Reminders for when you are struggling with body image
Body image isn’t talked about enough, regardless of it being something prevalent in everyone’s life. Social media has made it even easier for people to compare themselves to one another. Body image is often misunderstood to be just related to appearances when it is also related to how a person thinks and feels.
This is important due to the fact a lot of our actions are motivated by our thoughts and feelings. A person with poor body image is more likely to have disordered eating patterns, lower self-esteem, relationship issues, and at its worst self-harming actions.
Everyone has insecurities, so I wanted to share some things that helped me in regards to body image.
Here are reminders for when you are struggling with body image
1.Body image is something many people struggle with no matter who they are
Women are told they have to be shorter than men, have soft curves but don’t be too curvy or you are promiscuous, have to have a flat stomach and snatched waist, don’t have abs or be too muscular, no stretch marks, no body hair, have full lips, etc. Men get told they can’t be too skinny, but they can’t have fat either, they have to have muscles, they have to have abs, they have to be at least 6 feet, they need facial hair, their facial features can’t be soft, they need to be sharp, they need to have broad shoulders.
To add to what’s ideal in society, there are different standards for different ethnicities and cultures for the way you look. There is a lot more I could add to this but I think I should save it for another post.
The point of me saying this is because sometimes we are so focused on comparing ourselves with people, we forget that nearly every single person is dealing with a similar thing in a different form in the emotional/mental aspect. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine especially if someone has the body you perceive as desirable but we all go through similar emotional aspects of feeling like we need to change or getting told we need to.
In this description, I am focusing on just emotion/mental state, but I’m completely aware of how different treatment happens due to size but that’s another conversation.
2.The presentation of the body in the media plays a huge role in how we perceive our bodies, so be observant and mindful.
Have you ever noticed that in coming-of-age movies/Tv shows, it’s usually a similar trope relating to the body? In Pretty little liars, Hanna becomes the "it girl", not only because Allison was gone but because of the extreme changes she made. While I do think those moments best describe a toxic friendship, how peer pressure can lead to extremes etc. I also feel like scenes like that can reinforce negative thought patterns.
Given that my major was advertising and marketing communications for my associates, one thing spoke a lot about was senders, receivers, and noise. In this case, the tv show’s scriptwriters and directors are the senders and the audience are the receivers. Noise is what happens in between. One person could have taken the message as “you need to be careful of who you call your friend”, another person can take it as “she was just being blunt about it because that’s how harsh the real world is”, another person can take it as “to be accepted I need to do the same thing because her life improved after” and so on. Due to our upbringing and other factors such as geography, culture, generational, etc., we won’t see things the same as everyone else. Even if the writer's intentions were one thing, that doesn’t mean it will be taken that way and that doesn’t mean that there won’t be impacts.
The hardest part of this discussion is to acknowledge that something that may be triggering or offensive to you, may feel like representation to someone else.
The other day people were talking about the show Insatiable and how they wish that the show continued. I will provide screenshots of their reasoning. On the other hand, some people feel extremely against it and the content made them uncomfortable as shown in a Buzzfeed article and there were comments below agreeing with the author.
Everything is about perspective and that’s why we need to be mindful of what we let into our space even digitally.
Social media, in my opinion, has made that more difficult because in shows and movies we know it’s acting and essentially it’s a visual story. But on social media where it’s supposed to be different kinds of people who aren’t just actors, actresses, or someone whose job is to perform. While it may have opened spaces for creativity and to connect people who may have similar interests, it also allowed for comparisons to be more available. Social media isn’t toxic itself, but it’s people who make it that way. People fake their experiences, alter images to present them as being the real them and made up stories just for clicks and views.
Just remind yourself not to believe everything you see online and create a space for yourself that makes you feel happy, encouraged and any positive emotions you want to feel. Unfollow people if their content is making you feel worse. Click uninterested if something that you don’t like pops up on your “for you” page.
