By Amy Dahlem

I Hate How I Look: Body Image and Self-Acceptance

It is no secret that social media is booming. Major publications are extremely easy to access. Pictures of people, places, and things are literally one click away. The world is globalizing at a much faster rate than my parents’ generation could have ever imagined!

I feel like we are getting a sneak peek into the future because there are no signs of things slowing down. And with all of this change, how do we, as humans, adapt in a way that is not harmful to our minds or bodies? As a society, we rely on the internet, magazines, movies, television, and other pop culture phenomena to tell us what is “cool,” or “trendy,” or at the very least, what they believe is, “normal.”

But what if what they portray as normal, actually isn’t normal?

The average American woman is 5 feet, 4 inches tall and 166 pounds, according to research from the University of Texas at Austin. In contrast, most female models are 5 feet, 11 inches and wear a size double zero to zero. The average American man has a size 44″ waist, as opposed to the average male model’s size of a 40″ waist.

Like most people, I have struggled with self-acceptance. My struggles have derived from body image acceptance. When I read the facts, I feel good about myself; but when I open a magazine, it makes me feel worse.

Even though this big social media boom is occurring now, magazine publications and the internet were prominent when I was younger, and I was hugely affected by them. I was also a dancer and spent an excessive amount of time in a room with other teens and floor to ceiling mirrors, making it impossible for me to not compare my body to others’.  I have had to develop coping mechanisms to be a happy and healthy person. Here are a few:

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others. It’s about time we stop comparing ourselves to other people. Appearance is unique, and we only have one life to embrace what we have. The people who love me and care about me the most, have taught me that there is no such thing as perfect, so why strive for something that doesn’t exist? Better yet, trust those people who love and care about you. Not only do they know you well, they have your best interests in mind.
  2. Surround yourself with good people. This is so important. Growing up, I found myself hanging out in lots of different crowds…the kids who played sports, the kids who did theater, the socially introverted kids who enjoyed keeping to themselves, the out-going kids, etc. I’ve dabbled, and across the board, one thing reigns true: Being mean was, and is, never cool. Being nice is timeless. If we surround ourselves with positive people, positivity will surround us, and in turn, we will have a positive outlook on ourselves. I once read a quote that said, “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” I say, let’s all live by that!
  3. Stay busy and active. The busier you are, the less likely you are to sit and feel bad about yourself. Keeping busy by doing things I genuinely enjoy completely distracts me from any personal turmoil I am going through at that time. Some things I like to do to keep myself busy are dance, cook, rock climb, play outside (you’re never too old!), and watch movies.

It feels like the road to self-acceptance is a never-ending one, but it helps to have a couple coping mechanisms and some good advice under your belt for the ride! I hope these tips help make the road a little less bumpy.

If you are having similar feelings, we are here to listen. Call us at 1-800-RUNAWAY, or send us an email or use our live chat at 1800RUNAWAY.org.