Written by Maria Tayo
Hi guys 👋 Welcome back to the DBE blog!
Today’s blog is focused on body image and how this can affect your mental health.
Most of you will know that this week was mental health awareness week and the theme for this year is body image. In today’s post I am going to briefly speak about poor mental health resulting from how we view ourselves physically, sharing a little from my personal experience.
1 in 8 UK adults have suicidal thoughts over body image
According to one of the largest polls on the issue, for the Mental Health Foundation, one in eight people aged 18 and above have been so distressed about their body image that they have thought about killing themselves. Now I believe the amount is probably more for younger people, especially in this social media age. Unfortunately, it is not everyone who will voice their thoughts out so it is quite difficult to have an accurate figure.
Social media has had an even bigger impact on this issue, placing more pressure on people in respect of their body image; how they look, how much they weigh, and even how other people view them. Now these days it could go two ways; people seeing images on social media, comparing and suffering in silence, or on the other end of the spectrum, many more people saying they are suffering with mental health issues, causing some people to question whether it has become a trend. Regardless of these two different concerns, it is clear that it is a massive issue in society today and due to this important issue, some have been led to suicide.
Now, about 8 years ago (2011) I did not like my body. I’ve always been ‘skinny’ and growing up in the African community being skinny was not cute. I remember the days when I would come home from uni after a long period of time and receive comments from aunties like “ah ah, don’t you eat” or “omgsh you need to put on more weight” and so on. Being insecure at the time, the only thing I could think of was, “Maria you need to put on some more weight”. I tried and tried but no matter how much I ate I would not put on any weight, infact it only made me stressed. At the time the comments used to affect me, but I always kept silent. It wasn’t until I became confident in who I was from the inside out, that I was able to love my body, accept myself for the way I looked, whether that was skinny or thick, dark or light, tall or short. The comments stopped affecting me and funny enough they eventually stopped. Maybe it was just what I needed in order to accept myself for who I was and take time to work on my self confidence. It took a while but I got there in the end. This is kind of where DBE came from as during this period I started to work on myself in order to become better in the different areas of my life.
I have heard stories of people and even have close friends who have mentioned to me that they have struggled with their self-image and body size (ranging from all different sizes). And, all I ever say to them is that you must be secure/content from the inside out (Now as a Christian, self-worth is found in Christ). Many people believe that if they change their size (from thick to slim for example or vice versa or if they have a surgery of some kind) then they will be happy. But I do not believe this is true (some people may disagree). I believe true contentment, true self-love starts from within and starts from the mind.
So how did I get from being insecure about my body size to loving it just the way it is?
● Acceptance – I’ve come to the acceptance that my current body size is the way my body is set up, if that makes sense. Now I believe it differs for everyone as some people’s body size can easily fluctuate. If you believe that you need to lose or add weight then that’s amazing but make sure that you are doing it for you and that you accept yourself for who you are regardless of what size you currently are.
● Protection – Yes, during that time I had to protect my mind & eyes and even up to now I still do. I believe that when we do not protect our mind and our eyes this is where it could easily have an impact on our mental health. What do you need to protect yourself from? Certain pages/images on social media, certain people who are negatively affecting you (not those that are actually trying to help you) or maybe you need to protect yourself from a negative mindset. Take some time to evaluate what you need to protect yourself from and then take action!
● Affirmations – Yes positive affirmations really do help! Speak into your spirit concerning your body image and mental health. Tell yourself that you are beautiful, that you have an amazing body, that you love yourself and you are confident in who God created you to be. Repeat this as many times as you need to.
● Reality check – And sometimes all that is needed is a reality check! This may be facing the deeper issue of what may be making you insecure about your body image (a past experience, a previous comment?), or understanding the triggers that affect you mentally. Do not be afraid to speak to someone that you trust. Never suffer in silence.
Sometimes we do not realise the effect our words have on people, especially when we comment on their physical appearance. Just because of words some people have become depressed and even worse suicidal. Yes we can be truthful to our loved ones in order to help them, but let us be aware of the words of our mouth & use it to encourage rather than discourage.
Take care of your physical health as well as your mental health.
It’s time for reflection guys. Take some time to reflect on where you are currently regarding your mental health. Are there some changes that need to be made? Are there some realities that need to be faced? Or is it time to commit to loving yourself no matter how your body looks?
And lastly, just a quick encouragement for anyone who may have experienced or may be experiencing sadness, depression, stress or any other mental health issue due to your body image. You are beautiful, God loves you and if you need help do you not be afraid to speak out!
I would love to hear your comments on this issue, so don’t forget to comment below!
With love ❤
DBE (Do better Everyday) Connect with us on Instagram @dbe__uk.