Different cultures bring different expectations in how we interact with each other and feel about ourselves. Certain cultures put emphasis on skin tone, weight, height, and different traits/physical features. This includes how you talk, how you look, how you carry yourself and how physical attributes can make a difference in day-to-day life. Due to this, some people strive for suntanned skin, narrower facial shape, losing weight in a variety of unhealthy ways, slightly bigger distance of eyes, darker, narrower eyebrows, more, longer and darker lashes, higher cheekbones and so on. Some cultures put stress on fairer skin tone resulting in kids/teens using fairness cream, avoiding sunlight and going for facials at a very young age. This is done to attract guys for better proposals. However, other cultures put stress on having a certain weight or height in order to look like what they think is “attractive” or “acceptable.” The media, the people around us and popular culture could also be contributing to it since there is a typical body image/skin tone they promote. When an individual feels they don’t fit the criteria, it negatively affects their self-esteem and confidence. This results in long-term mental health problems such as anxiety before attending an important event, stress before meeting someone new, and even going out in public in the fear of being judged. In adolescents, this could lead to eating disorders, drug and alcohol use, cutting, bullying and sexual risk behaviors. However, the question is how we can differentiate ourselves from these ideologies.
Self-Acceptance A.K.A Self-Love
The first thing you can do for yourself is appreciate your beauty. Look into the mirror and appreciate how you have beautiful features. Feel good at all your sizes and accept who you are. Remind yourself through self-care. This means doing something great for your body. Dancing, light movements or even going for a quick massage. Sometimes putting some nail paint can put a smile on your face and appreciate the beauty of your hands. Discover what you like in terms of self-care and build confidence by being an observer not a judge, finding something to admire about yourself (could be your smile, eyes or even hair), practice mindfulness/breathing techniques, wear colors you love, or simply love being alive in the moment.
Stop Checking And Stop Comparing
As an individual you cannot change some people and their perception on body image but what you can do for yourself is stop checking and comparing. This involves comparing yourself with a celebrity, trying to have a certain facial feature because it is an “on-going” trend or viral and remind yourself about how originality is beautiful. Social media/television is not reality.
Share Your Knowledge And Wisdom
In some cases, you need to give people some piece of advice and wisdom because if it’s not done, they might keep on doing it. This will put your self-esteem down. You can give them a reality check on how these words make you feel, and the consequences attached to it. Remind them that everyone is different, and we have to accept who they are and how they are in order to bring peace to themselves and to others.
Leave When You Notice Negativity
In cases where you feel your opinion or advice won’t be valued or heard, what you can do is leave the negative environment. Politely, excuse yourself from the negative comment and ask that if this topic continues you would have to check out physically and mentally from here. This will help you to maintain self-confidence and not be in a conversation that is detrimental to your mental health.
Daily Reminders For Yourself
Remind yourself that you are beautiful by having a quote of the day for yourself and write that on a piece of paper and stick it on your fridge/ board/ wall. It could be something even as simple as, “Smile, you are beautiful” or “You are a strong, confident person”
Lastly, remember there is only “one” you and how you want to perceive yourself and move forward depends on YOU.
Fatima Noorali is our Short-Term Therapist (Intern) and is completing her Masters’s in Counselling Psychology at Yorkville University. One of Fatima’s areas of interest includes body-image. Fatima uses evidence-based modalities and an integrative approach in order to help her clients receive treatment that is personalized to their unique needs.