Body Positivity: Your Self Esteem and Your Body
“Don’t you look at the mirror? You shouldn’t be wearing straight skirts with this your straight tree-like figure…”, echoed in Khadijah’s mind as she made to wear a black straight skirt for lectures.
Her friends always taunted her whenever she appeared in a straight skirt because of her figure which they perceive as ‘shapeless’. Not wanting to be ridiculed, she dropped the straight skirt she desired to don and opted for a baggy skirt that hung away from her body.
Although she wasn’t comfortable in the skirt, she gave up her choice because she didn’t want to be mocked by her friends again. Khadijah believes she wouldn’t have been mocked by friends if she was like Janet who had a plump body with huge hips.
Unknown to Khadijah, Janet’s body isn’t an exception to ridicule: She has huge hips and bum, and eyes are always on her. Men often objectify her as her body promises pleasurable sex. Janet is a brilliant girl with pleasant attributes aside from the “girl with big Barca” as she is mostly described. She doesn’t want to be loved for her appealing body alone, she wants people to see beyond her body and appreciate her brains. Janet isn’t free to wear what she wanted as others did, she has to wear what she considered appropriate enough to hide her body and keep eyes off her.
Perhaps, everyone thinks females are the only ones who suffer ridicule and mockery because of their body, but the ordeal of Abdul whom everyone calls “Devil’s lastborn”, begs to disagree.
Abdul has been in a battle with his self-esteem because of his small stature. Many call him a dwarf and even liken him to the devil (who is widely thought to be short). He isn’t ladies’ favourite because he doesn’t have a Prince Charming physique. He keeps off the radar of lecturers lest he be mocked with his stature in front of his classmates. Although, he isn’t talking about it, his body dampens his confidence.
Although, Joshua has gotten used to being called “Fatty bumbum|” by his friends, he’s always hated his fat stature and big stomach, starved himself severally with the notion that he is on a ‘diet’.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Rodiah was found searching ‘how to make my feet smaller’ on the internet because she has long, fat feet she is always ashamed to put out.
These and many more, are instances of negative body images we have as students on campus.
Body image has been a salient issue for students on campus. More than 70% of ladies dislike their bodies and yearn to change something about them. Males seem better off, with sadly more than 45% of them dissatisfied with their bodies.
Body image encompasses the thoughts and feelings about one’s body, including how it feels to move in that body, perceptions of body shape, and beliefs about appearance. Notwithstanding that body image issues are not a mental health condition, they can however be a risk factor for mental health problems such as depression, anxiety disorder and suicidal thoughts. The way we feel about ourselves has a lot of impact on our self-esteem.
Self-esteem is the confidence one has in himself. Simply put, it is how much you like and appreciate yourself. It plays a central role in the mental health of young people and it is influenced by factors such as body image, body weight, and academic performance, among others.
The adverse effects of negative body image on our self-esteem as students cannot be overemphasized as it can stretch through one’s lifespan; affecting their physical, social and academic self-concepts and result in low overall self-esteem.
However, in a world that puts value on form, it is important to know that everybody is different with unique body shapes, sizes and forms. Therefore, to protect our mental health, build our self-esteem and have a healthy body image, we all need to practice ‘Body Positivity’.
Body positivity is an assertion that all people deserve to have a positive body image, regardless of what our society and culture term ideal shape, size and appearance. It is the acceptance and appreciation of all types of bodies.
Although it comes with great efforts and determination, there are numerous ways we can work towards body positivity in order to boost our self-esteem and protect our mental health. Some of them are as follows:
Do not compare: According to Theodore Roosevelt, “comparison is the thief of joy”. Everybody is different. People happen in different shapes and sizes and being slender or fat doesn’t mean they’re less beautiful or handsome. We all have a unique characteristic that makes us stand out and that’s the most amazing thing about humans. Make people content with who they’re and not who you think they ought to be. You’re not supposed to look like someone else, you’re supposed to be you.
Cut out body-negative messages and absorb body-positive messages: Though the world is full of negative messages about bodies, you must drown out the negative messages with good messages. There are lot of insightful articles, quotes, stories and movies about good body image; make use of them and be the change you want to see.
Focus on yourself: We are much more than the way we look. We have great potentials to offer beyond our physical looks. Endeavour to spend more time thinking about other things than physical appearance. Remind yourself that your body isn’t an ornament to admire; it’s for doing the great things you have passion for. So, focus on who you’re as an individual.
Compliment others without malice: Oftentimes, we project our own insecurities onto other people. We treat them harshly because they’re better than us or because we feel threatened by their appearance. However, we can only be kind to ourselves when we’re kind to others. Give someone the compliment you wish you’d gotten when you needed it most. In a world where you can say anything, choose to tell someone they look dashing.
Surround yourself with positive individuals: The kind of company you keep has a lot of impact on your self-esteem. Being around positive and supportive friends help you feel more confident. Surround yourself with dependable and caring people. If your friends body-shame you, take it as a cue to leave them be.
It is also important to accept yourself for who you are. There’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ person, have confidence in your body, love yourself and be kind to others.
Remember, your mental health is also your wealth. Keep your dealings healthy!
NB: The names used are fictional.
Please drop your questions in our comment section and we’ll address them in the next edition.