Struggling with body confidence and self-esteem_
At The Diana Award, we believe that young people have the power to change the world. From our work in schools, we know that low body confidence and self-esteem can have a debilitating effect on a young person’s ability to develop this power. Feeling the rising pressure to conform from our peers, social media and celebrity culture can often present us with challenges and can lead to negative implications relating to our health and wellbeing. If you find these feelings could be affecting your wellbeing or are getting in the way of living a healthy and happy life, it is time to do something about it.
Building body confidence and self-esteem is not always easy and the process can be long but knowing that there are things you can do to help yourself is the first step. Treating yourself with respect and realising that every part of you is valuable and worth caring for is an essential factor for maintaining your resilience and wellbeing, now and later in life.
Body confidence relates to how a person feels about the way they look. When you have body confidence, you accept - and are happy with - how you look and what your body can do.
Self-esteem is how you value and respect yourself as a person – it is the opinion you have about your whole self, not just your body. When you have good self-esteem, you are comfortable with who you are and can acknowledge your self-worth. You can appreciate and celebrate your strengths and abilities and recognise any mistakes and/or failures as opportunities for growth.
Body confidence and self-esteem directly influence one other, as well as our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. If you have a negative perception of your body (or part of your body), it can be difficult to appreciate your whole self. The reverse is also true: if you don’t appreciate yourself, it’s difficult to notice the positive things about your body and grant it the respect it deserves.
Body confidence, self-esteem & your mental health
Body confidence and self-esteem is essential to your personal wellbeing. Here’s a helpful diagram, which is adapted from one shared by Here to Help
It highlights how having good body confidence and self-esteem can also have a positive impact on your mental health:
As you can see from these examples, good body confidence and self-esteem contributes to overall better mental health. This cycle teaches us that it’s not about forcing yourself to think, feel or behave positively all the time – instead, it is about developing respect for yourself and others, forming realistic ideas and building resilience to cope with problems or difficulties as they arise.
Top tips for improving your body confidence & self-esteem
Realise you’re not alone: No matter how confident someone may seem to others, struggles with body confidence and self-esteem can affect us all in one way or another throughout our lives. Self-esteem can fluctuate and it’s important to remember we will all have our good and bad days.
Be kind to yourself: With the rise of social media and celebrity culture, it can often feel like society places a high value on appearance. Comparing yourself to the many images you’re exposed to online and in magazines can sometimes have a negative impact on your body confidence and self-esteem. It’s important to remember that what we see online is often someone’s ‘highlights’ reel and can be deliberately curated to appear ‘flawless’ – it does not reflect a person’s true self.
Talk to someone you trust: Talking to someone about how you feel - whether it be your parents or wider family members or someone outside your home (such as a friend or teacher) - could make a lot of difference. A positive environment where friends and family are supportive of each other and accept each other’s differences is essential to maintaining body confidence and self-esteem. If your experience of bullying behaviour has affected your self-esteem, try to open up to a trusted adult about this.
10 ways to help you build body confidence & self-esteem
- Do things that make YOU happy.
- Notice when you might be comparing yourself to others and ask yourself: “Is this helpful for me right now?”
- Focus on the things that you like about your appearance.
- Surround yourself with people who support you and make you feel good about yourself.
- Focus on your qualities, values and accomplishments that have to do with who you are as a person, not what you look like.
- Try to curate and diversify your social media feed – the more you start to see different types of bodies represented and celebrated, the more positive you will start to feel about yourself.
- Accept yourself for who you are right now.
- Realise that you don’t need validation from anyone else to feel good about yourself – you’re in charge of your own thoughts.
- Get into the habit of thinking and saying positive things about yourself.
- Remember that no one is perfect, embrace the fact that you have “flaws” and love the things that make you unique.
It’s important to remember to try to not put too much pressure on yourself. Building your body confidence and self-esteem can be a long process but trusting in yourself and in your abilities will ensure these small steps lead to positive changes.
How to support someone struggling with body confidence & self-esteem
- Listen to them without judgement and thank them for opening up to you.
- Talk to the person and encourage them to focus on what they like about themselves and what they can do – not just how they look.
- Help them to recognise all their good points by sharing the things you like about them – these can be simple things, like being a caring friend or making people laugh.
- Guide them to come up with their own solutions, perhaps by prompting them to think about our advice above.
- Encourage them to seek professional help if you think they’re feeling overwhelmed.
The UK’s leading charity with information about mental health in young people.
The UK’s leading charity supporting anyone affected by eating disorders or difficulties with food, weight and shape.
Website with information about issues affecting 16-24 year olds.
Leading provider of advice and support to empower anyone experience poor mental health. Mind’s website features excellent ideas for increasing your self-esteem.
Be Real Campaign
Campaigning to change attitudes on body image.
A charity for people and families who are living with conditions, marks or scars that affect their appearance.
The Diana Award Crisis Messenger
Provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you are a young person in crisis, you can text DA to 85258. Trained volunteers will listen to how you’re feeling and help you think the next step towards feeling better.