In this age of social media and constant comparisons, the chances of many of us developing a comparison mindset with others and comparing our lives/our bodies is extremely high. Negative body images issues can afflict people of all ages, whether they are young or old. Dealing with them can be quite challenging and confusing.When a part of your mind is constantly telling you something about you isn’t “good enough” or that when you have “xyz” then you feel better, happier etc. That’s something that Megan Gallagher, 24 years old, TEDx speaker, author and motivational speaker for teenagers, calls, “Horizon living”. Where your happiness is never in the current moment, rather it’s always at an arms- length away and you are continually striving for it. Maybe someone’s body image issues stemmed from an event, incident or an environment they grew up in. That taught/conditioned them into having a belief or story about their body. Maybe as a child, someone made a comment on your body or everyone in your family has a certain body type. Having body image issues truly affects you mentally and has a high chance (if not taken care of and addressed) of leading into a spiral of negative thinking, depression and anxiety which further shatters your confidence.
However, a lot of people do have the mindset of “I will be happier or love myself more, when…”. They try to make things right by putting in a conscious effort to correct the appearance of their hair, body, face, etc. So that when it “fits” into a certain mold, trend, or what they perceive as the beauty standard of this generation, then they can breathe and they will all the sudden “be happy”. But in reality, we can choose to be happy!
They either do something drastic, get cosmetic procedures done or try to hide the “not good enough” part through clothes or make up. In reality, we have to look to ourselves for the answer and validate our own selves. The idea that a part of your body is not beautiful or enough, because you don’t feel good enough- really affects your mental wellbeing and enjoyment of life.
Body image issues arise because most of us lose confidence in the way we look by idealizing something we perceive as better or we stop putting ourselves first. We have to understand that the journey to end this issue will only commence when we make an effort towards accepting that fact that our body is perfect the way it is, to take care of ourselves and stop comparing it to other people. Especially in today’s day and age, it’s so EASY to get sucked into the “race to nowhere”, and continually be thinking about what’s “so and so” doing or “I have to keep up with the latest and greatest trend” in order to be “________”.
If you are dealing with body image issues, the journey towards being kind/loving to yourself can be hard, so here are some tips on self-love, from best-selling author and motivational speaker, Megan Gallagher, and how to learn to view your body as a precious temple instead of a number on a scale. She had her own experiences growing up, where she wouldn’t wear tank tops or certain clothes because she thought her arms were too pale or bulky looking. Even though, in reality, she was beautiful and needed to stop thinking that having smaller arms would make her happier or feel more complete. Below, is a list of tools when dealing with body image issues.
Understand the fact that labels (sizes or numbers) don’t mean anything:
Just like passing on sexist or racist remarks is crude and undermines the person on whom they are directed towards, the labels either you or others mark your body with are equally mean, derogatory and negative.
Issues like sexism and racism have their foundations in the wrong belief that someone is superior and the other is inferior based on what the perception of being perfect is, and today we know that there is no such thing as superiority because superficial things like color, gender etc. don’t define someone’s value.
Similarly, you should understand that being of a certain weight or body typeare just labels that discriminate against how you are made. When you notice yourself starting to focus on your weight, or body: re-direct your attention to something you are excited about! Or one thing you do love about yourself.
We all are born into different families, of unique ethnicity and genetic makeup as well as body types. Our bodies are incredible beings that can fight off colds, repair while we sleep and for women; carry life. We should love our bodies as they are truly incredible and smart!
You should exercise and eat to nourish your body and celebrate it:
Your health is related to your own body so you definitely have to take care of it by following a fitness regimen that consists of a proper diet, good workout and rejuvenation. But going to the gym to lose out weight so that you can become even healthier and going to the gym to tone your body because you believe that it makes you appear bad are two very different things.
That’s because, if you are hitting the gym or starving yourself to change the appearance of a body part, you will never become satisfied as there is no defined parameter to tell you how much weight you should lose to look great.
There is an old adage that “Actions are based on intentions” and nowhere does it hold truer than this scenario. Once you change your mindset and work towards achieving a healthier mind/ body connection instead of just trying to “fit in”, or get a “summer body” or look good for a certain event, you will find long lasting peace.
