Dr Anna Spivack BSc, MSc, DPsych, CPsychol wrote:
It would be fair to say that self-esteem and body image are intrinsically linked… “I feel rubbish about myself – therefore I feel rubbish about my body”. And there are so many factors, both environmental and personal, which contribute to both poor self-esteem and an affected body-image.
The issue at hand here is how do we heal our negative thoughts about our bodies and ourselves? Well, it’s definitely not easy with the constant deluge of media messages that thin = beautiful; glamorising stick-thin models in glossy adverts. Especially when they’re simultaneously giving us conflicting messages, bombarding us with adverts for snacks and unhealthy food, tempting us with food, and criticising celebrities for being too thin and accusing them of having eating disorders. Confusing, huh?
Then I got to thinking – have eating disorders increased because they are so widely publicised, therefore laying the idea in vulnerable people’s minds (broadcasting thinness as glamorous and successful), or are the media simply portraying the epidemic proportions of eating disorders as they are? Essentially, it’s a chicken or egg scenario – what came first- the media banging on about eating disorders and increasing the numbers who suffer from them, or the eating disorders themselves?
The media certainly have a lot to answer for. And then we’re just left with all these conflicting messages to deal with alone. And equally as vulnerable, if not more so, than we were before. I see so many patients who come to see me literally despising their bodies – wanting to rip their flesh off and hurl it at the wall. They often see this as a surface problem at first – stating “society expects me to be thin” or “I just hate my body and it’s that which is making me unhappy” – but every single patient, without fail, discovers something deeper linked to a pre-existing unhappiness within themselves which emerges upon therapeutic exploration.
What we need in times like this is support. Guidance. Empathy. Understanding from others. Identification with peers who are experiencing similar worries. Permission to see ourselves as beautiful whatever our size. This is what Project Dare is seeking to facilitate through inspiring workshops. They are truly outstanding in allowing us to connect with our bodies, understand our bodies and essentially love our bodies. The media will always be there. But we have to find a way to block their confusing messages out. To look at our bodies and “live” in and “be” in them. Our bodies will always be there wherever we are. We can’t escape them. Better to learn to love them and be happy, than spend the rest of our lives despising them and being unhappy…