This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness week and Mind Your Head society has put together a series of events across the week to raise awareness and to encourage positive body image. Here, Olivia Luder decides it’s time for everyone to start feeling as beautiful as they are…
What do you talk about with your friends?
Here are a few of my favourite conversation topics: my favourite TV shows, food, how much sleep I got last night and, oh, how much I hate my face, body and basically everything about myself.
Sadly, I bet that last one doesn’t make me such a special snowflake: I can’t remember the last time I had a DMC (deep meaningful conversation for all you not-so-clued-up individuals) with a female friend without mentioning something about how ugly we both feel.
Feeling ugly isn’t just something every girl seems to experience from time to time, it’s almost like a badge we display to the world to let everyone know that – yes, we know we’re not good enough. Dare to express any joy over your appearance and the monster of low self-esteem is sure to raise its head when you’re most vulnerable, punishing you for being so bold as to try and not hate yourself.
Obviously there are degrees here and I sincerely hope that there are girls and women out there who are completely happy with themselves. But if there are, I don’t think I’ve ever met one.
Body Gossip, a campaign group that promotes positive body image, released statistics in 2013 stating that 30% of boys and 70% of girls aged 11-19 cite their relationship with their body their number one worry. One in ten will develop an eating disorder before the age of 25.
On a purely anecdotal level, it is all too often that friends admit to struggling with some form of disordered eating as a result of negative body image.
Now, more than ever, we need to talk about these issues. But it is time to rework the conversation.
It’s time to stop letting each other insult ourselves. It’s time to stop your friends from grabbing a handful of their thigh and declaring it to be ‘disgusting’. It’s time we all stopped talking about how ugly we are and started talking about how we can change the way we think about ourselves.
As with changing any deeply ingrained thought pattern, it’s easier said than done. If I’m honest, I can’t really imagine being happy with myself – frustratingly, you can’t flip a switch and suddenly love your body Gok Wan style.
But that’s all the more reason to give this a try.
One of the most helpful ways I’ve found to approach this is to focus on how I feel when I listen to a friend, a beautiful, talented, funny, intelligent, wonderful friend who has everything going for her, confess how utterly, hopelessly ugly she thinks, no – knows she is.
I think about how sad it is that she can’t see how incredible she is and I think about how I wish I could say something to change her mind, even though I know I can’t. And then I remember that she’s just spent the past half hour listening to me go on about how miserably disgusting I feel.
For all of you struggling to get past how monstrous you feel you look, have you ever once thought the same about your friends? Of course not.
Forgive me for being trite here but I can say with complete certainty that all my friends – male and female, young and old – are beautiful.
Granted this does ring a little false – not everyone is Bar Rafaeli – so, as with most things in life, I’m going to turn to Doctor Who for a little assistance. Amy Pond said it best when she explained what made Rory beautiful to her:
You know when, sometimes you meet someone so beautiful, and then you actually talk to them and five minutes later, they’re as dull as a brick?
Then there’s other people, and you meet them and you think, ‘Not bad; they’re okay.’ And then you get to know them, and their face sort of becomes them, like their personality is written all over it.
And they just turn into something so beautiful.
You are beautiful every time you laugh really, really hard because your housemate did a spot-on impression of Grumpy Cat. You are beautiful every time you make someone a cup of tea because they look a bit tired.
You’re even beautiful when you’ve pulled an all-nighter and you probably haven’t washed in three days but still manage to break out into hysterical giggles when you see someone you know.
So be your own friend, be your own cheerleader. Listen to the kind words you tell everyone but yourself. And most of all, when a random article on the internet tells you that you’re beautiful, believe it!
(Ed. note – This article takes a look at the issue of negative body image in relation to a female experience. However, this is most definitely an issue that affects many people regardless of gender. Look out for articles across Eating Disorders Awareness Week from both male and female perspectives!)
Olivia Luder, Online Editor
Charity Student Minds have information about support for body image issues and eating disorders here.bookmark me