In recent research by the YMCA it was revealed that body image is now the third highest concern amongst young people in the UK. This news is not surprising, given the pressure our young people – dubbed ‘The Selfie Generation’ – face to look picture-perfect at any cost, at all times.
Body image is the term used to describe the image we all have in our heads about the way we look, and how that image makes us think and feel about ourselves. Our body image can be positive or negative, and in the case of negative body image, the effect this can have on our lives can prove devastating. More than one third of secondary students revealed that they would do “whatever it takes” to look good, with almost half of all girls aged 11-14 claiming they would opt out of everyday activities if they did not like how they looked.
It is important, then, to introduce the idea of body confidence to our students. Harnessing a positive body image while still in school could prevent later risks cropping up, such as the development of eating disorders, which, in many cases, can cause serious long-term health issues or fatalities.
Fortunately, schools have found that students respond well to learning about the issue of body image in the classroom. Around three-quarters of secondary students who learned about body confidence reported that it made them feel more positive about themselves, and studies have shown interesting results such as adolescent girls performing better academically, particularly in their ability to do maths, if they have a positive body image.
Therefore, it seems vital that schools should pay attention to the issue of body image and allocate some time for each year group to be educated on its importance, as well as adopting whole-school procedures to change attitudes and improve self-esteem amongst staff, students and parents. A little learning in this crucial area can go a long way to improving your students’ wellbeing.