Mirror, Mirror, on the wall ...
It is harder than ever to feel good about the way that we look. We are now able to look at celebrities and role models that we admire every day on Instagram and Snapchat – what they eat, what they wear, what they buy, and what they look like. The problem is, a lot of these images can be edited in ways that are so subtle we might not even notice – some apps let us change our eye colour, airbrush our skin, and even change the shapes of our bodies. Even though we might know that a lot of people filter or edit their pictures – what are these images of perfection doing to us? How does looking at them day after day impact the way we feel about ourselves?
According to a study for BLISS magazine, 90% of teenage girls are unhappy with their body shape, and 87% of girls say they are unhappy with their appearance. A study by YMCA and Dove show that these feelings start at a young age – one in four seven year old girls have attempted to lose weight at least once, while one third of young boys aged eight-twelve are dieting to lose weight. The rate of eating disorders for children and teens has risen by 110% according to statistics given to The Independent on Sunday from Childline. This can lead to problems such as eating disorders – and although anorexia and bulimia are mainly seen in girls, an estimated 25% of people in Britain that are struggling with eating disorders are male.
The figures speak for themselves – young people are struggling with the way that they look. In a world where many images that we see every day are nipped, tucked, polished, and staged, it can be easy to look at ourselves and think that we don’t measure up.
I also struggle with the same feelings from time to time. It’s so easy to look in the mirror and see what you perceive as faults. My body shape certainly doesn’t match the current trend of flat stomach, big boobs, and curvy bum. Sometimes I find that hard to deal with. I look at myself and I see lumps and bumps where they shouldn’t be. Pale, freckly skin as opposed to a tanned glow. Hair so unwieldy I have to shove it into a messy bun most days. But do you know what? Most people I know have those kinds of feelings – and it’s good to be honest about them.
Honesty in a world of filters and airbrushing can be hard to do. It can be hard to be truthful about the way that we feel – it can make us feel vulnerable. If you’re reading this and feeling low about yourself, I encourage you to open up to someone you trust – a parent, a sibling, a close friend – and to tell them how you’re feeling. If you’re struggling with those feelings and feeling overwhelmed, it is important that you seek help for it – and it doesn’t make you weak. Leaning on people you trust and allowing them to hear your feelings is a bold and brave thing to do.
Here are a few more things you can do if you are feeling unhappy with the way that you look:
- Think about all the things your body enables you to do. So often, we become preoccupied with how we look on the outside, and we forget how wonderful and brilliant our bodies are, and how hard they work each day. I often forget that my body was able to grow and nourish two children – that is amazing, and far more important than how I look on the outside. Do you play a sport, or play a musical instrument? Think about the way your body enables you to do the things that you love to do. If you don’t already, consider starting a hobby or sport that will keep your mind active and will enable you to see the amazing way your body works.
- If you have it, open up Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat. Consider the feeds that you follow and the images within them. Although we might know in theory that a lot of them are edited, take a look at some of the images closely and consider what might have been done to manipulate them – filters, airbrushing, lighting, even the way the person is positioned within the frame – all of these can have a dramatic impact on the way a person looks. This might help to refresh your memory and remind you of the way images are altered the next time you scroll through social media.
- Consider going offline for a while. Set yourself a challenge – can you go offline for a few hours? A day? Maybe even a weekend? If you’re up to it, try it. Maybe go outside for a walk, visit friends, or just do something to keep you occupied. It might give you a little bit of breathing room away from constant images of perfection, and time to just be yourself without thinking about how other people look.