The other day I came across this article by Girls Gone Strong about feeling good about yourself, and I’ve been thinking about it on and off ever since. It happened to land in my inbox at the right time because it really resonates with a few ideas I’ve had buzzing around my brain recently about negative self image.
It also just so happens to coincide nicely with an event that has recently been flooding social media/the news/everywhere I look: the Victoria’s Secret Show – aka the annual let’s make women feel bad about their bodies show :p
Okay, so the Victoria’s Secret Show, as I’m sure you know, is an annual parade of beautiful, slim, long-legged nymph-like wonderbeings, dressed in impossible combinations of underwear and showgirl style backpacks. (See exhibit A:)
Now obviously this is just a show like any other fashion show; they use the girls like walking clothes hangers and it’s all about the glitz and glamour. However, as with most marketing aimed at women and girls, there is still an undercurrent of subtly saying, “Hey, buy these things and you might be as beautiful as these women!”
So that’s where the Girls Gone Strong article comes in.
“As women, we’re supposed to be a perfect combination of features… many of which require possessing a certain set of genetic attributes.”
We are constantly bombarded with images of perfection, of ideal beauty, of the ideal body type. We are sold the idea that if we could only look a certain way, weigh a certain amount, be a certain thing, then we would be happy. It is increidbly hard, then, not to end up struggling with negative self image.
I am certainly not alone in suffering from anxiety and depression and a large part of this, for me at least, is linked to negative self image. The constant feeling of not being good enough, of not being attractive enough, of not being thin enough, of not being successful enough – in short, of not being enough of anything – slowly but surely eats away at confidence and self-esteem. These insecurities are detrimental to our health, both physical and mental, and are therefore detrimental to our life.
As Erin Brown says, “We are not, under any circumstances, supposed to feel good about our body or our appearance.” And this is constantly perpetuated by advertising companies, fashion magazines and – arguably the biggest contributor – social media.
The health impact of negative self image
As a culture we tend to focus on the symptoms of illnesses and I think often, especially with mental illness, it can be unclear what exactly the root cause is. For example, when I first realised that I needed help , I was told that I was simply suffering from work related stress and told to go on a stress management course. I knew that really wasn’t the issue and so I sought help from a therapist. Through her I came to realise how tied up with my feelings of low self-worth my anxiety and depression was. And I think this is probably true for many of us. Negative self image and anxiety/depression are definitely related. In fact, it can often be the reason for these mental health struggles in the first place.
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” ~William Shakespeare
We are our own worst critics and the things we say to ourselves, inside our own heads, can be incredibly negative and cruel. It is easy to be overwhelmed by that inner voice and to let it stop us from achieving what we are capable of. So we need to change the way we talk to, and about, ourselves. We are all beautiful, intelligent, powerful women in our own right. We need to embrace that, truly feel it and help other women feel the same.
“Perfection” as an ultimate goal doesn’t exist. We are each perfect in our own way. It’s just difficult to feel that (or to allow yourself to feel that).
I know how tough it can be to change our own internal dialogue. So here are three ways to help quieten your negative inner voice when it threatens to overwhelm you.
- Try writing down your negative thoughts. Once you have a sentence, change the “I” to a “you”. Imagine saying that to a friend, relative, or partner. This helps you put into perspective the things you’re saying to yourself (about yourself).
- If that doesn’t help. Try responding to the voice from the perspective of a compassionate friend. So, for example, “Why would anyone want to come to your classes?”, “You are an enthusiastic and fun teacher. You love helping others improve. Of course they would want to come”.
- Take a step back and reflect. If the negative voice is convincing you of all the things that could go wrong/might not work out how you want, remind yourself of all the times you succeeded. Think about all the problems you have overcome in life up to now, remind yourself how capable you really are.
Sneaky Bonus Tip…
Feeling bad about your life/your “lack of success”/ your appearance/ your weight (…the list goes on!)? Step away from the social media! Go meet your friends, get stuck into a book or take some time to pamper yourself – if you want some ideas sign up below, or click here! Remember, what you see on social media is not a true representation of someone’s life, it’s the “best” bits, with better lighting. 😉
Keep at it and don’t listen to that negative inner voice!
Everyone goes through tough times and everyone goes through good times. The key is to remember the positive moments when you feel like the negative is going to overwhelm you.
And, most important of all, remember that you are good enough. Write that down, look at it every day, and really feel it.
Now, go roll around in some glitter, Christmas is coming! <3
Speak soon lovelies,