Posted: 05 September 2019

Being body positive

‘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. 

This year’s mental health week focussed on body image and for good reason – 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 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. 

Jameela Jalil social influencers

Promoting healthy attitudes to all body shapes, sizes, ethnicity and ability, the influencers below are our top recommendations of people to follow. However, while they can provide young people with much healthier role models to aspire to, the findings in our Good Childhood Report prove that big business has to move faster to shift society's perceptions of a healthy body, showing that there is no ‘normal'. 

Jameela Jamil - Founder of iWeigh, another great account to follow, Jameela shuts down diet ads, trolls and brands that just aren’t doing enough to be inclusive. Her iWeigh in conversation films are really inspiring. 

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 and face their future with hope, confidence and optimism.


By Amy Dennis

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