By Emma Dorman, Mental Health Awareness Coordinator at Jami
To prepare for writing this post I did a quick google search for terms including ‘body image’, ‘self-esteem’ and ‘why don’t we talk about body image more?’. The results had two main themes. The first 3 out of 4 posts discussing body image were focused around teenagers, and secondly, lots of the posts talked about weight or ‘being fat’.
This got me thinking. Whilst I am a huge advocate for talking to teenagers about body image and self-esteem, we can’t stop there. A study from the Mental Health Foundation found that 30% of all adults have felt so stressed by body image and appearance that they became overwhelmed or unable to cope. Too often body image is considered an adolescent issue, but clearly we need to acknowledge the full spectrum of people who may need support to boost their body image or self-esteem.
When we portray this as only impacting young people, we suggest it is something adults should have already reconciled and dealt with. This can shame people into potentially feeling worse about themselves and also may shame them into silence. I can’t think of a bigger barrier to getting support.
The second theme is another misconception that body image and self-esteem is about weight. Body image and self-esteem are intrinsically linked to how we think and how we feel, our life experience, our relationships and our opinions. Making assumptions that body image and self-esteem are based on weight isolates people who don’t fit these criteria – there are so many reasons why people may feel uncomfortable in themselves.
The solution to improving our relationship with our body and improving our self-esteem needs to be holistic rather than focused on weight. It’s about investing in ourselves to change this relationship. Ask yourself: what makes me feel good, strong, healthy or kind? Start exercising, not to lose weight but to appreciate the strength in your body. Volunteer because you believe in helping people and kindness. Get creative because learning new skills makes you feel powerful. Spend time outside to help find some peace in a busy day.
As people we are a sum of our parts and need to consider ourselves in our totality. We need to think widely about our physical and our mental health and furthermore, whether in conversation or solutions, we need more open and inclusive dialogue on these issues.
About Mental Health Awareness Week
Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from Monday 13th to Sunday 19th May 2019. Throughout the week at the Head Room Café in Golders Green, we will focus on the link between mind, body and soul and how this impacts our own self-esteem and mental wellbeing.
Daily sessions inside the Café, as well as interactive events outside the café, will invite the public to share their ideas on how we can improve our relationship with our bodies; create a holistic view of mind, body and soul; and #beyourselfie.