The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is Body Image. Something that comes up A LOT in the workshops we run, and in the conversations we have with young people. And really, if I’m being honest with you it comes up a lot in my life too.
After a mega fun, tree climbing, body loving, sand castle making, innocent childhood moving to Secondary school and going through puberty was a bit of a shock to say the least! All of a sudden I felt super alien in my body.Things were changing and it was a pretty confusing time. Things I had never thought about before all of a sudden were under a microscope and were being scrutinised and made fun of. It was weird! People in school were cruel about my body and started to tell me things that were apparently “wrong” with it. “ You’re so fat” or “ you’re so ugly” were daily taunts I heard walking through the school corridors, so much so that I started to believe them. I was crushed and started to hate my body and be embarrassed of it. Looking back now this makes me super sad and when I hear young people talk about themselves in a negative way, I feel their pain all too clearly.
That kind of thinking can become really ingrained in you and I have struggled with loving myself and my body ever since high school. Recently though, as I’ve got a little older and kinda wiser (and rounder and softer) I’ve started to feel really happy in myself. I’ve had some therapy about it, developed HATW workshops around the subject and got in a really posi relationship where my body is made to feel loved. So I wanna share my tips with you for getting to this point where I’m like “dammit my body is awesome”! I mean, I don’t love it all day every day but I’m a lot better at recognising my bodies strengths and capabilities now! And that’s pretty cool!
People are mean and words can truly hurt and stick with you. If someone says something bitchy or savage to you and it makes you feel rubbish about yourself try and think about what’s going on with that person to make them lash out and be horrible. Break it down, realise that’s their actions that they have to take ownership for and put up an imaginary shield in your mind. Their words bounce or slide off it and don’t permeate your conscious. You aren’t that thing just because someone else said you are. And if someone is making you feel like this they certainly aren’t worth your time! Surround yourself with positive people who build you up and recognise so much good in you!
I like to take time and write down lists of people that make me feel awesome. Like my fave people to be around because we have such a laugh and then I try and focus my energy around them. I’ll drop them a message of thanks: “Hey thank you for being awesome and making me feel great all the time, you dream boat!” Gratitude is great and so easy to express. It helps me take the attention away from randomers who’ve catcalled me in the street or nagging voices from bullies when I was younger. Sometimes I’ll even write down the names or words people called me or the bad stuff I think about myself and then destroy them- rip ‘em up or chuck them in the recycling bin! Get those negi vibes outta here!
It’s hard, but recognising that no-one is perfect and you’re doing the best you can is key. You can’t always be Kardashian levels of body perfection. You’re doing the best you can juggling everything you have to in life and looking after yourself. Getting a little bit of exercise and eating good is a positive goal to set for each day, but you know what… if you need to eat a little bit of ice cream or have a sofa night then so be it. Life is tough as heck so if you need to do something a bit unhealthy to get through your day crack on guilt free. But make sure you get back on it the next day with focusing on you, and what you need.
If your insta feed is getting you down and you’re comparing yourself to others, something I’ve found helpful is to do a little unfollow spree. Ask yourself “ Is this person making me feel great about my life”, “ Is this person setting goals that I feel like I can get to if I want to or am I just in a shame spiral that I’ll never be them”. “ Do I enjoy watching their insta stories or do I just feel anxious every time they post something” If this is the case and you’re having a particularly low moment, just unfollow. I also like to have a little google of “The Truth behind perfect instagram pictures” and I have a read through a few posts sometimes. It reminds me that a picture is staged to capture the very best of the best and that’s not real life. Modern beauty pressures for us all are super hard but it’s good to have a reminder sometimes that perfection is impossible and even the most perfect people will have things going on that they aren’t happy with.
On that note, it’s good to remember what you DO have, that someone else doesn’t and would love to have! At the end of the day you’re doing YOU as best as you can! I hated my body for so many years and if you’d have asked me as a teenager to name one thing I like about it I probably would have burst into tears and maybe only been able at a big push to say I liked the colour of my eyes (but would have hastened to add I didn’t like the shape of them and that I was gross!) Now I’ve had a lot of support to be able to focus on the things like “I like that I’m alive and made it through yesterday” “ I like that I’m able to walk around” “I like that I’m relatively healthy” “ I like that I have hair!” “I like that I have nostrils!”…. Just focusing on really basic things I’m grateful that my body can do.
