The Importance of Body Positivity in the Workplace
BY LOUELLA WILLIAMS 20th May 2019, London. Body image is not only how we view our physical appearance,
but it also offers a good insight into how we regard our sense of Self. If we have negative body images, we are more likely to suffer from a myriad of mental health issues ranging from anxiety, stress and in some cases, even depression. These feelings can prevent us from performing to the best of our ability, especially in professional environments. It is safe to say our connection with our body is more than just how we look; it is also an emotional connection with our reflection.
Fixating on our physical appearance has the potential to lead to low self-esteem, especially when our views prevent us from actively engaging with new people, activities and opportunities. In 2017, Dove conducted a large survey with 5,165 girls aged between 10 and 17, across 14 countries. After being asked questions surrounding confidence and communication, results showed that as many as four out of ten girls preferred interacting with people online rather than in person. Such a result reflects how people skills and communication can be jeopardised by a lack of acceptance of the body, in turn making it difficult for young girls to feel confident expressing their views and opinions in real-life situations – a key skill in any workplace.
Dove’s research into low body image and how this impacts future careers for women is also significant. The household name predicts by 2050 low self-esteem could cost the nation 14% of our female managers in UK businesses, 21% of our female MPs and 15% of our British female athletes. These stark results reflect an upsetting correlation between low body esteem and a heightened risk of being unable to achieve career aspirations due to societally warped perceptions of the body.
Indeed, while there are many investigations and articles into how women can be impacted by negative body image, there is also research into how this line of thinking commonly impacts men. Research shows social media to be one of the main factors of poor body image for men, with results showing men are more likely to turn to increased steroid usage, food supplements and eating disorders in a bid to look like their media male role models.
These statistics highlight how increasingly difficult it can be to separate our body’s appearance from societal constructs, and even further, how body image can influence any mind, regardless of gender and age. Considering this, we can see how instrumental it is in the workplace to implement a healthy way of thinking to better manage our attitudes towards our bodies. In doing so, we can begin to focus on how capable we are, regardless of what society purports to be the most ideal body.
It seems prudent that we tackle body image and its adverse effects through active discussions in the workplace. In creating a safe forum for open dialogues surrounding body image, we can dispel negative body connotations and transform this learned behaviour into something that is un-learned. Such an activity allows for positive re-engagement with the Self and more time to focus on career aspirations and new opportunities.