Name: Angela Slater
Why did you agree to take part in this Q&A?
I like to support efforts to raise awareness on mental health and different parts of life that can impact on mental wellbeing. Body image is something that has a wide ranging impact in modern society and on people’s mental health so it is an important topic to discuss.
At what age do you think you first began to take notice of your body image?
I think I was quite young (maybe 7 or 8) but I don’t think I was excessively bothered with this until about 12 or 13 years old.
What made you take notice?
I think it was a combination of my age, body changes, social pressure, and wanting to ‘fit in’ that made me take notice.
Would you say that your thoughts on your body image began as positive or negative?
From the ages of about 11 or 12 it was probably negative and I continually wanted to change different things about my appearance.
Why do you think that was?
This was mainly due to the fact that it seemed to me at that time that the slimmest and prettiest girls seemed to be the most popular and get the most opportunities.
How have your thoughts on your body image changed over time?
My thoughts have changed massively over the years. I now see that body image has very little to do with what you actually look like and all about how you perceive yourself. There are super models who have low or poor body image and people who have physical differences can have excellent body image. I now know ‘beauty’ is not something that is objective and fixed but something that changes over time and cultures and is very subjective. As a result my body image is much more positive.
In what way do you think your thoughts on your body image impact your mental health?
This is an interesting question as we had an event this week in my workplace for staff called ‘This Is Me’ and one person talked about how body image impacts a range of conditions and not just the more obvious ones such as eating disorders. It can impact general wellbeing but it can also impact on those living with a range of mental health problems including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, BPD etc. For me, when I had very poor body image it made me feel low, stressed out and obsessed with changing my appearance and it became a significant problem for my mental health.
What do you think about the media’s portrayal of body image?
I am hugely saddened by the media’s portrayal around body image and the damage that this creates in society as well as to individuals. The constant commentary particularly of women’s bodies in the media is hugely disempowering and unnecessary. The media focus on what women look like rather than what women do and contributes to create a climate where women learn to value what they look like rather than who they are and what they achieve. I can also see this starting to happen to men in the media is negative and for people reading what the media write and the images they use, particularly young people, they learn to criticize themselves in the same way.
If you could say one thing (about body image) to people, what would it be?
We need to celebrate who we are and what we look like regardless of current societal ideal and remember to value your body for what it does for you and not just for what it looks like.