In today’s digital era, social media is rampant which makes it easier for people to see and post pictures of themselves on the internet. For some, doing so boosts their confidence and so they will post a series of photos and videos of themselves on their social media accounts. While this is all to the preference of the one who posted and the viewer, the fact that some may feel inadequate, insecure, or underdeveloped cannot be avoided. In social media alone, two sides of the coin can be observed but this reflection paper will focus on body image and how to feel better about yourself.
Teenagers are the ones who are highly exposed to posts on the internet of those who are proudly flaunting their bodies. Because of this, they begin to look at the mirror and ask themselves why they do not look the same as big social media personalities do? Would they gain enough likes, following and interactions in their posts if they look the same? How could they achieve the same hair and body? This line of thinking has got most parents worried about their children as they would want their children to feel secure and confident in their own skin.
The dilemma is, some parents have no idea how to bring up the conversation to their growing child who is starting to have insecurities. Should they bring it up during dinner or should they have a one-on-one talk? What if they say the wrong thing and make their child feel worse? Mothers are especially worried for they too have gone through the exact same phase after they have given birth. They have wanted to look like the models they see in magazines. Fathers are also prone to feeling insecure about themselves as they have little to no time to go to the gym to keep themselves fit.
What is body image and how does it affect a person?
This leads to the question: what is body image and why is it so important? Body image is how an individual perceives their own body and how much they love or feel comfortable in it. Aside from coming from what one sees when he looks into the mirror, a person’s body image can be influenced by what society expects, collective experiences, and who they look up to. The environment an individual is exposed to in addition to social media and culture can affect the way they perceive themselves.
What is important to understand when it comes to body image is that it is something that a person believes themselves to be and how they feel about their body, in parts or as a whole. More often than not, teenagers look at their body shape, weight, height, and hair when it comes to judging themselves upon looking at the mirror. Some may feel satisfied about how they look and feel good when they see themselves but some just don’t feel that comfortable with the body that they have.
Contrary to popular belief, girls are not the only ones experiencing negative body image. Sure, there are more girls who post photos and videos who people think look gorgeous or have an amazing body but boys are also prone to looking down on themselves. Social media dictates that the ideal man is fitter, owns six-pack abs, and are 6 feet tall. Of course, this is not the case for all boys and even if they do understand it, they may still feel bad about how they look.
Having a positive body image is all about accepting and cherishing each part of your body – be it your hair, eye shape, freckles, hip dips, skin tone, body shape, height, and weight. There is a saying that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and who shall behold your beauty if not you yourself? After all, you are the one who owns that body and you are the one who sees it most of the time. Have inner positivity and see the beauty that is your body. Uphold, uplift, and celebrate yourself.
Body image means a lot for many individuals, and while it is not wrong, it is important to remember that one must not subject himself to their own negative perception of themselves. A person must learn to see and love the beauty that they own. Once one realizes that they do not have anything to feel insecure of about their body image, that person is bound to radiate with even more confidence and beauty. Having a positive body image affects an individual as it also promotes mental health and reduces the risk of developing more unhealthy habits and mindsets.
Consequences of having a negative body image
There are studies that have shown that children as young as three years old are already starting to ask questions about their body image. At a very young age, a person is susceptible to developing body image issues and if not addressed properly, the child may carry it as he ages. Young children may think this way if they are exposed to preschool classmates who tease others “fat” and if they are influenced to their parents frowning on their reflection in the mirror. Simple things like this influence a child’s body image even if they are unaware of it.
Furthermore, there is another study found that people who have had negative body images in their pre-teens are prone to being depressed as adults. As more than 60% of adolescents feel dissatisfied with how their body looks, the number of depressed adults whose current condition has rooted from having a negative body image in their teenage years is quite worrying. Moreover, underweight boys who wants to have a fitter and taller body are more prone to being depressed than girls who are overweight.
Other than the risk of depression as an adult, teenagers, and other people who have a negative body image are prone to developing eating disorders. Because they feel so uncomfortable in their own body, teenagers tend lean on unhealthy weight loss habits like unnecessary dieting which may lead to anorexia – limiting the food they intake severely – and bulimia – an eating disorder which causes a person to binge-eat and purge the food by throwing it up, fasting, or exercising too much.
How to promote a healthy body image
Promoting a healthy or positive body image starts at home and it may even start within yourself – but of course it will work better if there are family and friends who will support you in your journey. The list below are just some tips on how to promote a positive body image. As much as possible, this should be started at a young age so the children will know what it is to feel confident and love their own body.
Parents should make an effort to change the conversation by turning seemingly negative statements into a positive body image approach. Parents are also encouraged to watch their actions, as innocent huffs and puffs in front of the mirror may come off as negative to their children’s eyes. Furthermore, parents should avoid commenting on their children’s body, height, or weight as these may discourage a child from being confident.
- Dieting should be avoided but if it is to be ever brought up in a conversation, children or teenagers should be reassured that the goal is to eat healthier food and stay fit. Not to achieve the “perfect” body but to have a stronger and fitter body that will prevent them from catching sicknesses.
- Leading a healthier lifestyle is being done to improve the body in terms of getting it ready for anything. If there is an emergency or chore that will need a stronger person, then they can step up to the task.
- Promote feeling good for themselves instead of trying so hard to look good for other people. If they ever want to be attractive, they have to be attractive for themselves and not for others. For instance, teenagers may want to wear swimwear that highlights their body when going on a beach trip. They should be reminded that they should be choosing what looks and feels good for them instead of basing the swimwear that they buy on what other people will say.
- When eating, do assure them that it is okay to have some leftovers if they are indeed feeling full or satisfied with the meal already. Never force them to eat if they are already full as doing so may lead to eating disorders in the future.
- When talking to your child, make sure not to comment so much about their outer appearance. Take time to talk about their traits too. Praise them for being kind, understanding, and loving. Children find it easier to love themselves if their attention is solely focused on their appearance.
- Let the children decide what they want to eat or wear from time to time. Do avoid pushing what you think looks better for them, let them decide on their own because doing so boosts their confidence. Feeling comfortable in their own skin starts with positive support from their parents.
- If a child makes a negative comment about their body, do not laugh or dismiss it as a childish whim. Start a conversation on it and ask why they feel or think that way. Take the opportunity to change that into a positive statement so that their body image will be enforced.
Remember, having a positive body image is extremely helpful in boosting a person’s confidence. It is imperative to start building a positive body image no matter how young children are. Enforcing a positive body image no matter the child’s age may help them deal with the dangers of bullying in school as by that time, they will already feel confident and sure that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them, and they can promote self-love as they know how to do so.
A positive body image is of critical importance growing up because people tend to face a lot of situations where their insecurities are exposed. Being confident and loving your body is key to living a healthier life. Apart from that, having a positive body image will prevent a person from feeling ashamed when they are just being themselves. Even though it is best to teach body image positivity at a young age, learning it later on in life is also not bad as this only shows that a person is working their way towards growth.
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