#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek - Body Image and Mental Health

This week (13th - 20th May 2019) is Mental Health Awareness Week. This year, the theme is Body Image - how we think and feel about our bodies. 

Those of you who have followed me for some time will know that for about two years now, if not more, I have been an advocate for body positivity and self love. More recently, you may have seen me featured in a story in The Metro, talking about a body shaming incident I experienced on holiday and how I dealt with it. 

There's absolutely no denying that there is a direct correlation between body image and our mental health. I know that personally, when I'm experiencing a "bad body day" and don't feel very positively about my body, for whatever reason, my mental health goes down the drain too. Yet when we feel good about our bodies, this can be reflected in our mental health too. 

When I experienced body shaming in my bikini on holiday, I felt the lowest I had in a while. I believed the words I'd heard - calling me an eyesore and disgusting, amongst other things - were true. And even though the love and compliments I was receiving greatly outweighed the negatives, I still couldn't block out the nasty comments and it made me feel like crap. All I wanted to do was go home. 

It was a similar situation once The Metro had covered my story. Sure, I had a lot of compliments and praise coming in, which was amazing and so appreciated. But I also had some negativity, including being called a whale, told to get back in the sea, accused of being jobless and unemployed and much more. People can really be so cruel, and once again I found myself staring at photos of myself wondering who to believe - the people praising me and pushing me up or the people trying to drag me down. 

What I'm trying to say is, body image is more important than a lot of us seem to realise, even in big old 2019. That's why movements like the body positivity movement and the self love movement are more crucial than ever before - we quite literally need them to survive right now. 

Body positivity and self love allows us to really embrace ourselves and our bodies as they are, right then and there. Not after we've lost a few pounds, or undergone surgery, or had a hair cut or a makeover (although you're allowed to love yourself during and after all of those, obviously). It's about looking at yourself in the mirror and being happy - fulfilled - with what you see. 

A lot of people get it confused, because they think the two movements - particularly body positivity - are about health, and they're absolutely not. I'll say it again for the people at the back: body positivity is not about health. It's not about how much you weigh or your BMI. It's certainly not about "promoting obesity" (a very common misconception). It's about accepting and celebrating ALL body types. Fat, thin. Black, white, brown. Abled and disabled. Christian, Hindu, Jewish. Tattooed, hairy, scarred, spotty, freckly. Lumps, bumps, stretchmarks. Fat bums and big booms, flat bums and no boobs. Beer bellies, pot bellies, sagging skin and pock marked faces. What the movement is trying to tell you is that, it doesn't matter what you look like. You're okay. In fact, you're great, and you deserve to be here, accepted into society. 

No two bodies are the same and they're not designed to be either, because that's not how the world works. That's why celebrating - or at the very least, accepting - diversity is so god damn important. 

Not only that, but it's also important just to be nice? There's a valuable lesson to be learnt in the age old saying "If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all!" Sure, someone else's outfit might not be your cup of tea. Perhaps you don't like their makeup, or maybe you think they're not in great shape. Do they need to hear that? No, they do not. You don't gain anything by sharing your opinion, and they won't benefit from hearing it, so just don't share it! 

It's also important to remember that your opinions are all subjective... the internet has given everyone a sense of entitlement, a belief that all of their opinions are important, need to be heard there and then and are absolutely right no matter what. Sorry, but it's just not true. Some people love roses and some people prefer sunflowers. It doesn't mean that one of them is ugly and the other is not - different people just like different things. Your opinion isn't the holy grail and it's important to learn when it just doesn't need to be heard.

Your words can be hurtful and can be damaging to someone's mental health. You never know what kind of day someone has had, or what they might be going through - your words could be the thing that push them over the edge! They could go on to do some real harm to themselves, and then how would you feel? 

Body image and mental health can be such struggles, the least we can all do to help each other out is be nice and kind to people. 

Please know that this week - and every other week - you're not alone. There is always someone to talk to, be that a friend, a teacher, a neighbour, a family member, a charity like The Samaritans or a follower online. You can even talk to me, my DM's are always open. Whilst I'm not a trained doctor or counsellor, I can at least be a shoulder to cry from, offer some support and point you in the direction of professional help if needs be. 

Where possible, looking after your mental health should be a priority. Let's spend some time this week doing just that. 

Love from,
Florence Grace

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