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April 30, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Student Counselling – Like Your Body

Have you thought if only you could be happy with your body, life would be much better? We are inundated with images
on TV, in adverts, and in magazines of how we should look. And we’re often comparing ourselves to the airbrushed images we see everywhere—as well as comparing ourselves to how others look. Many students seeking counselling express having low self esteem and body image concerns. When asked about what they think of themselves, many students point out specific “flaws” and have a clear idea of what they would like to change, even if others (friends and family members) don’t see the same thing. Instead of seeing our qualities as “flaws,” can we learn to adopt a sense of beauty that’s more respectful and kind to all body types and features?

Dr. Katherine Philips is a lead researcher on body dysmorphia and argues that being preoccupied with a physical feature is much more serious than just having another “bad hair day”. Students struggling with this on a more severe level constantly find themselves looking in the mirror and have difficulty with daily activities. Typically, students with body dysmorphia focus on one or more physical features.

For example, thinking their nose is too wide, their skin is too red, their hair is too thin, their breasts are too small, or their legs are too large. Both men and women can experience these feelings. This can have serious impacts on your life, as these worries can affect you on many levels like your uni-life, social life, and family-life. And it can lead to isolation and further anxiety. Often, students worry about being perceived as “vain” if they want to talk about some part of their body they don’t like. But this isn’t about being vain, it’s a serious issue—especially in our society where there’s loads of pressure to look a certain way.

Tips for dealing with body image concerns:

▴  Don’t shy away from seeking out support because you think others will view you as vain.
▴  When getting dressed, highlight certain features you like about yourself.
▴  Trust when friends or loved-ones say they don’t see the same characteristics as you see in yourself.
▴  Instead of viewing a part of yourself as negative (which creates a vicious negative thinking cycle), try to perceive it in a way that’s more neutral and accepting.

The Bodysense Group for Women:

For students who may have eating concerns, the Counselling Service offers a group called Bodysense. This is a women’s group that teaches body-focused nutrition and encourages students to think about food from a different perspective. The Bodysense Group meets for 6 sessions, and is offered twice during Trimester 1 and again in Trimester 2.

To enrol into the Bodysense Group, or to make an appointment with a counsellor to talk about eating or body concerns:

Call the Counselling Service at 04 463 5310 Email us at counselling-service@vuw.ac.nz Visit the reception desk on Level 1 of Mauri Ora (Student Union, Kelburn Campus) 

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