Mental Health

Mirror, Mirror… Managing Body Image

woman looking at her reflection in a mirror
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year’s theme is body image.  While for some people this is a more dire issue than others, such as people with eating disorders and body dysmorphia, it’s something that impacts us all to some extent.

Societal standards of beauty have changed over time, but what doesn’t seem to change is the fact that these standards are drilled into people from a very early age.  We are constantly being shown what supposedly ideal beauty looks like, and the chances of being able to live up to those ideals are slim to nil.  We are told that we need to fit society’s concept of beauty in order to be accepted, have worth, and be successful.  We’re taught that unless we look the way that society expects us to, we’re not good enough.  When mental illness is already telling us we’re not good enough, shame around body image is the last thing we need.

At least back in the day when I was young, supposed perfection came from what we saw on the big screen, on tv, or in magazines, and while that was bad enough we always knew there was a distance between them and us.  Now, in the age of social media, regular people can become insta-famous.  The divide between us and them seems to narrow, which likely creates even more to look a certain way.  Humanity is so imperfect, and the great Instagram shot that took two hours to get plus the application of filters is just not representative of the genuine human experience.

As much as possible I try to steer clear of anything non-body-positive online, and I find it hard to imagine what it must be like to be a teenager today, when all that seems to matter to most people is how you look in your pictures online.  It’s such a superficial idea of beauty that says nothing about the person on the inside.

For the first half of my adult life, I was a size 8 or so.  I’ve always had a pretty sizeable booty, which I was okay with, but I wished I was bustier.  I was never one of the pretty girls, but luckily in my group of friends that was never too much of an issue, and therefore body image wasn’t a big problem.  If it hadn’t been for a group of friends in both high school and university that were okay with being imperfect, I think it would have been much harder to detail with the weight gain that came later on when I started taking my current cocktail of psychiatric meds.  As it was, it was hard enough dealing with people asking if I was pregnant when the weight really started to accumulate in my abdomen.

During the course of my illness, I’ve been skinny when I’ve been the most sick, and fat at my most medicated.  It’s really made me challenge that culturally ingrained notion that skinnier is better.  Based on BMI, I’m considered obese.  But it is what it is, and going off meds isn’t an option for me.

I’m glad there are more plus size models promoting body positivity whatever your size.  It’s unfortunate that the average woman’s body is supposedly plus size, but it’s still a refreshing change to the size 0 models that we see so often.  We need to see that people come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, and those differences do not in any way diminish anyone’s value.


baby looking up close at reflection in mirror
Image by Traumland-de from Pixabay

I like the picture to the right because this baby is totally fascinated with him/herself.  Our bodies do so many amazing things for us, and they deserve our love.









You may also be interested in a more recent post on this topic, What Do You See In The Mirror?




31 thoughts on “Mirror, Mirror… Managing Body Image”

  1. It stinks that there are often Catch-22s in regards to medicine. If you take it, sometimes it affects your body and other aspects of your health. You are healthy mentally, which is probably the most important thing; it’s just unfortunate that adverse side-effects often accompany psychiatric medications.

    1. Yeah, I’ve been on these meds long enough to come to terms that this is how it is. The benefits of the meds far outweigh the negatives, and over time I’ve been able to accept that.

      1. That’s great. Medicine is so important. I sometimes think I could do without it, and I’m tempted to experiment, but deep down, I know it would be catastrophic. I know it works, and I’ve accepted that I need it and the importance of taking it.

          1. My psychiatrist made it pretty easy to figure out. He scared the crap out of me during my first appointment. He said if I went off my meds, I’d start where I left off. There wouldn’t be a long buildup to a psychotic break. My mind would jump straight to manic, and my moods would spiral drastically from there. I got the message loud and clear, and I’ve never been seriously tempted to test his theory.

  2. The ‘ideals’ of society are definitely a difficult thing to cope with, and it can really negatively effect our mental health. We’re told we have to look this way or dress that way and it seriously takes its toll. Different bodies are slowly being more accepted but I wish it was more reinforced that there’s no wrong way to have a body

  3. Beauty is only skin deep, the real beauty is inside a person! That’s what I keep telling my 25 year old daughter. She’s only a size 10 and she thinks she’s fat? She won’t even sit at home without makeup on! What is that all about? Yes I think there is to much pressure on young people today, especially with all the social media stuff. My daughter watches a young girl on social media that’s become famous for cleaning her house!! I think she’s got her own DVD on “how to clean your house”! The worlds gone mad, lol.

  4. Exactly
    I often wonder how so much pressure these teenagers must be having while growing up nowadays.I remember I didn’t get my eyebrows and waxing done until I was moving to college.Imagine this now! Already this is such an age where you are trying to figure out yourself and with this additional burden of matching upto certain expectations,it is getting cruel.

  5. I think we all start out finding nothing at all wrong with ourselves, but with the influence of our families (and/or parents), people at school, society and so forth, I think we lose the ability to see ourselves objectively. But for some of us (me among them) as we get older, we begin to see ourselves objectively once again. It’s really nice too.

  6. This is so, so important. Thank you for raising awareness around it. I’ve definitely got better with body image as I’ve grown older, as I’ve just stopped caring what others think of me I guess, but my eating disorder is something that will be with me forever.

  7. I can so totally relate. I used to have an average build as well (size 10 or 12, I think), and now I’m badly overweight.

    One reason why the Golden Girls is a favorite TV show of mine is that the characters all look like regular, everyday people. I absolutely love that aspect of it. On all other TV shows, it seems as if the females are all petite, fragile waifs whose waists you could reach around with both hands. It’s weird how the TV show will have an episode in which one of the guest characters is a super model, and she doesn’t look thinner than the regulars on the show, because you can’t go thinner than TV women.

    I’d love to lose my double chin. It makes me feel very unattractive. I think we need to find a way to beat the system and lose weight despite our meds!! Let’s do it!!

  8. When I first began Topamax for migraines, I lost 10 pounds, which thrilled me. I was already slim, but as a recovering anorexic, I never lose the “thinner is better” voice way in the back of my mind. A few years ago, my metabolism began slowing down after menopause and some weight came back. I struggle with accepting it. There isn’t much I can do now because of back pain and such inhibiting exercise. I already don’t eat much.

  9. “….and the great Instagram shot that took two hours to get plus the application of filters is just not representative of the genuine human experience.” I love this!! This is an ongoing battle to love myself despite what magazines, TV, instagram is depicting to us. What’s even more difficult, is when parents project these ideals onto their children as well, making it even more of a struggle to overcome. Thank you for sharing on this topic. 🙂

  10. Beautiful post! 💕 I so agree with you. I got bullied because of people telling me that I have anorexia. I haven’t but I’m thin and that’s okay. I wish I could gain a bit more weight but it’s just my body size. Everything is so fake nowadays in this world we live in. Sometimes when I’m on social media adds come up with loosing weight or changing yourself and I’m like what I don’t need to see these things. I’m not doing anything with that but teenagers seeing this will think they have to change something about themselves when they are just beautiful the way they are 💕

  11. I meant to comment on this back when I read it but…my brain. But I wanted to say how beautiful a piece it is, really hits home and thanks for sharing 🙂

Leave a Reply