Teenagers and young people in general have always struggled with body image. Some of the biggest and most noticeable changes our bodies go through, happen in our pre-teen and teen years when we hit puberty. Everybody goes through puberty at different times and everyone’s body is unique, and for a self-conscious teen just looking to fit in, that’s a lot to deal with. Let’s not forget the constant barrage of advertisements and messaging from the media telling us we need to be thin, pretty and popular. It is no wonder young Australians have identified body image as one of their top three concerns for the sixth year running.
Problems with body image often stem from context and comparison. Big brands have always used comparison to make consumers feel inadequate in an attempt to sell more products. Today there is an abundance of new media that our parents never had to deal with (or only dealt with on a much smaller scale). Teenagers compare their bodies to the celebrities and models they see in ads, movies and on TV. The almost attainable body goals set by people who are already at peak fitness become more unattainable after being photoshopped beyond belief.
Social media is a huge part of our lives today, especially for teenagers. It helps us connect better than ever before but also encourages us to compare ourselves to others constantly. Instagram models show their followers the most glamorous snippets of their lives. We ‘Facestalk’ our friends on Facebook to judge how they look in their images. We post photos of ourselves with the hopes that they will get a lot of ‘likes’ and boost our self-esteem. The facts are that we are surrounded by messages that tell us we are not good enough, our bodies are not good enough and that we could always look better. A large amount of that messaging is directed at teenagers who are often in the most impressionable and self-conscious years of their lives. It is also worth remembering that boys can and do have issues with body image as well. Body image problems are often, and unfairly, perceived as a female issue. The pressures to ‘bulk up’ or get ‘shredded’, for example, are a real problem that adolescent males face today.
It would seem the odds are stacked against the teenagers of today. So what can be done?
- Stop comparing yourself
If you need to remove yourself from social media or consume less content, then do so! Unfollow, unfriend or log out and you will also discover you have lots more spare time.
- Avoid glorifying appearance in your conversation
If your conversation continuously focuses on what people are wearing, the appearance of peoples bodies or the latest beauty trends, then that is likely what you will value.
- Avoid self-deprecating humour
As much as a good dig at yourself is funny at times, continuous negative self-talk, often disguised as humour, can negatively affect your self-esteem and body image.
- Accept what you can’t change and be thankful for what you have
This is a big one. There are many aspects of our bodies that we can’t change, whether we like it or not. The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can move on and focus on improving other aspects of our self. It is also important to be thankful for what we do have, because someone, somewhere will always be worse off.
- Focus on a healthy lifestyle
Accepting your body for what it is should never be used as an excuse for living an unhealthy lifestyle. Eating well and exercising regularly is as important as ever, and has a myriad of benefits beyond the obvious physical advantages.
- Find a purpose or distraction to focus on
When you have your mind set on a purpose or goal, there is less time to focus on your appearance. Also setting goals and having projects is not only good for getting things done, but also helps to improve self-esteem and confidence.
- Remember that your body is a temple, made in God’s image
When we remember that our bodies were made by God, for God, in his image, it helps us to respect and accept them. We are called to treat our bodies like a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in us (1 Corinthians 6:19), so take care of it, respect it and remember that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, physically, mentally and spiritually.
Our teenage years will be challenging. Teenagers will face uncertainty, haves doubts and worries, and at times lack confidence in their bodies, but these times need not last. So look after your body, as it is God’s temple. And remember to keep your eyes on that which is above, for our bodies of this world will fade, but our heavenly bodies will be eternally perfect, just as God intended.
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