Blog what actually is body image Mental Health Awareness Week: Body Image “I hate my arms.” “My legs are huge.” “My hips stick out too much.” “I wish my waist was smaller.” …sound familiar? This week we mark Mental Health Awareness Week and you’ll probably be aware that the theme for 2019 is ‘Body Image’ – very appropriate for many of us at the moment. Body image continues to be a hot topic for people and if not addressed early can lead to serious mental ill health including eating disorders, regularly featuring in the media and the source of much debate in the press. It’s certainly getting us all talking more than ever before. But, what actually is Body image? How is it defined? Well in its most basic form, it’s how we think and feel about our bodies. I imagine many of you will agree it can be really hard to get an accurate, balanced view of how we truly look because we bring our own fears and insecurities to our internal image of ourselves. I know I’m a serial offender when it comes to looking at myself in the mirror and honing in on everything I don’t like. Those thighs that I think are too large or curves I wish were bigger or smaller in certain places. I can drive myself crazy with it all! The media is often held responsible for the nation’s obsession with how we look and our comparisons with others around us. We’re all spending more time than ever consuming media and it feels like everywhere we turn there are messages telling us how we should look. Whether it’s filtered-to-perfection celebs on Instagram, slim models on clothing websites or even our family and friends looking amazing in their beach pics – it feels like we can’t escape these waves of jealousy that wash over us every single day. Positive vs Negative Most people will have a positive or negative body image depending on how they view themselves. A negative body image involves a distorted and dissatisfied perception of your shape and feelings of shame, anxiety, and self-consciousness. An all too common place for eating disorders to develop. Meanwhile positive body image is a clear, true perception of your appearance and feeling comfortable and confident in your body whilst accepting its natural body shape and size. A truly blissful feeling! So how can we strive for true body confidence and distance ourselves from our insecurities? Here are a few helpful tips you can use to improve your body image… Be grateful for all that your body is, not what it isn’t – just think of all the amazing things it can do; our hearts that keep blood pumping, our skin heals itself, our lungs keep us breathing, the wonder of the five senses and the ability to move, speak and think. It’s far more than just the aesthetics! Remember everybody is different our unique genetic make-up affects our height, bone structure, shape and size so you could spend your life striving to look like someone else and it’ll never be possible. That doesn’t mean we can’t be the best version of ourselves but we certainly ought to stop trying to be someone else Choose your media carefully as I already mentioned, we live in media saturated world so we really must choose who to follow, and what to look at very cautiously.My previous blog ‘Being more mindful on social media’ has some good tips on subjecting yourself to the right channels online Surround yourself with positive affirmations one of the best things I ever did was write a few things I like about myself and my character and ask a select few friends and family to do the same. I recorded them all in a notebook and stored them on my phone so I can keep reminding myself of all the good in my life. I’m going to start sticking some around my mirror too so I can see them every day Treat yourself and your body who doesn’t feel better for spending some time pampering themselves once in a while? Whether it’s getting your hair done, having a manicure or buying yourself some new clothes, it’s the small steps we can all take to feel good about ourselves and how we look Attend a body image workshop First Steps are launching a series of body image workshops in May across the City and County. Please email [email protected] for more information Watch affirming videos the internet may fuel our insecurities at times but you can also find some great, thought provoking material on there too if you look in the right places. I found a couple of really interesting videos about body image that I wanted to share Video one this one just shows how much we tear ourselves to shreds and fail to realise the positives. It’s a tough watch at the beginning as two complete strangers share their innermost insecurities, but bear with it – it gets so lovely at the end. Video two similarly this one features young people voicing their negative thoughts about their appearance and even though it’s shocking to hear how hard on themselves they are, those listening help to alter these initial harsh views and improve that inner voice beautifully. Interesting and thought-provoking tips that I hope will help you think differently and realise just how truly beautiful you are!