This week is Mental Health awareness week – the focus is particularly on the subject of ‘body image’ - how we think and feel about our bodies.
Being concerned about body image can mean experiencing negative thoughts, stress, pressure to conform, fear of being different and many other emotional consequences.
Being concerned to some degree about your body image is relatively common and is not necessarily a risk to your mental health – but it can be one contributing factor if you are already struggling.
Experiencing feelings of poor body image can lead to unhealthy behaviours – poor eating habits, excessive gym workouts, obsessions with food, exercise, products, treatments – or a loss of balanced perspective.
Once these types of thoughts, feelings and ways of behaving take hold then they can negatively affect self-esteem, self-confidence and general quality of life. Once such patterns start, they can spiral out of control - needing to exercise more, diet more, use more products, a vicious loop of anxiety, low mood or ‘not being good enough’. Body image can become a significant factor for poor metal health, even if not the original issue.
Some of the main areas where body image can become an issue include social media, family, friends at school, work, or the gym. Product marketing can also play a huge role in idealising the way we ‘ought’ to look.
There are lots of statistics around about the numbers of people who experience mental health difficulties surrounding body image; the numbers are really high!
This week, let’s celebrate ‘Mental Health awareness – body image’ week by looking out for each other, take a moment to care about each other’s feelings. A kind word or a listening ear may help to combat the negative thought or low feeling. It is unlikely to be obvious who could be feeling this way, so the challenge will be to extend our kindness to everyone we meet!
If you feel that this is a subject that weighs heavily for you, or reaches where you are at, then please do get in touch with me, or any other qualified counsellor, to ask for help.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon
Whilst this blog is necessarily brief, it is recognised that the subject of body image is far more complex than described here and will have unique meaning for each individual. the above is therefore intended as a general overview only.