Posted: 18 May 2020

Being body positive

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week - and we're thinking about body positivity, in all its forms.  

‘I love my body’, says hardly anyone ever. And how appalling is that? Traditionally women’s bodies were always criticised, objectified and held up to impossibly high standards. But more recently men have also been sold an illusion of an unattainable body, meaning that nowadays both sexes feel that their bodies are inadequate and something to feel ashamed of.  

Body positivity movement 

After decades of being told that we’re not perfect if our bodies don’t conform to certain sizes, ability or ethnicity, the body positive movement is biting back. Too often comments or our own lack of self-worth around our bodies lead us to be anxious, worried or even scared of our own natural shape.  

Self-esteem comes from within, but it is influenced by lots of things and lots of people: it is an ongoing emotion, built over time. Yet, time and time again big brand ad campaigns, magazines, TV, film and society as a whole have conformed to an idealised, impossible version of what a man or woman’s body should look like. Leaving our collective self-esteem in tatters. 

Young people’s mental health and body positivity

As our Good Childhood research from last year shows, appearance, including body image and toxic gender stereotypes are having a terrible effect on our youngest teenagers. Statistics show that nearly one in twelve boys aged 10-15 are unhappy with their appearance. Historically, boys have been happier with their appearance than girls but the gap is narrowing. Many young people attribute this trend to the accessibility of unrealistic body images on social media. 

'Social media already has met its down fall. Forcing girls and boys to be something they're not' - young person

A young female we talked to for this year's Good Childhood research says, 'I think that social media has a very bad influence on young people these days. People think that they have to look a certain way and act a certain way. I feel that Instagram has had the worst result on teenagers as people compare themselves to social influencers because they think they have the “perfect body + life”. This mentally affects teenagers as they think they are not good enough'.

Social media undoubtedly has a huge influence on the young generation. Toxic imagery and attitudes are instantly accessible, however the body positive movement is fighting back and trying to use social media for good. 

The body positive movement provides healthy role models for young people, and brands slowly begin to follow. The findings in our report show that we have to move faster to a society in which bodies aren’t one-size fits all and we can all be healthy and happy in our own skin. 

Body positivity trail blazers 

As influencers have risen, so has the body positivity movement. Brands are no longer able to get away with not being inclusive as they’re called out for ad campaigns that are unrepresentative and sizing that most of the nation would fail to fit into. 

Promoting healthy attitudes to all body shapes, sizes, ethnicity and ability, the influencers below are our top recommendations of people to follow:

Stephanie Yeboah - Stephanie describes herself as a 'Body Image & Self Love Advocate' - on her insta she's talks openly on mental health, body confidence & loving yourself.

Kelvin Davis - 'Body Positive Gentleman' Kelvin is the creator of body positive men's fashion blog 'Notoriously Dapper'.

Lou Northcote - 'acne positivity' activist Lou created the #FreeThePimple campaign on insta - sharing her journey to accepting her skin the way it is.

fashionbellee - Sophie Bradbury-Cox's insta feed is an ode to bold colours & prints - and provides the representation of wheelchair users she didn't have growing up: 'I didn't see many wheelchair users at all in media, let alone related to fashion'.

GurlsTalk – Created by top fashion model Adwoa Aboah and Holly Gore the insta account and website aims to be a safe space to share and listen without judgement or stigma.  

Bodyposipanda - An author and influencer, from inspirational quotes to killer photos of her gorgeous body and a few belly love tips in between, bodyposipanda helps get you out of bed in the morning. 

Jonathan Van Ness - Well known for his role as a grooming guru on Queer Eye, he's a podcaster, figure skater, author and much more.

As a society, we need to be more positive, inclusive and attainable in setting out what it means to be a young person moving into adulthood. Only by listening to young people can we help them overcome the challenges of modern childhood & feel confident to be themselves.

By Amy Dennis

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