Jesy Nelson: Learning to love myself

For many of us, the way we look is so closely tied up with our sense of identity that when we’re unsure about our appearance, or someone says something mean about it, it can be devastating to our self-confidence. It’s enough to have that niggling voice in your head telling you you’re not enough, but when it’s being reinforced by bullies, in real life or on social media, it can be really damaging to your mental health.

For Jesy, once she was catapulted into the limelight as part of Little Mix, the insults and personal jibes came thick and fast. Even as she was winning the X-Factor, trolls were busy sending her cruel messages about her looks and her weight. “After a while,” she says, “I genuinely, genuinely started to believe everything that people said about me.”

"When I was younger, I didn’t care about the way I looked, I didn’t care about what people thought of me," she says in her documentary, "and then social media came into my life and I became a completely different person."

I don’t see me anymore. I literally see a monster looking back at me.

Jesy says that she felt so "embarrassed" and "ashamed" that she couldn’t even bring herself to get out of bed in the morning - she "just stopped turning up for work."

"I just stopped turning up for work."

Don’t always trust what you see

It can feel like there’s a lot of pressure to look and dress a certain way. We’re bombarded every day in the news, on TV and social media by celebrities dolled up in the latest fashions, flashing their pearly-white smiles to the camera and looking flawless. So it’s easy to slip into the habit of comparing yourself with them.

But we’re comparing ourselves to something unachievable: many of the images that we view online have been digitally altered to make the celebrity look a certain way. For example, airbrushing can be used to get rid of spots or scars and make skin look smoother, people can be made to look thinner or more muscly, eyes can be made bigger, hair shinier or teeth whiter. You get the idea.

Even on TV, celebrities have usually had hours of hair, make-up and outfit prep to make sure they look just right on camera. As Jesy reminds us in her video on anxiety: “I know that people look up to popstars like us and feel under pressure to look as good as we do in our music videos, but that’s after hours and hours of make-up and hair and lighting.”

"Hours and hours of make-up and hair and lighting” go into making popstars look flawless on screen.

It’s hard for our brains to hold an accurate image of what we look like, so we constantly compare and contrast ourselves with what we see around us. Even when we know an image has been altered, our brain ‘sets the bar’ against these unrealistic goals. Once we start to see the edited images as normal, our real bodies can start to look and feel wrong.

You can learn more about this in Dr Chris and Dr Xand investigate: How to keep body positive in the #selfie era.

Learn to love yourself

Jesy’s top tips for dealing with body insecurities are to:

  • Delete any social media apps that are causing you to feel bad about yourself or where people are saying negative things about you. Make it so you simply can’t read any harmful comments or compare yourself to other people.

I started to feel better when I deleted Twitter and I just stopped reading negative stuff about myself.

  • Talk to someone about how you feel and surround yourself with friends and family who genuinely love you and make you feel valued.

When you’re in that mindset, you need people who make you feel good about yourself.

You could also try:

  • Building up your confidence. Try throwing yourself into something you enjoy, taking up a new hobby or trying a new sport. Concentrating on something else can give your mind a break from worrying.

  • Doing something physical. Doing something active can release endorphins and remind you how amazing your body is. Because it really is amazing.

If you're struggling with your body image, it’s important to tell someone you trust and to make an appointment to see a doctor. Your GP will be able to advise you on the appropriate course of action for you.

You can also find lots of support and advice online. You could start by looking at some of our Bitesize Support content on body positivity. Try reading:

Childline, Young Minds and The Mix also have advice and support on body positivity that you might find helpful.

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