I might not like some of my wobbly bits but I do like to focus on the bits my body IS capable of. Also, on nights out where I’ve been chatting with my pals about our bodies, I’ve been surprised by how so many of them said they wished they had parts of my body that they don’t have – bigger boobs, bigger bums etc. It can really take you by surprise and make you think “Aha! I’m not the troll I thought I was” but it also helps for you to see yourself in others lights and how the grass isn’t always greener. Everyone’s struggling and has insecurities and someone out there is wishing that they had your body!
Get your three fave people to write down ten things they love about you. It can be about the way you look, or even your accomplishments or your personality. Look back at these things especially on the days when you’re struggling to see any good in yourself. We give out notebooks in workshops where we get everyone to write positive messages to each other in them as a place to share some love and appreciation for the good stuff. See if any mates or family members would be up for supporting you and doing the same. Then start to think about things you like about your body. What can it do that others can’t? Sometimes attaching an action to your body part is great. Like “ I don’t like my arms but I like my tattoos on them, I like that I can hold my baby cousin in them or play with a puppy with them or play a musical instrument with them!”
Focus on the stuff that is rad! Accentuate the stuff you do like! You got a banging ankle? Get it out! Got an incredible middle finger? Wave that bad boy around everywhere you go! Start small and work up! Dress how you wanna dress, show off the bits you love. On low days wear your favourite outfit or do your favorite thing. And if there really isn’t anything then go in hard on your personality traits that are awesome or things you’ve done or things you love. I was super into Buffy The Vampire Slayer as a teenager so when everyone was comparing themselves getting ready for PE I’d be booming about how Buffy was great last night on TV or trying to make people laugh to distract from things I didn’t want noticed. It’s all about slowly building yourself up!
Get a mantra and say it everyday in the mirror to yourself when you’ve brushed your teeth. Just as long as its positive and makes you feel great the more you say it, the more you’ll believe it, then the more you believe it, the more you’ll become it. You’ll slowly take on those posi vibes!
“I made it and I got up this morning! Now let’s go and smash this day!”
“My eyebrows are killer today”
“I have a great smile and you better believe I’m gonna unleash it on the world today”
“I’m really good at [insert whatever you’re really good at]”
“I’m really lucky to have X, Y, Z in my life” (Obvs not those actual letters, but insert whatever you’re grateful for innit!)
(The Live, Laugh, Love of This Blog post!)
Take care of yourself. Do nice things for yourself because you are 100% worth it. Life is short and we’re not here for very long so live each day, where you can, to the fullest – appreciating your body and all the awesome stuff that it can do! If you have a great day where you feel like the biggest badass in the world, take a photo. If your having a brill day laughing with your pals? Take a photo to remember how much fun you had. Did you kill your makeup today and look like a million bucks? Take a snap to remind you on your low days how beaut you can be. Looked mega cool playing with your band or doing some sports? Get a picture and look back to remind yourself. See yourself how you want to. Feel your body how you want to. Feel the best bits of your body and think about your body as positively as you can. Anyway that’s enough of these posi platitudes- it’s a glorious Saturday and we’re gonna go swimming! With our bodies! Because they can do that! Mad!
Surround yourself with visual reminders of the times you’ve loved your body the most. Be in touch with your body physically, if there’s something wrong or you’re really struggling go to your Doctors and see if there’s anything that will help you. Think about your body as positively as you can. Watch that episode of Queer Eye where Karamo gets one of the heroes to write on the mirror all the words from themselves or others that sum them up and do the same for you! For every awful word you’ve thought about yourself or someone has said to you counteract it with a good one. If you want to change something, do it! Dye your hair, take up that sport, get a piercing (from a safe and reputable place and with consent if you need it!!) speak to a professional about any issues you’re having with your body, get outside, push yourself out of your comfort zone, wear that crop top or those shorts when it’s hot! You’re body is beautiful and amazing. Legit. Everyone’s is.
– HATW Han