Photo by Ellie L

Body positivity has become a sort of social media buzzword across different platforms. On Instagram, the phrase permeates hashtags. On Twitter, they’re retweeted. Facebook groups and friends promote the need for body positivity. Though many people support the idea of body positivity and acceptance, now, more than ever, we’re seeing young children engage in unhealthy habits surrounding their physical image and self-worth.

Scary statistics
Did you know that nearly 80% of girls aged 10 and under have participated in some sort of diet? Nowadays, young girls are more likely to fear packing on a couple extra pounds than the threat of nuclear war, cancer, or even losing their parents. On top of that, around 12% of teenage boys have used steroids and supplements to alter their figure.

Based on these statistics, it’s no wonder body dissatisfaction has more than tripled over the last 30 years.

Worse yet, the social avenues many people take to spread messages of positivity have also been used to make people feel worse about their bodies. It’s estimated that 42% of women have felt worse about their bodies as a direct result of social media use.

This is, in part, because of sites and accounts that prolifically herald “thinspiration” as an unattainable goal. They may also advocate for terrible habits such as anorexia and restrictive dieting as a way to achieve this desired weight.

However, many other forms of “good” social media can bring up feelings of inadequacy and comparison, even if no malice is intended. Because kids ages 8 through 18 will use social media for up to 7.5 hours each day, these feelings of comparison have begun at an earlier age.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just children who suffer from these feelings. Up to 60% of both male and female social media users between the ages of 28 through 73 have reported that these sites have damaged their self-esteem in some way.

How to break negative patterns and promote body positivity

There is no magic formula to promote body positivity in yourself and among your friends. It’s only through a variety of methods used over time that you can help change the way you think about your body.

A great first step is relying on the way you use language.
Language can shape our perceptions of the world around us but it can also change the way we think about ourselves. Even though it seems cliche to put a sticky note on your mirror with an inspirational message, it’s this kind of positive thinking that will help alter the way you think about your body.

This won’t happen overnight, but it will help with repeated use. Here are some steps to change your thinking and language to promote a healthy body, not a perfect one:

  1. Practice seeing yourself as an entire person, not just a number on a scale or a set number of physical characteristics. Think about your body in terms of what it can do, including walking up the stairs or holding a person you love.
  2. Stop weighing yourself altogether. Your size, shape, and weight should not be signifiers of your self-worth.
  3. Focus on how you feel, not how you look.
  4. Notice every time you talk negatively about your appearance or someone else’s. It’s this kind of negative thinking that will send you back into a spiral. Instead, focus on the positives of another person and remind yourself about what you love when these moments occur.
  5. Advocate for yourself when someone talks negatively about your body, appearance, or personality. You never deserve to be put down by another person.
  6. Filter your social media use and notice when your social media habits can become harmful.

Again, this process won’t happen overnight. Don’t beat yourself up when you experience a slip-up. The fact that you’ve started a journey toward body-acceptance is commendable and no path to health is a straight line.

At Conscious, we feature powerful stories about global initiatives, innovation, community development, social impact and more. You can read more stories like this and connect with a growing community of global leaders when you join as a member.