Follow someone who has had a similar journey and overcame their struggles:
The journey of dealing with body image issues becomes even harder when you don’t have someone you can associate with, rely on or feel support from. The feeling that there is no one who understands how you feel can be devastating and scary. But, in 2019, there are many platforms, forums and blogs with steps on how to seek help and overcome any internal struggle you may be facing(anxiety, body image issues, etc.).
In such a case, you need to find someone who has had a similar journey and was successful in their recovery and learning to love themselves. This person has to be someone who others look up to as a role model, a person with the kind of sensitivity/story you may resonate with.
One of the best role model’s out there, in this generation, is Megan Gallagher, a TEDx speaker, author, motivational speaker for teens and blogger. Being the world’s youngest female motivational speaker, she resonates deeply with the teenagers she speaks to. But her biggest accomplishment, is that she has dedicated her whole life to helping the next generation by preparing them for life with the tools she wished were taught in her High School.
Megan Gallagher had a wonderful family, a supportive group of friends and an amazing life, but despite all of this, she spent her early years struggling with chronic anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks. She lived with a constant fear and dread of something going terribly wrong. She even vented about her experiences to her parents (who put her in therapy at 14 years old).
But Megan found the solution to her problems in herself when she put a real effort towards getting out of the scenario she found herself in. She went to a therapist, started exercising daily, meditating, and journalism among other techniques in her journey to become herself again. Her therapist also taught her to check in every hour of the day, with her thoughts. Were they supportive? Kind? Would I tell someone else what I was telling myself?
This journey taught her some invaluable lessons which she decided to share with the world by becoming a professional speaker whose primary topics are about loving yourself and being your own advocate in life.
Body image issues are more prevalent in today’s society than ever before. Nearly 50% of 13-18 year old females struggle with body image issues on a daily basis, harboring negative thoughts on their looks, according to survey done by breakbingeeating.com. 50%?!?! That is absolutely heartbreaking.
When Megan was a teenager, she struggled severely with chronic anxiety and body image issues. All throughout her teen years she went back and forth about whether or not she was pretty. That’s the primary reason why she wrote her first book, titled: “Why Don’t I Look like Her?”. The title itself describes her experiences of how she always had this thought of not being enough/looking as good as she thought other girls did (the title is a true question that Megan would ask herself, internally, all the time during school). This constant comparison and battle with her inner self and judgments was something she healed through therapy and journaling.
Her power to deal with these struggles became stronger once she found out the virtues of positive affirmations. She would head out each day by constantly saying good things about herself and her body out aloud and this mental reconditioning allowed her to begin her journey to end her struggles in an immensely empowering manner. She soon realized that once she starting thinking loving, positive thoughts- the anxiety attack symptoms would go away. She couldn’t feel anxious and happy at the same time, so she would choice happiness.
She believes that we shouldn’t put a limit on our potential, because there is a lot more out there that defines who we are than anything we think. Megan believes that your inner dialogue, the talk with which you have with yourself, can give you the most insight on how your current real life is going. Our thoughts have POWER!
Through these worthwhile experiences, she continues to help teens around the world who may not feel good enough or like they are safe to open up about their struggles.
Her speaking engagements include TEDx talks and speaking at schools across the country. She is someone that anyone who may be struggling with body image issues can look up to for motivation, guidance and help! The fact that she is so young, makes her highly relatable to fellow young adults and teenagers.
Wrapping Things Up:
Every person dealing with body image issues has a different journey towards the path to peace. But being aware of your inner dialogue, and noticing what situations trigger you or how many times a day you compare yourself (consciously or subconsciously) is the key to being in a better mental state. Body image issues are a real thing and they can be triggered during anytime in your life, for Megan, it was during her teenage years and she struggled while trying to be the best student, friend, daughter and sister to other people. Always remember, it is so important to spread kindness and to keep in mind that we truly don’t know what other people are going through. Life is a journey and loving yourself fully/unconditional is a part of that journey, one step at a time.