Body image on campus

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Go on, I challenge you. Walk in to literally any newspaper shop and see the so-called 'headlines' gracing the front pages of your average women's magazine. I guarantee there's something about a reality TV star who's 'piled on the pounds', a 'frail, thin looking' pop star whose friends have 'confided isn't eating properly', and probably a million patronising words of advice about how to 'get that summer bod'. 

Many of us think we’re too fat, or too thin, or we worry about a variety of different things individual to us all. It seems that nobody’s ever happy. Those who feel confident are often condemned for being vain. One thing we all need to do is to stop commenting and looking for the bad in others – at the end of the day, it only fuels your own insecurities.

In fact, according to The Guardian, as many as one third of young girls are unhappy with their aesthetic appearance. This has led the Girl Guiding Association to introduce what they’re calling a ‘Body Confidence’ badge, as the sad figures reveal that girls as young as primary school age are going on diets in their droves, and as many as 40% of them want cosmetic surgery.

Beauty isn’t everything, but it’s unsurprising that it can feel like the best way to get ahead, when very real pressures do exist. Focus on the other parts of yourself that you like. Be inspired to better yourself in ways that don’t revolve around your looks. By all means, get out there and take pride in your appearance, if it’s something you personally want to do. It’s fine to carve your own path, experiment with your style, lose or gain some weight, or even seek more dramatic solutions if that’s your choice. Don’t make assumptions or beat yourself up for doing that, it’s natural to want to feel you look your best. Just don’t expect miracles.

Unfortunately, the way you look won’t always correlate with how you feel, and making changes does not necessarily mean your problems will go away. If you’re suffering at a size 16, you’ll probably have the same issues at a size 6.

If you feel that somebody you know at university or in your student accommodation here at Liberty Living may be dealing with some self-esteem issues, or that they may be facing something more dangerous, it’s important that you try and reach out to them. Don’t make wild, unfounded accusations, or challenge them. Instead, let them know that you’re there. Pay them compliments, but don’t patronise them. Just because somebody is trying to make themselves feel better, it doesn’t mean they’re automatically ill. There are all kinds of reasons that people might be exercising or eating differently – sometimes they’re trying to improve their health or fitness. Typically, if there have been drastic changes that they’re seemingly obsessing over, perhaps that’s the time you need to have a talk with them. These are complex issues though, and if you think you’re out of your depth, speak to a professional. Just remember, never invade a friend’s privacy unless their life is at risk – you may lose their trust, forever.

The main thing to take away is that health – not weight, or looks – is often the true key to happiness. If you’re healthy – physically and mentally – your confidence will grow from there. What’s more attractive than that?

Liberty Living provides student accommodation, including summer accommodation, in 17 university cities across the UK, including Cardiff, London, Leeds plus many more.

Posted on 6th May 2014 by Claire L.

Claire Louise Sheridan lives and works in Peterborough. She recently graduated with a degree in English and Communication Studies from the University of Liverpool.

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