Mental Health A-Z: V is for View
Whether your ideal scenery is a sunny, sandy beach, the top of a misty hill or simply the view from your bedroom window, a good view is always appreciated. Whether it’s waking up to a sunny view of Leeds, or walking up to the blue skies of the Malvern hills with my dog, nothing puts me in a better mood.
But it seems that we tend to focus on the negative things in life. Rather than seeing the beautiful blue skies, we focus on the ugly scaffolding and noisy road works around the corner. Instead of seeing the beautiful cherry blossom growing across the street, we stress about the upcoming exams and keep our eyes to the ground.
This neglecting of the prettier things is also true of our own reflection. Rather than enjoying the sun on our faces and feeling happy wearing summery clothes again, we see the things we don’t like the look of:
I may have my favourite dress on, but I don’t like the look of my stomach in it.
My hair looks brighter in the sun, but I feel self-conscious wearing it down.
My friend looks so pretty today; I wish I could look like her.
Little internal comments like this constantly reduce our happiness with not just our appearance, but also our overall confidence and self-esteem. Comparing ourselves with others, and feeling incompetent as a result, is becoming more and more common. Even the celebrities and friends you find beautiful can struggle with their reflection in the mirror; beauty often comes from confidence in yourself.
Of course, if you struggle mentally with things such as body image and anxiety, seeing the positive side of things is not so simple. On a bad day I know the feeling of desperation, trying on every outfit you own just to simply find something that looks okay. I’m certainly not suggesting that being more positive is easy when you’re feeling low.
However, I find that focusing on just one part of your reflection that you like can really help. Of course your perspective changes everyday; yesterday you may have loved your hair, but today it’s dry and frizzy and could do with a hair wash. And I don’t know about you, but my ability to do makeup varies dramatically from day to day.
But you will always have beautiful features, no matter what kind of a day you are having. When you feel the panic start to rise in your chest, take a few deep breaths and look at yourself in the mirror. Don’t focus on how much you hate the size of your thighs or stomach, instead look for something you like. If it helps you, you could even list certain body parts on sticky notes, and put them around your mirror. That way you can simply choose a part, be it your eyes, eyebrows, or legs, and tell yourself that it is beautiful. (If you’re having a particularly bad day, then focusing just on your facial features can help.)
Believe it or not, simply finding something you like every morning can have a positive impact on your self-esteem, and can really help with body image issues. Some self-care (such as washing your hair, doing your makeup or relaxing in the evenings) also goes hand in hand with body positivity, relaxing your nervousness and improving your attitudes towards your appearance.
Just as we take photos of the sunny skies and grumble about the grey days, we tend to ignore our reflection when we don’t feel confident. But if we stop avoiding our bodies on the days when we dislike them, then our reflection becomes a smaller and smaller hurdle to get over, until eventually our appearance is no longer an issue.