Body image and mental health | Advice for Young People | Jigsaw

Body image and mental health

Body image and mental health


Monday, 21 June 2021

Body image is the way we feel about how we look. Most of us experience dissatisfaction with how we see our body at different points in our life.

Very few people are 100% confident about how they look at all times. However, if the way we feel about our body starts to impact what we do and our choices in a negative way, we need to address this.

Difficulty with body image affects both boys and girls. In today’s society, there is focus on physical appearance and the ‘perfect body’. Social media emphasises this.

Scrolling through Instagram and comparing our bodies to those we see online is very common. This can distort our sense of body image and create unrealistic expectations for ourselves.

A girl looking into a mirror, blurry reflection
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Talk to one of our trained staff online if a negative body image is becoming a problem for you.

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Body image and mental health

A negative body image can have a significant impact on your mental health and can become a problem over time.

How a negative body image could be affecting you

  • Stops you from doing things you enjoy such as going to events, holidays, having meals out, or playing sport
  • Makes it difficult to eat in front of others
  • Hinders your ability to focus on things that are important to you such as work or study
  • Stops you from wearing the clothes you want
  • Causes you to spend a long time getting ready or checking your appearance in the mirror
  • Makes you avoid going swimming or getting changed in front of other people
  • Prevents you seeing your friends or important people as you are worried about how you look
  • Doesn’t allow you be the person you want to be.
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Most of us experience dissatisfaction with our body at different points in our life.

How to develop body confidence

As with all confidence, body confidence takes time and focus to develop. It may be helpful to see confidence as a muscle that you need to exercise. If your body image is negatively impacting your life, here are some things to think of:

Think about how our bodies are amazing

Each part of our body is designed to do something incredible. Noses allow us to smell a gorgeous bunch of flowers. Legs carry us to where we need to go. Skin holds all of our internal organs together. Lips help us to have conversations with others.

Rather than focusing on what we don’t like about the different parts of our body, be body positive. Look at what each part gives us or allows us to do.

Social media and body image

Who do you follow on social media? Are they balanced in the way they present themselves?

Many celebrities, YouTubers and influencers gain sponsorship based on their image. They spend a long time applying filters and adjusting angles to get ‘the perfect shot’. But remember, that is their job. They benefit financially from the time they put into this.

If our feeds constantly display images of perfection, this can give us a distorted sense of reality. Think about who you are following and ask yourself ‘why am I following this person’? Do they make you feel better about yourself when you see them on your feed? If the answer is no, unfollow and look elsewhere.

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When you are feeling critical about your body or looks, take a wider focus. Consider yourself as a whole person.

Accept the compliments

In Ireland, we can be very quick to dismiss compliments from people. We often focus on negative feedback we get on our body image and filter out the positive too.

The next time someone gives you a compliment, try to listen and note it. Accept it without dismissal. Respond with a simple ‘thank you, I appreciate that.’

Focus on your strengths

Choosing a mobile phone because it’s sleek and shiny rather than for its performance and reliability, can lead to frustration when it breaks down. As humans, how we appear on the outside is only a small part of who we are as a person.

Make a list of all your strengths, qualities and interests. These strengths cards may help. When you are feeling critical about your body or looks, take a wider focus. Consider yourself as a whole person.

Treat yourself as you would treat others

Do you say things to yourself about your appearance you would never say to a friend or someone you love? Listen to your ‘inner-voice’ and what you are telling yourself.

Write down all the negative things you say in your head about your body image. Imagine how you would respond to a friend if they said those things about themselves. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to someone else.

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