3.The language we use relating to our bodies is just as important
Do you remember the phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me”? I heard this a lot as a child but as I got older I realized how much-damaged words can hurt you. Making fun of someone's appearances or pointing out their insecurity can leave them psychologically wounded and traumatized. I had been bullied a lot myself and it took years for me to stop bad treatment of myself that formed from people who no longer play a role in my life.
The person that will always play a role in your life is yourself, which is why even the language we use towards ourselves is especially important. A lot of negative self-talk stems from the negative things people tell us and we have to take the time to unlearn the biases other people place on us. The best way to combat it is by choosing to embrace all aspects of you and addressing your appearances with kind words. Focus on what your body does to take you through this life.
4. Validation shouldn’t come from something ever-changing
Our looks are constantly changing. So the compliments will feel good at the moment, but you’ll be regretful of how much time you spend restricting yourself down the line. Of course, a person should take initiative to be as healthy as they can be, but that isn’t correlated to size. Remember your soul is continuous and that is what will be the same no matter what version of yourself you will be in.
5. Self Love shouldn’t have a condition
Many people say “I will love myself when ___”. Self-love shouldn’t come with conditions. Even if you aren’t satisfied with the way you look, hating the way you look through the journey won’t make you go through the journey any faster. It can revert all progress because even if you change physically, maintaining it will be difficult or can make you overdo things to the extreme.
Getting your dream body is a long, painful process. If you aren't uplifting yourself through the painful moments, who will? Be your biggest cheerleader, biggest motivator, and realize you should keep trying because you as a person deserve to be taken care of.
6.How you decide to contribute to the conversation impacts the future generation
One of the saddest things is that a lot of the negative body images can stem from what parents and other family members say to us. However, it’s been a cycle of those toxic ideas being passed on from generation to generation.
Whether you have a little brother or sister, a niece or nephew, or even if you want kids someday in the future: how we talk about body positivity, body neutrality, and Body Image, in general, impacts them. If you care about the future generations, you wouldn't want them to feel the same negative feelings that you had to grow up feeling and endorsing. The way we shift the conversation about body image will impact them and it is our responsibility to be better than what we had. Let’s break a toxic cycle.
Body image in the summer
I'm not going to try to make this part too long given that the rest of the post was already a lot. When writing this, there was so much emotion with every point. Personally, summer is one of the worst times for my body image.
In the winter, everyone is dressed in more baggy bundled clothes where I'm from, and it kind of makes it easier to not compare but once it becomes summer it's just this whole emotion. I struggle with staying positive in terms of how I see myself. The other day I had to look for new swimsuits because of the changes I endorsed during quarantine. When looking for swimsuits, it took a toll on me because I couldn't figure out what to buy. After all, most of the models were a size small and I was struggling to see what would make me feel confident. I didn't know if it would be too big or too small because I was so used to getting mediums and now physically there's been a lot of changes and I don't know what would make me comfortable anymore.
When I was researching this post I came across a Tik-Tok that was talking about being Midsize and how the term keeps changing because a year ago it was accepted but now if you call yourself that you are deemed as fat-phobic. When it comes to body image, I feel like there's no winning. I liked that term. I felt represented by that term because I still get told a lot that I need to lose weight. However, if I call myself plus-sized people tell me I’m not. Then with my height, it seems like I have to do more to maintain a “healthy” weight and I don’t have a fast metabolism. All of those things combined have just been affecting my body image. However, notice how everything I've said was external things.
When I was at my skinniest, I was at my lowest and most miserable. I feel happier now but I’m not necessarily in a place where I feel confident either.
This post was a lot because there were so many thoughts, that I struggled to put into words. While these are just my views on it, these are some of the reminders that help me when I start to feel negative about everything. Learning to love your body isn't something that will just happen overnight and these reminders aren't just for my audience but for reminders of myself and I truly hope this helped.
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Until next time,
xoxo Lay 💋