According to Mission Australia’s 2019 youth survey, negative body image is the fourth largest concern among teenagers following mental health, bullying and coping with stress.
An American study quoted by the Health Research Funding Organisation in America found that 80% of American women said that the images of women in the media and magazines made them feel insecure; 42% of girls in grades 1-3 wanted to be thinner; 81% of 10 year-olds were frightened of being fat; and greater than 50% of teenage girls thought they should be on diets.
Body image refers to how someone sees their own body and how attractive they perceive themselves to be. Healthy body image is when an individual feels happy or comfortable about their body. They feel happy most of the time with the way they look, they feel good about themselves and they place value on who they are not what they look like.
Unhealthy body image is when an individual thinks about their body in a negative way. They might believe they are fat, not pretty or muscular enough, fixate on wanting to change their body shape, or believe their looks determine their value as a person.
There are a host of recommendations on professional websites that provide suggestions for challenging a negative body image, one of which is self-talk. Self-talk is basically our inner voice, the commentary continually running in the background of our mind, that can positively or negatively impact our self-confidence.
Positive self-talk helps individuals to feel good about themselves and the things that are happening in their life. For example, I can do this, I gave it my best shot, Things could be worse right now, I’ve put on 10 kilos but I still look great etc.
Negative self-talk makes an individual feel bad about themselves and their circumstances. It can even turn good situations into lousy ones. For example, I’m dumb, I’m ugly, Everyone thinks I’m an idiot, Everything in my life is crap and it’s not going to get better etc.
Changing an individual’s self-talk can have a big influence on how they feel about who they are. By challenging negative self-talk and replacing it with more positive thoughts, individuals can start to feel more in control of their lives. Like most things, it takes time and practice to become good at it.
Reachout.com suggests the following ways to help change the direction of self-talk:
1. Listen to what you’re saying to yourself.
· Is your self-talk mostly positive or negative?
· Each day, make notes on what you’re thinking.
2. Challenge your self-talk. Ask yourself things like:
· Is there actual evidence for what I’m thinking?
· What would I say if a friend were in a similar situation?
· Can I do anything to change what I’m feeling bad about?
3. Change your self-talk.
· Make a list of the positive things about yourself.
· Instead of saying: ‘I’ll never be able to do this’, try: ‘Is there anything I can do that will help me do this?’
Following an email from one of our Year 11 students requesting a focus on body image, our Senior Student Council members have been writing body-positive affirmations on our bathroom mirrors this week for all students to read. The feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive about the effect this simple act has had on their mindset for the day. It is affirming to see how our girls can generate ideas and strategies that support each other and are meaningful. Well done to everyone involved!
Deputy Principal - Students