Beyond your body.

When first thrust into uni life, students are overwhelmed with new people of all shapes and sizes and fully confronted with how they may look in comparison. Provoking feelings of anxiousness, wishing they could fit into that category too, and thus a cycle of fad diets, social media trends and consciousness ensues. But would we have these issues if not for social media ensuring the latest beauty standard is only a swipe away, feeding us a steady diet of body ideals?

Body image, what is it?

Body image doesn’t just include your actual body, but what you do because of what you think about yourself, like holding a pillow in front of your lap when you sit down to hide stomach rolls, not wanting to attract attention, put yourself out there, or always being the one to take the photos because you dread seeing yourself in them. Body image can come in thousands of forms, no matter how trivial they seem to others, but they’re not something we must live with and certainly not something that should dictate and ruin these precious university years.

There are three components to body image, the mental picture of how you see yourself, your thoughts and emotions surrounding that picture and what you do in response to it, like wearing make-up or going to the gym. Since these points all reinforce each other it’s all too easy to become trapped in a negative cycle and push yourself further into a spiral of shame. On the other hand, if you can manage to push just one of these components off balance – the others will soon follow!

One of the first steps to this is realising that your insecurities aren’t natural, they come from an external source, years of socialisation. Although many people may call this their inner critic, I don’t think this is accurate when it isn’t critically examining all the facts before it whacks out the insult that you’re too fat to wear that outfit!

Re-writing your mental script

So how do we re-write this mental script? Ultimately the goal is to understand that it doesn’t matter where you sit on societies beauty scale, one ‘bad’ picture shouldn’t determine how you view yourself when angles and lighting are involved, attraction isn’t fixed, it’s variable. The simple answer is people view themselves more negatively, but a lot less accurately and to start changing this we accept these facts.

Obviously that truth is way too simplistic and isn’t anything new, but it’s working towards changing that mental script that matters!

1. Acknowledge that everyone is living a life as complex and vivid as your own, everyone is their own main character and really don’t care about you, you don’t affect them!

2. Start your day with a positive affirmation about yourself, slowly re-wire the negative mental script!

3. Sit down and really think about what makes you happy, not what social media is telling you will make you happy! This also means you’ll buy more sustainably and reduce your carbon footprint with things like fast fashion!

4. Get rid of influences who don’t look like you and flood your page with positivity! Unfollow anyone who makes you feel rubbish about yourself.

A few I love are –

@midsizegal

@scarrednotscared

@notyoutgrandmasuk

@meganjaycrabbe

5. Conclude that the world will keep turning no matter what you do, so do what you want! The only person who can make you truly happy is yourself, meet and befriend who you really are and don’t feel guilty about your natural self.