. But what about people in the public eye, who promote such ideas, but are obsese? Doesn’t that normalise bad health and obesity? I wouldn’t want the next generation to be raised thinking it’s okay to be that size and eat unhealthy food, and not exercise. I suppose it’s getting the balance between physical health, without obssessing over the importance of your body shape and how others may perceive you.
I’m really not sure what my message is here, because I don’t want to encourage unhealthy behaviours and bad health. But in reality, there shouldn’t be a right and wrong shape. We should be accepting of each other. We shouldn’t be made to feel that we’re not good enough, that we have to look a certain way for the benefit of someone else. That is different to what is healthy, and unhealthy regarding weight.
It’s something we can all think about.
I thought I was OK with my body image – I didn’t think I was great looking, but not particularly ugly either. But lately I’ve put on quite a bit of weight despite cutting a lot of junk out of my diet due to psychiatric medications (I’m on three medications, all of which have weight gain as a side-effect) and I feel a bit more self-conscious. I’m not quite over-weight, but I could easily tip over into it and I don’t know how I would feel about that.
The other things is, despite wearing glasses since I was six, I sometimes wish I didn’t have to. I think my eyes are my nicest feature (pretty much the only one that I think actually looks good rather than just being “not actually ugly”) and I don’t like hiding them. I keep wanting to try contacts, but I haven’t had the courage.