Penelope Harrall

Mental Health Awareness Week

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s focus is body image. Through my art I have touched on the theme of body image but never written about it, so I am going to attempt to do it now. I do not claim to be an expert on mental health, I am just merely putting my own thoughts and opinions out there.  

I think body image is such an important topic to talk about, and you don’t have to have a mental illness to have experienced negative body image, we all do. I know I have for sure and it is okay to experience this sometimes. A lot of influencers and bloggers talk about loving ourselves all the time, but this is impossible. No one can love themselves 24/7 and if you do then kudos to you, how do you do it? 

It is okay to wake up sometimes and think negative thoughts about yourself, it’s what makes you human but it’s how you deal with it that can be the problem. You are bombarded by many undermining messages about body image on social media: every picture of a so-called ‘perfect’ body – whether slim or ripped, petite or tall – suggests to you that that’s what you should aim for. But there’s so much more out there: choose what you look at. Don’t look at unnatural undermining stuff. Have a social media diet, not a food diet!

Balance is 100% key. I know I have felt guilty in the past for missing the gym for a couple of weeks, or eating very unhealthy more than I would like to but that is okay, there is no point in dwelling on the past, move on, accept that you enjoyed eating all those donuts or all those lazy nights on the sofa because it is enjoyable. 

I must say though, in my personal experience, exercising, eating healthy and looking after my body has a knock-on effect on my mental health. I feel so much better in myself even though, physically, I may not look any different.

In one of my performance pieces ‘Plastic Perfection’ I look at body dysmorphia and how it is causing us to crave this ‘perfect’ body image and going to extremes to do so. But what is the perfect body? 

In the 16thcentury the perfect body was incredible voluptuous (for women anyway) then in the 90’s it changed drastically to ‘Heroin Chic’, which let’s face it, not only promotes an unhealthy body image but a very unhealthy lifestyle as well. Now, in 2019 the perfect body is to have a tiny waste, a perfectly round posterior and 2 juicy boobies, what’s it going to be in another ten years’ time? I hope it’s a bit of belly fat with some chunky thighs as I will fit in perfectly. 

My point is, your body is perfect to someone and it should be you. You are with your body for the longest period of time, you see yourself naked every day so enjoy it! Love your wobbly bits, your imperfections and that odd hair you get on your nipple because that is what make you perfect. 

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