Accepting the way we look is hard for many of us and can be particularly difficult during our teenage years and into young adulthood. During these years bodies are of course changing quickly but at different rates. Social media can be a negative influence by portraying unrealistic and often photoshopped images of people.
Having a negative body image unsurprisingly often affects mood, anxiety and sense of self-worth. Parents can try to set a good example by not talking negatively about their own appearance or that of others.
It’s also interesting to see how social media images are manipulated and how damaging messages are constantly being delivered by social influencers. You can see some examples in these videos from the Dove Real Beauty Campaign below. Searching for body-positive influencers can be a great way to redress the balance.
If concerns about delayed growth or puberty are the cause, then read up on normal development in our section on puberty and sex.
In general, it’s often the case that when people focus on parts of their appearance, it is linked to underlying anxiety and self-confidence. Tackling those underlying issues is usually much more helpful than reassuring someone about their appearance. You may also like to look at the page on self-esteem.
What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) can sometimes develop from having a negative body image but is much more severe and unusual. People may focus on parts of their appearance that they perceive to be a problem – often imagined or highly exaggerated. When people suffer from Body Dysmorphia, they allocate large portions of their day to worrying or take extreme measures to hide or “fix” parts of their body. It is closely linked to anxiety and is sometimes also seen in people who have eating disorders, who often have a distorted view of their body shape. However, it’s worth noting that having body dysmorphia does not mean you have an eating disorder, but the two can sometimes overlap.
Resources for Parents
- Teen Body Image and Self-Esteem: A Practical Guide for Parents
- No Likes Needed (Dove Real Beauty Campaign)
- Helping your child build self-confidence and a positive body image One of several resources on the Dove self-esteem parent pages with some interesting facts about background research and advice on practical things you can do.
- Body image – what body image is, what influences body image, how body image affects mental health, body dysmorphic disorder,
- Body Image and Self-Esteem – CAMHS Contains downloadable resources giving information about general well-being, body image, self-esteem, friendships, worries, gender and sexuality. Also has practical resources to help develop coping strategies and manage thoughts and feelings including self-soothe boxes, mindfulness and sleeping tips
- Mind Over Mirror – Parenting for a healthy body image | Mental Health Foundation
- Developing & Modeling Positive Body Image | National Eating Disorders Association
- Should social media face-altering photo filters be regulated (BBC)?
Books for Parents
- Body Happy Kids: how to help children and teens love the skin they’re in – Molly Forbes is a writer, presenter, campaigner and a mum to two daughters. As well as co-presenting the podcast Body Cons, Molly regularly appears at events and in the media talking about body image, children and mental health. This reassuring and practical guide covers everything you need to help your child care for their body with kindness, including how to approach good nutrition (without falling for diet culture), how to see the reality behind beauty ideals and how social media can be used to support body confidence rather than destroy it. With Molly’s help, you can arm yourself with the insight and tools to raise resilient children who love the skin they’re in
Resources for Young People
- Body image | YoungMinds what body image is, what influences body image, how body image affects mental health, body dysmorphia disorder, what to do if worried about body image, body positivity, supporting a friend with body image difficulties, how to get help
- Body Image (teentalk.ca) question and answer about body image issues
- Body Image: Difference is What Makes Us Unique – Beat (beateatingdisorders.org.uk)
- Body Image and Self-Esteem – CAMHS Contains downloadable resources giving information about general well-being, body image, self-esteem, friendships, worries, gender and sexuality
- Body image – BBC Bitesize
- 10 Steps to Positive Body Image | National Eating Disorders Association
- My journey to loving my body | YoungMinds– a first-person account
- How I battled my issues with body image | YoungMinds – first-person account. Tips on how to combat body image insecurities (note: mentions numbers, weight loss)
- ‘How to be body positive as a trans person’ – BBC News
- Body image fashion show highlights the importance of being yourself – BBC News ‘Positively me’ – be confident in who you are. Particularly body image and body positivity with a disability
- Self-esteem | PlantLoveGrow worksheets to help with self-esteem, self-love, self-acceptance, self-pride, gratitude, positive affirmations, self-respect, body acceptance
- What Keeps Body Dysmorphic Disorder Going? (health.wa.gov.au) A worksheet based on CBT approach to help tackle body dysmorphia disorder and body image issues
- Self Care Package- Posi Book (otrbristol.org.uk) Bristol Off The Record’s workbook helps with self-care, self-love, body image issues and self-confidence
- Body Image and Self-Esteem – CAMHS Downloadable, practical resources to help develop coping strategies and manage thoughts and feelings including self-soothe boxes, mindfulness and sleeping tips
- Body image workbook for Teens: activities to help girls develop a healthy body image in an image-obsessed world, Julia V. Taylor
- Body Brilliant: A Teenage Guide to a Positive Body Image, Nicola Morgan talks about body image, adolescence, puberty, gender, sexual identity, and cosmetic surgery but also mentions eating disorders, self-harm, exercise, and online pornography Looks at improving body image through sleep, exercise and CBT
- Banish your body image thief; A cognitive behavioural therapy workbook on building positive body image for young people by Kate Collins-Donnelly
- This teenage life ‘body image’: focuses on acne, weight and body image (TW mentions numbers), social media