A Generational Epidemic

ELLA CONLON-MURPHY

When you feel insecure about every corner and crevice of your body, who do you
turn to? Does anyone hold a satisfactory answer to the problem when in reality, even
the most seemingly body ‘confident’ person has probably struggled with body image
issues at some point. Our body is home to who we ARE. Yet, rather than worrying
about strengthening and nurturing its foundations, we remain a society completely
infatuated with aesthetic. We are diminished, painstakingly trying to make the
physical grade ingrained in us by society.

Is Body Image the epidemic of our generation? Suffering from insecurity over how
you look when you are young stifles, strangles, overwhelms you. Pressure is applied
from all angles until every aspect of your life begins to have a more painstaking edge:
How Do I Look? These years should be most carefree of a young person’s life.
Instead, we are boxed in, restrained by self-doubt.

A day out swimming in the summer. A potentially incredible memory. It never
happens because our young and developing teenage brains have decided that it is
more important for us to cover all signs of growth and health. One single stretch
mark is a sin and cellulite just can’t be right. That isn’t true.

We will not be the generation to, quite literally, reach the stars, if we are held back
by what was granted to us as our biological advantage. Space occupied by needless
anxiety and self-consciousness is wasted space, a space that was intended for things
much greater.

In 2016, almost 2000 counselling sessions were granted by Childline for girls
struggling with their body image (NSPCC) and 250 sessions took place for boys
(NSPCC). For every young person who seeks out help to do with body image issues,
they have reached a point where their perception of themselves is disrupting their
general wellbeing and happiness. Other people, who don’t seek out help, may be
stuck in front of a mirror, too shy to reach out for help from friends and local
services.

If the support available isn’t sufficient for young women then it certainly isn’t
sufficient for young men. At least for girls, the problem has been identified as a valid
issue in schools and the workplace. However, the prognosis is still just as dreary for
young men. Why are so many of us told we vain and superficial. Maybe we are just
suffering from deteriorating mental health? As soon as unhealthy body image is
recognized as a mental health issue, then treatment counselling and support will
follow.

This topic is explored expertly by passionate feminist Caitlin Moran, in her memoir
‘How To Be A Woman’ (Caitlin Moran, 2011). Issues that arrive with age such as
discovery of your body and increasing awareness of how it looks to yourself and also
others, are discussed in a funny, light-hearted yet comforting manner. Although
geared towards young women specifically, the book is a rite of passage for any young
person struggling to come to terms with their appearance and the identity that it
brings them.

What can sometimes seem like a losing game is in fact just a very long one. Society,
the media and social media oppose any self-advancement lest it be weight loss or
cosmetic surgery, striving for a non-existent perfection and pretty much wrecking
any happiness brought by loving and living with your body.

But a bright light, in the form of several prominent feminists and a generation of
thinkers and social activists is on the horizon. Support and awareness is increasing
and so should be your hope, for a better environment to thrive and grow as a
person, regardless of how you look.
Bibliography
NSPCC (October 2017) https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-we-do/news-opinion/body-
image/

BBC News (August 2016) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-37010205

Caitlin Moran (2011) – ‘How To Be A Woman’

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s