What is Body Image and What Might it Mean to You?
Body image is something very personal to each and every person. By definition, it is the perception that we have of our physical self and the thoughts and feelings that arise from that perception. These feelings can be positive, negative or both, and are heavily influenced by individual and environmental factors. So, what does that mean? We aren’t born hating our human containers, so, therefore, it’s something that we must inherit, grow and learn over time by messaging that may be subliminal or otherwise, that then go on to shape our reality.
You may have experienced one or all of these thoughts at some point in your life:
Of not loving your body
Feeling like you don’t fit in your body
Feel like you want to hide your body
Being ashamed of your size and shape
Wanting to be someone else
Wishing to be a certain number and size on the scale
Being ashamed that there’s something wrong with you or that you’re different in some way to the rest
Thinking that you’ll be happy when you reach a certain size or goal
Body Image and Social Media:
You might wonder what body image has to do with mental health. 1 in 8 adults surveyed by the Mental Health Foundation felt suicidal because they felt so unhappy with how they looked. In 2016, a study carried out by the University of Pittsburgh found a correlation between time spent scrolling through social media apps and negative body image feedback. So it would appear that our thoughts around our body really can have a detrimental effect on our mental health.
Ask yourself, how do you feel after time spent scrolling through social media? If you find yourself feeling depleted, wondering what you’re doing with your life, comparing yourself to someone else either in the form of where they’re traveling, what they do for work or their aesthetic features, then it might be time to reframe how you currently use social media. You don’t necessarily have to remove yourself from all the apps, (especially if your job is dependant on using social media) because when used in the right way, social media can be an incredible tool for connection, community, sharing your self-expression and as a business platform.
It can be useful, however, to ask yourself if your scrolling is associated with boredom and something to do to fill the time, if so, what else might you do with that time instead? Are you procrastinating and avoiding the task at hand, if so, try removing your phone out of eyesight so you can immerse yourself in what needs to be done. The satisfaction you’ll feel from completing that task will far outweigh any time spent scrolling through the ether of social.
The subliminal messages from social media that we face every time we open an app is repeatedly drawing our attention away from our own inner world, where the transformation of body love and self-image is truly found, and instead, has us searching outwards and continually seeking validation in who we are.
How to Create a Better Relationship with our Bodies:
Each culture and civilisation has societal expectations and ideologies around what it is to be beautiful. How you feel about your body will largely fall into where in the world and what age in history you were born into. You may ask yourself, can you ever truly or fully love yourself and your body? Whilst we can still have days where we may feel out of balance, too this or too that, on the whole, we can grow and develop a deep unwavering sense of self and connection with ourselves that no one place or thing can ever be taken away from us. But it starts with you, and it starts from within.
If we are able to see our bodies as the perfect companion and assistant in which to experience our lives journey then our bodies and thoughts around our bodies become a very different place and world in which to live. We then consciously chose our body. Choice is incredibly powerful. When you choose your body, you choose you from love and not fear.
As far as we know, we only get one body in which to live in this life. So that means your entire earthly existence will be in the body you inhabit now. That’s the most amount of time you’ll ever spend with anybody else. You with you. You were born into your body, you will go through every stage and chapter of your life in your body and you will die in your body. You are in this together. There’s quite literally nothing more powerful than you and your body.
We struggle and strive to fit into unrealistic expectations of what society deems to be the perfect body, pushing our bodies in ways that perhaps our bodies aren’t ready for, or wanting to move or feel in that way, nipping and tucking the bits we don’t like, cosmetic surgeries and freezing the parts we can’t stand the thought of loving or learning to accept. We’ve lost our way amongst the filters, the mixed messages from the media telling us what size we need to be, that unless we the fit the mold of what the perfect man or woman ‘should’ be then we’re misfits.
We’re not taught to embrace our uniqueness, to honour what our ancestors gifted us, our unique magic. We’re taught from a young age that we must add, to continually seek outside of ourselves and internalise that we are not enough as we are. We yearn for things outside of ourselves and fill our lives with things that ultimately don’t make us happy because we aren't really focussing on what really matters.
We live in a permanent state of the grass is always greener anywhere other than here in our own backyard and convince ourselves that if only we could be or have ‘x’, ‘y’ or ‘z’ that we'll be happy or perhaps more people will like us. That we'll fit in. We'll belong. One thing is for certain, we are not alone in our pursuit of this universal ideology. How we take care of ourselves is our billboard to the world. I'm not just talking about surface level self-care, but by being someone who laughs, cries, embraces their flaws, focuses on what they are passionate about, surrounding themselves with people who make them feel good, and by being real. Having a six pack has nothing to do with happiness, self-worth or a positive body image.
But you see, the longer we let all these things be our primary focus, getting caught up in the pressure and gut-wrenching anxiety of looking a certain way, we're preventing ourselves from accessing the true essence of the person who ultimately, you know deep down, you're capable of being, because it’s already innately within you. In order to access that place, all you need to do is spend time getting to know yourself below the surface.
One of the ways to release negative thoughts about your body is to simply bring your awareness back to the present moment when you find yourself comparing your body to someone else’s. Absolutely by all means notice other bodies, but why not ask yourself about the person in the container in which you see, rather than just the surface of what’s standing there in front of you or on your screen. If you notice your inner judge and victim popping out to say hello, then catch yourself and try again. When it comes to our body image, it’s useful to remember two words:
Happiness, meaning, and purpose comes in all shapes and sizes, and that’s what looks good on people. Celebrating your body for what it can do, and continually coming back to love over fear. The best billboard for 'wellbeing' is a contentment in self.
Remember, it’s you with you.
In accepting your human form,
Francesca Elizabeth xo