Mumaleary's Blog

Cheaper than therapy

Body Image…How’s yours?

on May 16, 2019

When I drafted this post I initially started by saying; “I am sure that it hasn’t escaped your attention that it is Mental Health Awareness week” but then I realised that maybe it had… Maybe the conversation about mental health is like Brexit all over again- I think we are staying in because the people I follow, the feeds I read, the papers I skim all tell me we all share the same view and the UK will remain in the European Union except oh…wait…URG Maybe I think that everyone is becoming more open and aware about mental health, mental illness and ways to self care because that’s where I’m at but actually, there are still huge swathes of people who are affected and feeling afraid and alone with those around them scared and unsure of what to do.
Maybe I see and hear so much about mental health and self care because these are the posts I like and share on social media and then the clever algorithms/ scary big brother types think- like that? You might like this too… and, often, they are right. I love to see posts of people doing good stuff- of Bryony Gordon in her pants saying “this is me and if you don’t like it; jog on. Of people wild swimming or surfing or just enjoying the sunshine. They make me feel good; they make me think- “I might try that” and it has taught me loads, It led me to climb Snowdon at Midnight, it has directed my to brilliant books, perfect podcasts and awesome insta accounts full of positivity and inspiration but, that’s not how it is across the board.
News this week tells me that:

  • 12.5% of adults in the UK today have felt so distressed about their body image that they consider ending their lives.
  • Locally we know that serious issues still remain with Birkenhead recently listed as one of the most depressed communities in the country.
  • Today I hear that yet another teenager has ended her life following a social media poll asking should she live or die.

It is becoming clearer than ever that social media can be a really harmful tool. In the same way that my algorithms keep showing me little squares of healthy recipes, yoga retreats and dogs on surfboards, there will be other people, most likely young people, being shown images of self harm and devastating details on suicide; reinforcing their beliefs and thought patterns. It has to stop and, until social media giants do something tangible to make a difference, we need to know what positive steps we can take for the benefit of both our own mind and body as well as our children’s. I was invited on to Radio City Talk earlier today to speak about Body Image and the impact that can potentially have on our mental health and, because I am so passionate about this, I couldn’t possibly fit in everything I wanted to say in the 20 minutes we had (They should give me my own show really) so, for those that missed it, you can catch it again here and, for those that want to know more, read on!

What is Body Image;
Body image is how you see yourself either when you look at yourself in the mirror, on a picture or video or when you picture yourself in your minds eye. People that have a negative body image are more likely to suffer from low self esteem, depression and be at a greater risk of developing an eating disorder or self harming.
Who and what shapes it?
Our body image is being shaped continually from a very early age and, the image we develop will depend on, our families and their own experiences and feelings (so, if you’re constantly criticising the way you look, that’s something you’re probably passing on) the external images we see; we are bombarded footage and photos of people through our TV screens, magazines and mobiles; historically humans would have been used to knowing around 100 people and, generally speaking those people would bear some similarities to ourselves and our mind could manage and process this level of information…Now… NOT A CHANCE! You can watch on catch up, be on line 24/7 and scroll past 100 people before you get out of bed in the morning.

Can we reframe it?
Happily YES- It is totally possible for each of us to make positive decisions to reframe the way we feel about our bodies. It isn’t easy and it isn’t immediate but it IS possible And- brilliantly, we can reframe it for our kids before it becomes a real issue for them. Yes; it would be amazing for the advertisers and media to consider their impact but, for now, the onus is on us so, here are my top tips on how to build a bit of a bubble around your body image and protect your head!

  1. Stop with the comparison already.

comparison is the theif of joy
Social media is just a pictorial version of statistics; it is possible to find anything on line to prove whatever you want- including images which will only reinforce and exacerbate any negativity you feel about yourself.
We are all perfectly imperfect humans. The images and lives on display on social media are never the full story- they are a moment in time. They are a snap shot of something that person chose to share with the world; we can’t suppose to know why they wanted to share it, how much their self esteem is reliant on the likes or the comments and we defo don’t know how many times they posed or pressed delete. The same goes for the manicured mum at the school gates. Yes; of course it is possible that she has 100% got her shit together and simply always has the time to put her face on, tong her hair and slip into her skinnies BUT- it is also possible that all of that is her protective layer. If I look like this I feel ready for the day ala Vivien in Pretty Woman… Until you’ve walked a mile in someone elses thigh highs you just don’t know so don’t waste your time presuming.

