Young people have put the spotlight on body-image concerns in a new survey, naming it as one of the top three personal issues facing Australian youth.
The latest Mission Australia National Youth Survey, the largest body of research of its kind in Australia, questioned 22,000 15 to 19 year-olds.
While the findings are extremely concerning, they are not surprising. Butterfly know that one in five students say they have missed school because they feel they don’t look good enough and 31 per cent of teenagers are withdrawing from classroom conversations because they don’t want to draw attention to the way they look.
This pervasive problem is concerning because overvaluing body image in defining ones self-worth is one of the risk factors which makes some people less resilient to eating disorders than others. People experiencing body dissatisfaction can become fixated on trying to change their body shape, which can lead to unhealthy practices with food and exercise.
Body-image is an internal process but can be influenced by several external factors. For example, family, friends, acquaintances, teachers and the media all have an impact on how a person sees and feels about themselves and their appearance.
While changing your actual appearance can be counterproductive, improving your body image is a positive action. We have the power to change the way we see, feel and think about our bodies.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Focusing on your positive qualities, skills and talents can help you accept and appreciate your whole self
- Say positive things to yourself every day
- Avoid negative or berating self-talk
- Focusing on appreciating and respecting what your body can do will help you to feel more positively about it
- Setting positive, health focused goals rather than weight loss related ones is more beneficial for your overall wellbeing
- Admiring others’ beauty can improve your own body confidence but it is important to appreciate your own beauty, avoid comparing yourself to others, accept yourself as a whole and remember that everyone is unique and differences are what make us special
- Remember, many media images are unrealistic and represent a minority of the population
- Programs that effectively increase positive body image focus on reducing risk factors (e.g. thin ideal internalization, peer pressure, bullying and ‘fat talk’, perfectionism) and increasing protective factors (e.g. self-esteem, social support, non-competitive physical activity, healthy eating behaviours and attitudes, respect for diversity).
- If you feel dissatisfied with your body or are developing unhealthy eating or exercise habits seek professional help. Some counsellors and psychologists have specialised knowledge in body image. Professional support can help guide you to change negative beliefs and behaviours.
And remember, if you, or if someone you know, is experiencing body-image issues, you can talk to us. Call our National Helpline on 1800 33 4673, or chat to our support staff via our online webchat (Mon-Fri 8am-9pm AEST.)