The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week this year is body image, which can affect all of us at any age. ‘Body image’ is a term that can be used to describe how we think and feel about our bodies. Our thoughts and feelings about our bodies can impact us throughout our lives, affecting, more generally, the way we feel about ourselves and our mental health and wellbeing.*

The most popular social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat allow users to share edited photos of themselves in order to earn approval for their appearance, which can easily become detrimental to people’s perceptions of themselves and leads to comparison with others. Many celebrity photos and even personal images on social media are altered and leave many people believing that these flawless and often unrealistic posts are real. However, a new trend called body honesty is emerging to combat these unrealistic standards that are portrayed on social media.

From global campaigns and popular hashtags promoting body image advocacy to online groups that encourage self-love at any shape or size, social media can create a sense of community that tackles body image issues. Women and men are sharing their photos with hashtags like #LoveYourLines and #TakeBackPostpartum. The most popular body image hashtag is #effyourbeautystandards, the phrase is used in about a third of all body-positive posts as well as #bodypositive which is used a little more than a quarter of the time.

Women looking through Instagram photos on her phone

These trends in body honesty display the body in a natural way. Aiming to promote positive body image through these trends could help women around the world appreciate their bodies more. Being able to value, respect, love, and accept your body is linked to greater confidence and happiness.

Social media is giving everyone the ideal platform to stand up and be seen as well as spread positive and beneficial messages. Body honesty is focusing on positive body images to help people appreciate their body as it is. The human body is amazing and should be valued for so much more than just its appearance.

Accepting that bodies come in all shapes and sizes is a great first step for body positivity, but there is still a long way to go to be an inclusive movement. There are many reasons people dislike aspects of their body that have nothing to do with their weight. Furthermore, not all people with body issues are women. The body positivity movement needs to create a safe space for men as well as women to talk and be supportive of one another.

*https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/body-image-report/exec-summary