Body image and Adolescence

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Each day in counselling I meet adolescents with severe body image issues constantly being shamed by friends, family and teachers. It’s almost a given to shame someone based on their appearance. Media including advertisements and comedy shows cash in completely on this and also feed the “ideal body types” that no one can reach naturally.

As I worked with more children and as more children email me about how they can look or feel better I started speaking to their parents about their own body image and the messages they give their children repeatedly. What came up was even more surprising. Most families have beliefs that are disastrous for a healthy sense of self.

The post is to help us become aware of our body and trying to reconnect to a time we felt beautiful (as very young children) because all of us have felt it at least once and can feel it again.

1. Dont avoid, check or compare :

People who have issues with body image often avoid looking at their body in the mirror. In addition they tend to compare themselves to people they consider having a better body than their own. Some don’t avoid but obsessively check their own body to ensure that it is not “too fat” or “too skinny” or “too short”. A simple test – walk past someone….. If we feel better or worse about our own appearance after that it’s a sign that we do not accept ourself completely.
The body image we have makes us avoid some activities because we feel awkward, avoid certain clothing or textures or patterns because they are considered damaging for our body type or colour or height. Another extreme is constantly buying new clothes to cover up for or to compensate for not having the ideal body. In short we lack the confidence to carry off something we love or feel that new or expensive clothes will make up for our lower sense of self.

Look in the mirror. Affirm being beautiful. Make sure you eat well balanced meals and exercise regularly. There is no other action plan for this.

2. Beliefs and Assumptions:

The beliefs that sustain our body image are very deep seated. They are only reinforced by media and sometimes significant people in our life. Become aware of what you believe about your body. Face it. What you believe will change and impact your perception of your body. When I was really fit in college (before a spine injury that prevented essential workouts) I believed I was fat. The beliefs were deeper seated from nicknames that were given in early childhood because I looked different from most others in the family. Today I can confidently carry off the extra pounds on the abdomen because I know that being healthy and fit is more important for me. The more confident I am the less I notice the extra pounds. When I was less confident I would look for ways to divert people if they looked at the body. It was a game I could never win because the more conscious you are the more people notice. 😂

Challenge your beliefs. See what triggers it off. Sometimes people who make fun of your appearance have nothing else to pull you down. Remember they have their own flaws they cover by shaming you. Hurtful people can be kept at a distance. No one has the right to bully you. Remember a belief is a thought and a thought can be changed.

3. Changing the way you dress or the angle of the photographs never changes the way you feel.
You can fool others for a little while but you have to live with yourself. So the faster you let go of self deceptive habits and go with fashion advice from people who actually rely on plastic surgery and Photoshop remember that your uniqueness is your strength. You can look taller but to feel good acceptance of your height will be crucial. You can appear fairer or thinner or more filled out but do you really become that?

4. Self acceptance
Self acceptance helps you actually attract healthier habits that make you choose better food, exercise better, skin/hair care products and routines that are safer, clothing that makes you feel more “you”. The better you feel the better your choices for self care will be. In the end it does not matter what anyone else thinks about you. There will be people who will love you the way you are and those that will find flaws no matter what. What matters is that you love every part of you.

Even flaws feel good when you love yourself completely.

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