In the UK, today is the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year’s theme is: body image.
I know, mostly through meeting social anxiety sufferers online, that body image is huge among the causes or aggravators of social anxiety. People worry that they’re too tall, too short, too thin, too fat, too ugly. It doesn’t matter if these self-perceptions are true; they’re very real for their owners. For people with social anxiety, poor body image is another reason – sometimes the main reason – for them to cover up and hide themselves as much as possible.
And yet, there are other people who are just as tall, short, etc., who are happy with their bodies. Eurovision viewers are about to get another look at Netta, who seems perfectly content with hers.
Here’s a quote – from one of the many who kindly agreed for their words to be published anonymously in my non-fiction book, Social Anxiety Revealed:
I was told I was funny looking, ugly and weird and people laughed at me and I haven’t been able to shake it off, no matter how hard I try. Deep down, I know I’m not ugly, but when I’m in social situations my mind completely changes and there are those doubts and comments that people have made to me creeping around, and I begin to think I’m the ugliest person there.
Martin, the main character in my new novel, Cultivating a Fuji, doesn’t worry about the way he looks. He might have scolded himself for wearing the wrong clothes at a party, but he’s presumably fine with his body, because it’s not something he thinks about. The reason for that is probably that body image is not one of the things he was teased about at school.
For the person quoted above, it probably did start at school. Children can keep laughing at the victim for something that isn’t true, with no idea that this often causes poor self-image that can last for the rest of the victim’s life. This is why adults, who hopefully know better, need to intervene.
CULTIVATING A FUJI is released this Wednesday, 15th May, but there’s no need to wait. This is what you can do now: