The body affects the mind and the mind affects the body.
The COVID era has given us immense time to look inwards. And it is due to the strong indictment of the insurmountable ‘beauty’ pressures we face that even during a global pandemic we feel we must consider our appearance.
While recent times have seen a wave of body positivity movement on social media, for people with physical preoccupations and body dysmorphic disorder this is harder than assumed. Nearly 80% of the teenage girls report fears of becoming ‘fat’ and about 25% men are found to be highly concerned about their ‘muscularity and leanness’ clearly highlighting our recognition of our bodies as part of both- a visual and virtual culture, where body-shaming is a serious issue!
Not only has the virus profoundly affected and transformed all of our lives, but also intensified body image struggles. Thus making it vital to weigh the importance of body image when we take into account mental health issues. Body image here, pertaining not just to what we see in the mirror (physical) but, to the way we view ourselves in our minds – perceptual, attitudinal, and behavioural components.
Body & mind workshop
The ‘body image’ dynamic, recognized more easily for women, affects all age groups. Such concerns are not only- impairing, preoccupying and distressing, but also require a great deal of mental energy and can detract one from a quality life. The lack of awareness and the bleak state of men’s mental health often leads us to believe that such concerns are unnatural for men. Such beliefs are backed up by the desired virility of men in our society who are conditioned not to discuss their body image concerns, and thus bury them deep within. Such behaviour highlights another underlying problem that delays or even impedes help-seeking behaviour thus leading to an increased incidence of self-loathing and disgust.
Further, the exposure to media and an idealized body type which constantly tells us our body should look like ‘’this’’ then and ironically tells us to ‘’ be yourself’’ then takes the form of body dissatisfaction, often observed in eating disorders. This is rooted in our preoccupation with looking ‘desirable’ as the black glasses we wear when hooked to our screens distorts the reality for us. Body issues are more often than not accompanied by harmful habits such as restrictive eating, vigorous exercising, purging etc, severing the connection between the mind-and the-body.
This makes it imperative for us as individuals to know the signs or red flags when help and support are needed. The first step is to confide in a loved one or seeking professional help. Not only does this require breaking the stigma associated with therapy but also the lesson that- ‘anything human is mentionable and anything mentionable is manageable’, therefore verbalizing our negative feelings and allowing ourselves to unlearn and relearn, and not let society dictate to us how our bodies should look like.
We must realize that quarantine has not given us time to sculpt ourselves but rather, it’s about keeping well and staying safe, which entails mental health. Recognizing the importance of non-weight and non-appearance-based factors are pivotal contributors in recovering from over-evaluation and body preoccupation.
In addressing body image issues, the problem does not lie in our body but the way we ‘think’ about it, and ourselves. Lots of people struggle with accepting their bodies on a daily basis and some effective ways of building a positive body image are:
-Ditch the witch: Learn to love and respect your body for all that it can do. Your body is amazing!
-Be aware of the messages the media is giving you – avoid ones that say you need to change or that just focus on how you look
-Do things that you enjoy, that make you feel great, or that you are good at
-Try not to compare yourself to people in magazines as they’re often changed to look perfect – they aren’t real
-Write a list of your positive qualities and read it often – add to it when you discover more things you like about yourself
In a society that constantly tells you how, when, and what you should love about yourself, being humans who accept their bodies is a brave thing to do. In the same way, in a society that’s constantly shaped by what is desirable to others, loving yourself is a rebellious act.
Lastly, remember that- slow progress is still progress!