The media have moulded perceptions of what our bodies ‘should’ look like, ranging from harmful messages reinforced through TV shows, movies, social media and magazines! This has and continues create distorted perceptions of our appearance.
The movie Bridget Jones for example, I could list 100 things wrong with the movie with the primary reason being, how on earth was Bridget Jones considered ‘fat’?!
Now we all know that most of us, at some point in time, have wished that some part of our bodies looked a little different. However, if you find that you are totally preoccupied with a part of your body that you feel isn’t right, and you do certain things as a result, for example, constantly compare yourself to other people, you may have body dysmorphic disorder.
As part of our New Year, Same You campaign we spoke to ReachOut ambassador, Mimi, about her experience with body dysmorphia!
Here are some of the questions we asked Mimi on our podcast, After 20, and this is what she had to say…
Where did your journey with this start? Would you mind sharing with us a little bit about your story?
From a young age we are surrounded with input and messages about our bodies, how they should look, what size they should be and what we can do to change them. These messages can come from everywhere, from the media to the people around us to ourselves. As a teenage girl trying to navigate high school, hormones and social media the pressures to fit in and look a certain way became too much for me. I was trying to mould myself into this perfect narrative and I thought changing my body would achieve this. The thing about trying to change yourself to be perfect is that it is unrealistic as perfection doesn’t exist. I had a warped view of my body and wasn’t able to see this at the time.
How would define body dysmorphia or eating disorders in general? How do you think someone can recognise that maybe they are dealing with this issue in some way?
In my opinion, body dysmorphia is a mental illness that leads to an excessive focus on a perceived flaw and appearance. These flaws can be minor or imagined but someone with body dysmorphia can become obsessed with changing it. I think a person with body dysmorphia may do things like constantly change their appearance, spend an excessive time getting ready, excessive exercise or change in eating patterns as well as seeking constant reassurance about their appearance.
In what situations do you feel this issue harder than usual for you? Are there certain times where this issue would flare up and become more apparent for you?
For me, I would find that this would flare up when I was dealing with intense emotions, life challenges or stresses, in social settings and even in relationships. For a long time, I tied myself up with my appearance when I was struggling with emotions or anxiety.
I would then focus on finding these supposed ‘flaws’ in my appearance and trying to change them rather than dealing with what was actually going on in my head.
How have you gone about combatting this issue for yourself? Where did you start in terms of seeking help or making changes in your life?
I started by reaching out to my friends and family. I also found some great resources such as ReachOut and a combination of everything gave me some understanding of what I was going through and that I wasn’t alone. I spoke with my GP, psychologist and other healthcare professionals.
I did a lot of online self-study, read books about body image and eating disorders and followed lots of great accounts online that promote positive body image.
I’m not saying any of these things are an instant fix or magical cure, but implementing things into your life to help you better equip yourself to deal with the challenges your mind can throw at you helped me.
What are the most helpful things that you do when it comes to combating some of that negative self-talk?
I’m a lot better at combatting negative self-talk these days, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen and is always easy. Taking some deep breaths and writing things down, getting fresh air, going for a walk, or trying to change up the task at hand is a bit of a re-set.
I find if I think that I would never speak like this to someone I love so why am I speaking to myself like this? This can change the way you speak to yourself about yourself.
What is your advice to people who are suffering with a similar problem? What would be the one thing you would tell them?
Regardless of how you see yourself mentally, physically, or emotionally, you are worthy. Simply by being a living, breathing human being on this planet. You don’t have to change yourself to be worthy or to deserve your own love. Please reach out for support and know that you are not alone, and it can get better.
What is your advice to other people when it comes to dealing with someone who they know may be struggling with body dysmorphia?
There is so much support out there to assist loved ones to support the person who is struggling with body dysmorphia. Reachout.com has great resources for both young people and parents of teens. One thing that really helped me when I spoke to my parents about struggling with my eating disorder and body image was their immense support for me in that moment.
They didn’t have all the answers in that moment and probably would’ve been in shock. However, they had a lot to learn on my mental health journey to support me regardless. They let me know they were there for me and that we would figure it out. You don’t need to have all the answers help someone but by being there for them and letting you know you care for them is a great place to start.
If you want to hear more from Mimi make sure you check out our interview with her here on After 20.
And don’t forget, for the entire month of January, tbh Skincare is donating 10% of all revenue to ReachOut Australia to support the mental health of young Australians.