Summer in Australia is sacred. We spend half the year anticipating its arrival and spend all our time talking about how great it is when it’s here. With the change in season comes a change in fashion, a dramatic shift from jeans and jumpers to short-shorts, dresses, and bikinis. For many, the warmer weather is a chance to free themselves from the constraints of winter, but for some it’s not as freeing. There are aspects of summer that I love – going to the beach, late dinners outside – but there are also a lot of things that bring about feelings of dread and anxiety.
According to the Butterfly Foundation, one in four young people in Australia have serious body image concerns. These concerns can take many different forms such as eating disorders or mental health issues. Statistics show that around 4% of Australians suffer from eating disorders including anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge-eating. Unfortunately for some, the nature of summer – lazing around in bikinis, seeing how tan you can get without burning, drinking and eating late into the night – just increases feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy and anxiety.
In the past few years, a large emphasis has been placed on the role of the media and social media in causing body image issues. Being constantly exposed to the “ideal” look, stick thin models and size six clothing can make those who don’t fit that mould feel inadequate. Being on social media we are under constant scrutiny from peers and strangers. A need to impress and fit in can cause people to try and change themselves.
There is a growing trend on social media for people, particularly models, to post “real” unedited, un-posed photos of themselves to prove they’re not naturally as airbrushed as they usually appear. This is a great movement and it’s a step in the right direction to show young, vulnerable people that they shouldn’t idolize everything they see online. However, for me, it is not convincing enough for them to say “Love yourself because no one is perfect!”, when they are still employed based on their appearance.
The danger of eating disorders and mental health struggles is that they very often go unnoticed even by family and friends of sufferers. If untreated they can have negative long-term affects on both their physical and mental health. According to the Butterfly Foundation, we need to shift our attitudes as a society; we need a focus on health rather than weight, size or diet, as well as teaching individuals to focus on the aspects of themselves they do love. I couldn’t tell you why I let my anxieties and lack of self-confidence influence my actions and stop me doing things I want to do, but I do know there is no easy fix to these issues.
By Grace Miner