Anthony's Insight: Body Image
Article Date: 08-05-2019
Disclaimer: Anthony’s Insights represents one member of staff’s views and not the opinion of Estio Healthcare as a whole.
“Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 will take place from Monday 13 to Sunday 19 May 2019. The theme for 2019 is Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies.” – Mental Health Foundation
Let’s get the misconceptions out of the way, shall we?
What comes to mind when we think about body image?
Immediately some people will think about the stereotypical idea of adolescent girls standing in front of the mirror wishing they had a body that reflected those of women on magazine covers – and while yes, this could be and is a real situation concerning body image, it’s not exactly the whole picture.
Body image is a phrase which refers to the way in which we look at ourselves and perceive our own physical identity. Typically, body image is how a person stacks their own perception of themselves against the beauty standards set by society – male or female.
According to NCS, body image typically affects people at the age of seventeen the most. However, it’s an issue that most people carry with them for the rest of their life. A study carried out by NCS states that ‘27% of teens surveyed in today’s generation care more about their appearance than their physical health.’ Digging deeper into the study found that ‘34% of boys surveyed told us they feel pressured to attain a muscular figure while 55% of girls surveyed have said they feel the pressures of being skinny.’
The study may come across as being juvenile to some people due to the age group that it was surveying – however, with suicide rates being especially high in young boys and men there seems to be an undeniable correlation that needs addressing, part of this may stem from this idea of body image.
Body image doesn’t just conform to attacking people for not being skinny or masculine enough though, it stretches far wider. Like how people with disabilities see themselves, or how some LGBTQ+ people worry about acting the way they should on a daily basis and how people of colour sometimes feel like they should look something other than the ethnicity they were born with to fit into society.
A lot of the issues surrounding body image are due to reasons that to some extent we can’t control; height, build, race, disabilities and so on – so why should we care?
Well, while we’re getting there, we don’t currently live in a society where people are widely accepted for who they are. Human beings are typically scared of the unknown which is why we create ‘standards’ for our society to aspire to, so that people can recognise and feel as if they understand a person before they’ve made personal contact with them.
As a society we glamourize unhealthy diets, draining exercise routines, skin bleaching and so forth to try and attain a body image that does imitate what we see in the press. And of course, this has a knock on effect to mental health – if people keep chasing the latest diet/body trends and expecting to be liked more on social media or in real life, they’re proving to themselves that they don’t feel good enough as the person they are.
It’s probably easier said than done, but if we make decisions for ourselves and not an image that we want to give off to others, maybe we’ll feel more comfortable in ourselves.