I pedal away on the static bicycle in my local gym – doing the dutiful ten minutes of self-improvement. Don’t know many miles I’ve travelled, how extra svelte and healthy I’ve become…I gaze around the room, busy with young men and women, looking toned, slim. In front of each machine is a full length mirror, to check how you are shaping up against the ideal self. Near me, there’s a weight chart in front on the weighing scales. I notice two very slim young women, weigh themselves then frown.- guess they wish to be thinner.
Sets me thinking about 20 something young people, women in particular. About the creeping propaganda, as I see it, that they meet daily in our wrap around digital world. Size 10 — that’s oh so big. Online clothes retailers now state under the image of the model : Chloe is 5 feet 10 inches tall and size 8 – as in – you, Miss Real Woman won’t look like ‘Chloe’ if you buy this dress. Images in advertising of women with flawless skin and perfect shape, thanks to airbrushing away the reality of actual woman. Oh – and you mustn’t have any body hair.
So not a surprise to read about the surge in numbers of young women experiencing mental illness, in the Guardian survey. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/sep/29/self-harm-ptsd-and-mental-illness-soaring-among-young-women-in-england-survey
As the article says, this is the first age group we have had coming of age in the social media age. Uncharted territory then. They seem so vulnerable to me. I want these young adults to value their own individuality. Tough challenge, though, surrounded by the ‘Be Body Perfect’ messages. And where to start ? In my late teens, kind older adults offered me love and support to overcome some eating issues I had. My issues came from uncertainty about the next stage of my life, being scared of the unknown next bit. Looking back to that experience, it seems so straightforward in comparison with the complexity of now.
There’s a computer game, I read,’ Champions of Shenga’ which has a built in training in ’emotional regulation’ element, to help young people’s wellbeing. The rounds of the game are mixed in with interludes of mindfulness breathing. The depth of your breathing is measured by a tiny heart rate monitor, clipped to your earlobe, linked to a Bluetooth device attached to your tee shirt. There’s a start.