You are not alone, and you have never been alone. There is so much power in one’s story. It took me having to hear someone else share their perception of their body for me to be aware about my own negative self-talk.
Hi, my name is Jocelyn and I am currently a Psychology Undergraduate. I enjoy singing, networking and volunteering in various settings, as it is an opportunity to gain experience and valuable skills.
Like everybody’s perceptions of themselves, my perception of myself is unique. I find it very interesting to learn how we construct our perceptions based on how we see the world, and how how our perceptions can be influenced by several factors. Personally, I have found social media, culture and past experiences to be the main negative influences on my self-esteem and confidence.
An awareness of why you have the perception you have can possibly instill self-compassion.
Growing up, I have always been aware of my slim physique but I was still quite confident and accepting of how I looked, as my family made me feel beautiful. However, my perceptions of myself started to change when I found myself being questioned on my health from older Nigerian people. I would be asked questions like “Are you eating properly?” “Does your mum not feed you?” “Have you been sick? Is that why you’re looking the way you do?” “What happened to you?”
Being perceived as unhealthy through cultural means made me self-conscious and less accepting of myself. The more I found myself being referred to as ‘too skinny’, the more I wanted to make changes to my body. These remarks made me feel negatively about my body and have had devastating effects on my confidence to the extent where I formed a complex towards being called ’skinny.’ It held me back from social situations and going out, as I felt undesirable and uncomfortable when I wore certain clothes such as figure hugging dresses, and shirts with no sleeves.
Although culture has certainly played its role, social media has played an instrumental role in worsening the way that I perceive myself. Our society has always set certain standards of beauty for everyone, but now certain trends of beauty standards are consistently being set. The constant glorification of one representative body shape over all others marginalises other body types and have detrimental effects in making people feel ashamed of their bodies. When the slim-thick figure became desirable, I found myself wanting to look slim-thick, as I thought it would make me more desirable and end the negative talk on how ‘skinny’ I am.
The negative association I had with my body made me feel unhappy and it affected my mental health and well-being. I became very tired of the negative self-talk and constantly comparing myself to others, including my peers who happened to have a the type of body I perceived as being more favourable. I started feeling very alone by thinking no one shared the same experience as me, as I didn’t know anyone who I could relate with on certain topics related to body image.
This sense of loneliness led me to determine the cause of my unhappiness, and I could finally start work towards changing it. As a result, I found myself reading articles and watching videos on self-love with the expectation of loving myself, but these things only brought short-term satisfaction. I came to realise that in order to for me to feel comfortable in my own skin, I needed to learn how to accept who I am by myself, because no one could force me to do so. However, the moment I came across someone I could relate to, in terms of their own experiences, thinking and perspective of themselves and their body, it instilled self-compassion in me. It was encouraging to know that I am not the only one who perceived myself in this way and comforting to know that I was and never was alone in this matter.
Self-comparison is the thief of joy. Their body is theirs and yours is yours. No one is better or worse than the other.
Realising the power of establishing common grounds, deconstructing where negative self-perceptions come from and story sharing made me start Mind Over Body. I started Mind Over Body because this realisation makes me wonder just how many other people could relate to my story, how many people would come up to share their story on how they see themselves, and how many people could that have a positive powerful impact on? Personally experiencing all of this was what led me to begin my Body Positivity journey.
My understanding of Body Positivity is that it is indeed a journey, a journey where you can go from being in full appreciation and acceptance of your body, to having days where you are less accepting of your body — these fluctuations are inevitable. A huge misconception that I conceived about reaching body positivity is that I had to change my body for me to feel content and accepting of myself. However, I am now slowly working towards having a full acceptance of myself exactly as I am for me to achieve a positive body image.
If you have been affected by the content of this article, please see our resources page for support. We have also published an article about some of the some of the different factors affecting body positivity.