How I battled my issues with body image
Lily shares the story of how she struggled with her body image and the way it affected her mental health. If you’re struggling with your body image too, Lily and Laura have some tips and advice.
A lyric in BTS’s “Love Myself” goes:
“Loving myself might be harder than loving someone else. Let’s admit it - the standards I made are more strict for myself.”
Accepting my body involved many highs and lows.
It all began when I was a kid, and I had to perform in front of a small audience. A friend of my parents commented that I was acting extremely self-conscious. When I was first told this, I laughed it off. Reflecting back, I remembered how frustrated I felt about my looks – my face, the parting of my hair, my dress, did I look fat, was I sweating?
I was bullied during school, which led me to isolate myself. It was then that I started eating to replace feeling - I didn’t want to deal with the hurt I felt. Due to my eating habits, I became physically bigger and I remember the rolls on my stomach. One of my peers commented, “Do you weigh 60 kg or under?” These kind of questions and remarks hurt me and I became withdrawn, my confidence plummeting to an all-time low.
I slimmed down considerably later on. Unknowingly I became paranoid of eating, in fear of being labelled “fat” again. It was also during this time that I first received attention from boys. Unfortunately, I figured it was my weight loss that sparked their interest. I developed a habit of monitoring my food intake.
I didn’t feel as conscious during university, but I did wear black or baggy clothing most days to cover up my body.
I wish I could say that I have completely accepted my body, but truth be told, I’m still getting there. And I’m sure I’m not alone. We learn to embrace what makes us who we are - but we will falter in our self-acceptance on days when we feel bloated, when our acne acts up, or when we feel that none of our clothes fit right.
Many of us will struggle with our body image, so what can we do to cope?
Six tips if you're struggling with body image
Laura and Lily give their top tips:
- Consider your use of social media
"Social media can be a great place for inspiration; however sometimes we end up constantly comparing ourselves to the people we see. We need to remember that a photo of somebody on social media is often the best version of themselves, and may not be the whole truth. Think about how much time you spend scrolling through social media, and if it triggers you into feeling negatively about your body, consider cutting back the time you spend on it." – Laura
"I’m not one to often praise the effects of exercise. However, I do remember how exercising made me feel during the times when I was committed. Despite the tiredness, I felt satisfied with myself sweating after a work-out. I mostly used treadmills or bikes while listening to a motivational playlist. Exercising not only stopped me from thinking of anything else - it made me feel good that I was taking action to combat my self-deprecation. " – Lily
Be careful of over-exercising, and remember that sometimes too much exercise can be unhealthy.
- Write a list of what you like about yourself
"I recommend writing a list of the things that you like about yourself. Even just one thing a day can help improve how you think about your body. I also try to recognise the trigger points in which I may begin to be unkind to myself, for example, in a changing room when I’m trying on clothes and looking in a mirror. Once you recognise the situations that can spark negative thoughts about your body, you can begin to change your thought process the next time you’re in that situation." – Laura
- To explore fashion that suits you
"You might be thinking, “isn’t this a short-cut or cover-up for the actual problem?.” But I believe that feeling good involves both the mental and physical! Finding clothes that fit you better or those you are comfortable in helps to build greater confidence." - Lily
- Invest in your inner beauty
"This was a vital lesson I learned. The more I invested into kindness and finding my true self, the more beautiful I felt. The confidence I built from working on my inner self was more lasting than any confidence I gained from working on my external.
Ultimately, true beauty is not about how you look. It’s about how you are as a person and how you make others feel about themselves." - Lily
- Know that you are enough
"Every single body type is beautiful – society has conviced us that we have to be a certain size and look a certain way, which could not be further from the truth. You wouldn’t be unkind to others about their body so why should you be unkind to yourself? Your body is enough, and you are enough, always." – Laura
More advice on building your self-esteem
For more tips and advice on how to build your self-esteem, check out our guide on looking after yourself.