From relationships to social media, drugs and crime and everything in between; as a youth worker it is common to see trends in topical issues affecting young people at any one time. With an ever growing social platform at the touch of a finger there is no doubt that young people have a whole spectrum of issues to face, tackle and overcome.

Over the last couple of months the request to deliver body image sessions to young people has dominated, which led me to begin questioning why?

When asked about body image young people quickly begin to talk about ‘pressure’ and ‘perception’.

 

“You have to look a certain way otherwise people will judge you”

 

If the pressure comes from the perception, where does the perception come from?

When asking young people some key themes emerge!

1.Swipe left?

In a world where people are encouraged to judge others on their appearance, it begins to make you think… is there any wonder why people feel a pressure to look a certain way?

2. Filters

No need to be a pro at photo shop, you can change your photos as soon as you’ve taken them. Get rid of blemishes, look more tanned, just look different!?

3. #Goals

Body goals! Relationship goals! Friendship goals! Goals! Goals! Goals!
It seems our bodies are just another thing that can’t just be – if you’re posting it online and feeling confident, it seems like it’s gotta be goals.

4. Get the perfect…?

Fill in the blank with a body part and you’ve got yourself a news article or sponsored ad. By labelling something as perfect, are we just highlighting that anything different is imperfect and therefore undesirable?

 

It seems that every day we are consuming these messages – pictures where reality is distorted, our feeds being dominated by #goals; message after message subliminally telling us how to look and what to like.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to filter, hashtag or any of the above and we have to consider that perhaps it’s not a bad thing to want to be better, to set a goal, to post images that we feel good about. But I feel like the key is questioning if we’re doing it for ourselves or giving into that ‘pressure’ we talk about.

 

What I have learnt:

Body image doesn’t target a specific set of people, it’s an issue for everyone. Everyone has insecurities, things they would change about themselves. But from talking to different people from different places, this I now know… the thing you want to change about yourself, is the thing that somebody else wants for themselves.

So go forth and filter, swipe and hashtag – but perhaps take a moment to challenge why you are doing this. Is it for yourself or for other people?

Instead of being told what’s perfect, I for one am going to make a conscious effort to start living the truth that we all know deep down… there isn’t just one way to be ‘perfect’ and the perception I have of myself is the only one that truly matters.