Our bodies are our homes. We live with them our entire lives and, try as we might, we can’t just jump into another set of skin. In whatever condition you’re born in, you only have one body that’s going to carry you through the tough times, so we should show that body respect, right? In theory, yes, we should, but that’s much easier said than done. Negative body image effects so many people all over the world, and it’s something that can’t just be fixed over night.
From a very young age, we are constantly objected to people talking about how we should look, what we should eat, what we should wear, and everything else in between. We form very low opinions of ourselves, which, for some, can manifest into depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and many other conditions. This judgement from others also means that society has developed certain understandings about body image that just aren’t true, and it’s sometimes to maintain perspective on that. Here are 5 myths about body image that need to be shut down.
There Are ‘Bad’ Foods
No, no, no, there is no such thing as a ‘bad’ food! Everybody knows that food can be really good – as in “damn, that macaroni cheese with truffles tasted otherworldly” – but it cannot be deemed as bad. So, food isn’t created equal, we all know that. A chocolate muffin does not have the same amount of protein as a boiled egg does, but does that make it wrong to eat the chocolate muffin? No! Have that damn chocolate muffin if you want it, and enjoy it because it’s perfectly fine to eat!
This idea of ‘bad food’ only breeds further negative thinking. By labelling a food as ‘bad’, we are, in a way, telling ourselves that we’re also bad if we eat it. By labelling a food as unhealthy, we think that we’re unhealthy if we include it into our diets, and this just isn’t the case. No, a plate of broccoli and a croissant don’t have the same nutritional value, but who’s to say which one you should and could eat, and which one you can’t? Body image shouldn’t be focused around what food is deemed ‘good’ and what’s not.
As somebody with an extreme eating disorder who has been suffering for years and years, I know how hard this is to wrap your head around – and I still haven’t. I can sit here and tell you all about how food cannot be ‘bad’, but I can’t really bring myself to believe that myself. I can tell you to eat that chocolate muffin but I can’t do it myself (I wish I could). However, the difference is that I know it’s not logical. I know that it’s not logical to not be able to understand the words that I’m saying, but that’s the reality of mental illness, unfortunately. However, I’m battling against these thoughts and reminding myself of these myths every day so that I can slowly overcome the voice of my mental illness. I may not believe it right now, but I have hope that I will be able to one day. All in all, though, no food is bad. It might be prepared badly – you could burn the quiche, and that would make it taste horrible – but it’s not bad inherently.
Being Overweight Means Being Unhealthy
Ugh, this is a myth that is played into all the time, whether that be a socialite magazine or a healthcare professional. It’s important to note that being overweight does not automatically make you unhealthy – not at all! And, likewise, no specific weight is going to make you automatically healthy, either. We live in a society that constantly tells us that being overweight means that you’re damaging your body, when this isn’t the case.
Instead of trying to shame body into losing weight by making them feel like they’re burdening their body, we need to focus on raising attention to the fact that you can be healthy regardless of your weight. That should be our main priority – health, instead of numbers.
Negative Body Image Only Effects Women
A lot of women suffer from negative body image for one reason or another – that’s just an unfortunate fact – but this does not mean that it’s only women who suffer from negative self-esteem. So many men and people who otherwise categorise themselves outside of the gender binary also suffer from negative self image. However, because of the society that we live in, they feel like they can’t speak out about their struggles as they suffer from the fear of seeming weak. Notably, men feel like they can’t voice their own feelings because they don’t want to seem like negative body image is something that effects them, as, for some reason, it’s a taboo topic.
Though, this shouldn’t be the case. Negative body image can effect any person no matter their weight, their age, their ethnicity, or their gender, and it doesn’t discriminate. We should strive to make our communities a safe space for people to speak out about their individual struggles and make their connections to get the help and support that they need to overcome their self-negativity.
You Have To Change Your Body To Feel Positive
Admittedly, this is another one that I struggle to write, as it’s something that I struggle with believing, but I know that it’s true. There’s the misconception that we have to change our bodies to feel good about ourselves, when this isn’t the reality at all. Even if you do make a change, you’ll probably find that you feel even worse than you did before because you’re trying to achieve the impossible. As you won’t be happy enough, you’re just going to feel worse off.
Learning to love yourself and be satisfied with how you look is a long process – and it’s one that not a lot of us are committed to. Loving yourself, or even just liking yourself, isn’t an overnight process, but you need to be aware that, no matter what you change, it’s what’s inside that matters. As cliche as that sounds, you can dye your hair any colour you want, but it’s not going to make you accept yourself any more.
Your Image Of Yourself Is Accurate
This is a funny one, because it’s probably the one I struggle with most, but I’m using logic and facts and maintaining that informational perspective! While we may be so sure and so certain that we see ourselves in the correct light, we actually couldn’t be more wrong. Our perspective of ourselves and our body image are so warped that we see ourselves in a completely different way than other people see us. There’s actually research to suggest that we wouldn’t recognise ourselves if we saw ourselves walking down a street, as we’re so used to see ourselves in mirrors and images that distort the way we actually look.
That alone is strange to think about, but it’s true. We see ourselves so differently from the way that other people see us – and just because we have a negative image of our bodies doesn’t mean that other people do as well.
There are so many more myths about body image that we need to start making an effort to combat, but these are a few that we can start with.
What other myths about body image have you been taught and are challenging?