A perfect picture doesn’t mean a perfect body or a perfect life.

2. Look inside

You are not the way you look. Yes your body is an amazing AMAZING bit of kit but in reality it is simply the vehicle for your soul. It is the home for the best and most important elements of you- your heart, your personality, your memories and your emotions. Some of us have big posh houses, some of us have teeny studio flats- we are not the homes we live in;

YOU ARE NOT THE WAY YOU LOOK.

And, in the same way that it is ok to want to move up the property ladder, it is ok to want to change your body but it’s not ok if you are hanging everything on that and punishing yourself until you reach that ideal. Do it for you and only you. Do it to get faster or fitter or stronger, not smoother or skinnier or sexier. I know that this is simplistic; I love dressing up, I love beautiful clothes. I love getting made up and having a blow dry and my nails done. LOVE IT. Feeling good gives me confidence which positively impacts on my mental health but- I am still the same person when I’ve got my winter layer on and an chilling in my specs and onesie.

Looking good is great but it’s just the handbag stuff- don’t let yourself be confused that the way you look is the most important part of who you are. It doesn’t make me a better or more worthy person and it doesn’t for you either.

3. You are what you eat (and drink, and watch, and read…) 

Jac Venak

Whilst there are womens magazines that exist whose sole purpose seems to be to put people down and make everyone feel like shit I suspect that we are going to have some sort of body image issues in this country. NOW, Closer, Grazia- you know the ones. I JUST CAN NOT BARE THEM. Honestly I think they are poisonous and really unhealthy and should be top shelf fodder like porn mags. They have best dressed pages- Bigging up the fave celeb of the day; how you can get the look and then, on the opposite page are vilifying women for leaving the house in a tracksuit. Would you just. Fuck. Off.
Same goes for you Love Island and Made in Chelsea and TOWIE- all of you. Same goes for Jeremy Kyle- treating people like circus acts and watching their rise and demise isn’t healthy. It’s fucking weird and, it has serious repercussions. I know it seems like just mindless TV to chill out to or a mag to flick through in the hair dressers but, if we are continually seeing images of people without lines or wrinkles or any bloody body fat with a perma tan and amazing hair that seeps into our brain and when we look at ourselves, we don’t fit that image and what does that say?

I know that there is a whole bazillion dollar industry relying on us buying the magazines, seeing the adverts, feeling like we’re not good enough unless we’ve just stepped out of a salon and, greasing the wheels of the humongous cosmetics industry as a result. It’s a big ask for us refuse that message and re-educate our brains but it can be done. We are good enough. What ever you look like, as long as you’re not a mean spirited old witch wishing the worst for everyone, you are ok.*
I know for a cast iron fact that I fell better mentally and physically when I’m getting my 5 a day and guzzling down gallons of water. I feel better when I lace up my trainers and go for a run. I feel better when don’t spend hours online but- for some reason, I don’t always do the stuff that I know makes me feel good- WTAF- Why do we do that?! I know we’re all about mental health but that is genuinely crazy isn’t it?! If we feed our minds and bodies with good stuff, we are more likely to feel good. Not all the time, if you’re dealing with depression or mania or any form of serious mental health issue no amount of superfood is going to fix it but, for those occasions when you (read I) are just feeling low for seemingly no rhyme or reason, having a visual prompt might just nudge you (or me) back on track…

• Physical- going for a walk or a swim
• Intellectual- Reading a book, writing a letter
• Emotional- listening to some old tunes which trigger happy memories, buying yourself a bunch of flowers,
• Spiritual- writing 3 things you’re grateful for, meditating

(Hilariously this spells out PIES- sometimes they are what make me feel good… YIN/YANG LIGHT/DARK PIES/PIES)
Take 5 minutes when you’re feeling ok to think about the things that you do that make you happy or brighten your mood and note them down so when you’re feeling MEH and that isn’t something you want to just sit with and wait to pass, you’ve got a reference to help you feel better faster.

Right then, for those of you that got to this point- bloody well done! That is more of a tome than a quick post radio rant but sometimes you’ve got to get these things off your chest haven’t you!

Thanks for reading.
Tanya. X

  • AND- since I’m on this particular soapbox… there are 101 other reasons that we can’t simply blindly continue to buy more stuff and get a new outfit every week to feel good enough; The planet is dying people so- if you want to crack on with apparent perfection, you might be doing it from a desert in the not to distant… a bit of perspective perhaps…By the way- this is as much a memo to me as it is general advice for life.
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