The need to promote body positivity in boys has become increasingly more important as young boys are negatively influenced by the online world.
Body positivity is not just a girl’s issue, and we must realise that all our children perceive themselves in varying ways which is often dependent on the world around them. What can we do to support and promote our boy’s image of themselves and combat negative body expectations?
Understand How Body Image Affects Boys
The pressure for girls to look a certain way has long been an issue due to the rise of social media apps such as Instagram. The issue is also pertinent for boys, but because we still see it as a female issue, the problem can remain hidden and unaddressed for them. Poor body image affects boys due to the promotion of idealised male bodies in advertising, movies, and the pressure to be lean, fit, masculine or muscular.
This can lead to eating disorders, compulsive exercise, and body or muscle dysmorphia also known as bigorexia. Poor body image has an impact on our children’s mental health, their ability to concentrate, and adverse changes to their eating habits.
Countering Poor Body Image In Boys
Talk About Diet And Exercise
By opening the conversation about what constitutes positive and supportive dietary habits and exercise regimes, we can help our children focus on how we are all different, and have varying needs, body shapes and sizes. The conversation should include promoting good diet and exercise to support mental well-being, sleep quality, and prevent chronic illnesses.
Avoid Gender Stereotypes
Be wary of the language you use when talking about body shape, size and appearance. Using words like strong, brave, and muscular can instigate thoughts and ideas in our children about how they feel they should appear to us. Avoiding gender stereotypes such as this as well as the destructive diatribe "boys don’t cry" can counter the harmful labelling that can negatively impact our boys.
How our bodies are represented on social media is often negative with digitally-altered images. Expecting our children to look beyond the filtering is an impossible ask, as they are subjected to images they cannot relate to but perceive to be standard; they will actively pursue an idealised version of themselves that is unattainable.
To help our children understand the negativity surrounding social media apps, we must include examples of body positivity for boys in the conversation, and not only girls. In the same way, we must include all body shapes, sizes, and appearances to ensure everyone can recognise themselves in the conversation.