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May 13th marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week and this years theme is Body Image. 

Body image issues can affect all of us, at any age, body shape, or gender and while everyone is affected by body image concerns every so often, if it becomes compulsive, then it may become a problem. 

Body dysmorphia is a mental health condition (note: this is different from an eating disorder) where you concentrate on the so-called “flaws” your body has, and feel that you must change yourself through excessive exercising, weighing yourself compulsively and comparing yourself to online images, celebrities or influencers.

It’s OK to want to feel good in yourself, or to want to better yourself in whichever way, but we also need to broaden the standards of what we classify as 'attractive'. It’s always changing anyway, so there’s no point in deviating too far from where your body needs to be because at any given time the trend will change from thick thighs to thigh gaps, to abs to curves.

It's important to remember that there isn’t a single type of beauty - everyone sees it differently. And there simply isn’t a right or a wrong way to look. But if you're struggling, here are some things you can do.

  • Be kind to yourself and your mind. Try not to compare yourself to the images you see on social media, in magazines or on TV. 
  • Focus on the things you like about yourself, and the parts of your body that you like. We know this can be hard, but at least give it a try!
  • Spend time with people who make you feel positive about yourself. Write down the nice things people say to you, and not just about how you look. Remember, people value you for many reasons rather than just your appearance. 
  • Think about what advice you would give a friend if they told you they were struggling with the way they look, and remember that advice whenever you start having negative thoughts.

If you feel unable to cope, or particularly worried about one part of your body, talk to your GP about how you’re feeling. They can listen, tell you about local services and support groups or they may suggest specific treatment for the way you’re feeling.

Stop for a second. Think about how hard you’ve worked, how much you’ve sacrificed and all of the troubles you’ve overcome. Be proud of yourself.

Remember the saying “if you wouldn’t say it to a friend, you shouldn’t say it to yourself”.

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