Image Credit: Istockphoto

Dubai: With no separation of online and offline life for many youngsters, education and awareness is crucial to their understanding of reality. “Counterbalancing the effects of poor body image across the lifespans of society requires systematic change,” Dr Aisling Prendergast, counselling psychologist at Lighthouse Arabia, said.

She suggested talking and educating young people about it as the first step to creating change. Societies are also in need of being educated as a whole in body confidence, in order to “help young people develop a better relationship with themselves.”

Adults, parents, teachers, coaches, psychologists also need to model this behaviour and relationship with themselves.

6 ways to boost confidence in the young

1) The positive influence of family and friends; the more they help young minds be realistic, the more it helps.

2) Helping young people to critically analyse celebrity and media culture. Parents, mentors and family can render great help here.

3) Educating young people on the effects and consequences of bullying and body shaming on the developing brain and how to handle it.

4) Importance of explaining the effects of competing and comparing with each other based on looks alone. Parents, mentors and family can help.

5) Talking about appearance and placing it in its proper context, which includes reducing the shame and stigma around differing body sizes and shapes.

6) Develop long-term strategies and skills to help young people develop self-respect that is not solely concerned with looks.

“We need to educate young people that these images are the highlights of somebody’s life and not their everyday. We also need to educate young people about the objectification of both men and women’s bodies and the repercussions of this. We need to teach young people that their physical appearance is just one part of their identity along with their relationships with friends and family, hobbies, education and values,” said Prendergast.

“Education is pointless if it is not met with action. This stems from commenting on sports people, celebrities, politicians and our next-door neighbours. Instead of commenting on their looks or bodies, we need to comment on their value systems and behaviours, promote compliments to individuals based on their contributions rather than their looks,” said Prendergast.

KHDA’s efforts in combating obsession with self-image in students

■ The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) is tackling the issue of emotional well-being of young people head on. “As part of the UAE National Agenda, it is beginning to roll out Positive Education in schools and have already made great strides within many schools across Dubai,” said Aisling Prendergast, counselling psychologist at Lighthouse Arabia.

■ According to KHDA, ‘Positive education challenges the paradigm of schooling that values academic attainment above all other goals. It considers character development and well-being to be as important as academics. Positive education prioritises the experience of the whole child, the whole faculty, and the whole school as the driver for meaningful learning that will lead to happier life outcomes.’

■ “I think this is a good start to teaching young people to focus on value-based behaviour and emotional intelligence. I hope that this will also create a change in ... the obsession with looks and image,” said Prendergast.