You are probably aware that this week, the 18th-25th May, is #mentalhealthawareness week in the UK. The TV Guide is ‘chocca with high profile celebrities collaborating as one to help strip the stigma of mental health issues, and we as a society have taken to social media to promote good mental health.
As someone whose recent history has been riddled issues, it humbles me to see how far we have come in the past couple of years regarding the acceptance and de-stigmatisation of mental health. This week, the countrywide initiative has seen a vast majority of the population clubbing together in raising awareness on everything from anxiety to addiction.
Although there is still a way to go, this week is the epitomy of an age where people speak openly and honestly about ill-goings-on in the upstairs department.
Anyway, the following article I have written for #MHA2020 concerns a struggle that I come across on a daily basis as a Personal Trainer; one that will undoubtedly affect each and every one of you in some way, shape, or form.
One that is seemingly inescapable in a modern era of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram…
The Hollister Effect
The exponential growth of social media and its significance in modern culture means that we are frequently exposed to a tirade of beautiful-looking people, doing beautiful-looking things, while modelling beautiful-looking clothing. With so many of these beautiful-looking appearing on our daily newsfeed, it is no wonder that we have become chronically guilty of shaming our own individual bodies.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am sure that many of these guys and gals have worked their nuts off to get into the shape that they have done; indeed, many sacrifice a ridiculous amount of time, effort, and mental wellbeing getting to where they are in terms of their physique. No one should take that away from them; it is an incredible show of persistence, resilience, and discipline.
The problem lies in the way in which these photos/videos are distributed and presented to the masses.
Clothing brands and other companies use beautiful-looking cover models as a clever marketing ploy to promote their products, preying on a form of consumer psychology whereby people assume that “if I buy [INSERT PRODUCT HERE], I will end out looking like that”.
A widespread view that a person’s worth is defined by the quality of their physique has thus come to the fore, and has resulted in many individuals adopting a harmful daily practice of self-deprecation.
I call this the Hollister Effect. The world-renowned clothing brand is notorious for the ridiculously good-looking folks they have adorning their branding and adverts. I don’t know about you, but whenever I see any of Hollister’s billboards or Facebook ads, a little bit inside of me dies..
COVER MODEL + SELF-DEPRECATION = THE HOLLISTER EFFECT
Self-Doubt on the Daily
Body shaming has become so prevalent in our daily routine that it often goes alarmingly unnoticed.
Most of the time, it doesn’t involve hateful comments on that post you put on instagram, nor does it involve someone taking the piss out of your appearance in the flesh. I am talking about shaming from within; regular thoughts of self-deprecation deriving from social comparisons.
To illustrate this, I want you to take yourself back to the last time you scrolled through your facebook/instagram feed (probably about 90 seconds ago…). Ask yourself this: how many times did you compare yourself to one of your peers, or how many times did you dwell on an image that made you think ‘I wish I was like that’?
Chances are, it was probably one or two at the least. If you are anything like me, it’s more likely to be quite a few…
However small it may be, I think we all have at least some insecurity with regards to our personal appearance; a wee demon perched atop our shoulders who consistently identifies parts of ourselves which are, supposedly, ‘not good enough’…
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
This dull, nagging preoccupation can easily slide into the realm of ‘ever-present obsession’ at a rapid rate.
Doctors and other healthcare professionals have only recently started to recognise the severe implications of this way of thinking on an individual’s way of life. In a clinical setting, this is now a diagnosable condition called ‘body dysmorphic disorder’ (BDD).
Although this is often understood as a contributing symptom of other conditions, such as eating disorders, BDD is considered a destructive mindset that can take over one’s life entirely on its own.
It is characterised by a more intense form of body shaming, whereby the individual refuses to accept that any single element of their appearance is in any way ‘good enough’.
Their gaze is constantly drawn to any form of reflection so that they can ruthlessly criticise their body and pick out the parts that they are most ardently dissatisfied by.
More Behind The Gym Mirror Flex….?
Unfortunately, the psychological framework underlying BDD has become entrenched in modern fitness culture.
Popular fitness magazines, such as Men’s and Women’s Health, reaffirm the supposed physique that denotes ultimate success in the gym, leaving the wealth of other incredible benefits of exercise to go hilariously under-valued. Furthermore, this form of cultural propaganda increases one’s drive to sculpt the body of their dreams.
BDD affects more people than you think; as with many other mental health conditions, it often lies trapped beneath the surface of the skin without blatant physical symptoms.
What you may not realise when you see a dude staring at his flexing reflection on the gym floor, is that there very well may be body-dysmorphic thoughts ravaging through his mind. ‘Bigorexia’, as it is colloquially known, is a huge issue; I recommend watching this particularly eye-opening documentary on the matter…
Man is much like the Ocean; what you see on the surface seldom explains the mystery witheld in the depths belowAnon
The Reverse–Hollister Effect – A Force For Good?
I wanted to include a wee one about how to use the influence of social media for the forces of good.
For many people, the image of the chiseled 6-pack or mind-blowingly bulbous booty can very definitely serve as a healthy motivator to kickstart the journey to your dreams.
There is a growing brand of fitness-influencer who’s content is helpful and inspiring to the general population; in direct contrast to the unhelpful posts that illustrate the outcome without any explanation of the process. Although these guys and gals do generally possess the stereotypical physique of a cover model, their content serves a much more positive and functional purpose through scalable workouts, realistic nutritional advice, and empathetic interaction with their audience.
If you are a bit more selective about who you follow on social media, you may find people with impressive bodies who can add a lot of value to your own journey.
Be Proud Of Who YOU Are
An article like this wouldn’t be complete without the customary cheesy finisher…
Nonetheless, I always think it is better to spell it out in black and white so that if the only thing you get out of this read is this:
Everyone is different; our genetics, our lifestyles, and our histories all play a part in shaping our bodies in which we find ourselves.
No-one, to my knowledge at least, ever achieves complete and utter satisfaction with their personal appearance.
Yes, there are those instagram models and fitness celebrities who have bodies that look like they have been carved out of marble; but I guarantee even they will have some form of insecurity kicking about the joint.
The aim of the game is learning self-acceptance; easier said than done, I know, but hear me out. Personally, I am guilty as charged when it comes to berating my body, but through implementing certain strategies into my daily routine, I have managed to quell the aforementioned demon to nothing more than a faint voice.
For me, the most effective strategy for getting the self-confidence train in motion was writing down 1 thing that I like about myself every single day on a piece of paper. It doesn’t have to be aesthetic; the simple act of conciously identifying something that I like about myself helps me look in the mirror with a lens of positivity.
As hard as it may be, learning to shift your focus from what you don’t like to what you like will inevitable facilitate the quashing of all-too-regular body shaming.
For more ideas, check out this infographic from http://www.mynakedego.com!
The Final Word
If you have read this far, you have probably seen yourself in some way regarding body shaming and BDD. And you know what? THAT IS OKAY!!
Never be ashamed to admit that you struggle with coming to terms with your own skin, as talking openly about it will inevitably help you to deal with potentially destructive feelings. Open up to a family member about your thoughts, and you may find you share more than just a name…
Big love ❤