Body image...with anxiety
There is almost no point writing an introduction to this, we all know the media/social media are often blamed for young people's relationships with their bodies becoming more and more negative. Mixing this in with anxiety issues can cause many of us to become very concerned with how we look.
When I feel able, I love going to events and learning about this sort of thing, and was delighted to recently attend a talk by Michelle Elman about exactly this, body image. She's an author, influencer and lifestyle coach who shared her message of living life unapologetically.
I wanted to wait a while before writing about this here, to see if I was able to use anything Michelle mentioned to improve my relationship with myself.
I struggled hugely with body image issues as a teenager, and feel this is a big problem for many teens. Now in my 20's, I feel much better about it all, but can sometimes lose confidence, or attach my perception of self-worth with physical attributes. This was a good reason to go along and see what I could learn from Michelle.
Here's a quick summary of my favourite five points raised by Michelle
1) Negative thoughts are held up by evidence, if we look at the evidence we have got, it may be untrue. Michelle used an analogy of a tabletop, you can look for ways of discrediting your negative thinking.
Michelle suggested looking at people online who live positive lives, in spite of anything that you might worry is negative when you see it in yourself. Michelle spoke about how fat doesn't equal ugly, which is so true and incredibly easy to see by looking at some of the amazing plus-size models on Instagram!
2) The importance of holding core respect for your body
This point really resonated with me. Our bodies always do their best to keep us going, even if we are fighting illnesses. Michelle has had a number of surgeries, and hearing her talk openly about her health struggles made me feel less alone. This is why I try my best not to hide my health issues from people, as I might be able to help someone feel better.
I have tried to shift my perception of my body since hearing this, and am pleased that it's helped me though some bad days with my Fibromyalgia. Thinking that my body is trying its very best to be okay is much better than being angry at myself for not feeling very well, and means my day is improved even if I feel unwell due to feeling more positive and less annoyed.
3) The difference between 'body confidence' and 'body positivity'
Before coming to the talk, I wouldn't have been able to give confident descriptions of either of these terms. I was pleased to learn that body confidence is our individual relationship with ourselves, whereas the body positive movement is for marginalised people, and promotes the idea that all bodies are deserving of love and respect.
4) Stopping comparison with gratitude
I loved Michelle's tactic of thinking about what you're grateful for, in order to stop comparing yourself to others. I was thinking about this in reference to seeing someone you think is really attractive, and feeling ugly in comparison. Thinking about something you like about yourself would be really helpful in this situation. I also think this can be really useful for making us aware of other areas that are so much more important than physical characteristics. For example, thinking "I'm so lucky to have such good friends", will make you notice you're SO much more than how you look!
5) Start working on your life, not your appearance
If you told this to 14 year old me, I would have laughed at you - but I think after a bit of experience of adult life, this is so true. I worry less about how I look when I can get my confidence in other ways, such as working hard and enjoying hobbies/time with friends. The more you focus on your life, the less you'll care about how you think people perceive you to look.
I really urge you to check out Michelle's writing, it might really help with the really common issues lots of us face when it comes to feeling confident, in our bodies and beyond.
Thanks for reading!