Asking for a Friend: Help! I feel bad about my body, and my classmates call me names behind my back

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  • Each week, we respond to a question from our readers and give them advice and resources they can turn to
  • This week, we help a teen who is feeling bad about her body, especially because her friends make fun of her behind her back
Dannie AildasaniYP |
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Your teen years are a very tough time, and it’s normal to feel insecure. Photo: Shutterstock

Need an answer to a personal question that you’ve never mustered the courage to ask? We’ve been there. Whether it is about school, family issues or social life, share your thoughts with us.

If you have a question you’d like answered (about anything at all), please fill out this Google form. Don’t worry, you will remain anonymous!

Dear Friend,

I am fat, and I have realised that my classmates call me “fat girl” behind my back. I try to keep fit by eating less and exercising more, but since both my parents are bigger, it might just be in my genes. When my classmates go out together to buy clothes, I feel left out because I cannot wear the same styles as them. I look bad in dresses because I am fat. I am afraid that nobody will love me and I am depressed. What should I do?

Sincerely, Someone

Why you should prioritise mental fitness and focus on your mental health

Dear Someone,

It’s so annoying when people judge others based on their appearance. It doesn’t help that so many films, TV shows, and social media accounts incorrectly equate being beautiful with being skinny, implying that being fat automatically means you are ugly. This has a negative impact on people’s body image, especially teenagers.

Thankfully, we are starting to see more body positive messages in the media, which is a step in the right direction. However, it will still take some time to change people’s minds.

In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help your mental health.

The quest for perfection is making us depressed

Learn to appreciate your body

Instead of focusing on what you don’t like about your body, pay attention to what you do like, and what your body does for you. Learn to appreciate your unique charms – such as the way you move or smile. You’ve probably heard of the body positive movement, which is all about loving and accepting bodies of all shapes and sizes. You can find more information online and find body positive celebrities to follow on social media.

If this doesn’t appeal to you, look up body neutrality. It is the idea that you can simply exist and be worthy of respect without paying much attention to your physical appearance.

We all feel insecure sometimes, but it’s important to learn to accept yourself. Photo: Shutterstock

You can also adopt some mantras to help you. Look into the mirror in the morning and say things like “People can be happy and pretty at any size,” and “My self-worth comes from my abilities and virtues, not the number on the scale.”

Continue eating healthy and exercising, because these habits are always good for you! They do wonders for your mental health and boost your immune system. Try not to pay attention to calories burned or kilos lost, and instead track milestones like, “lifted 10kg more weight” or “ran for two minutes longer than yesterday” and celebrate those wins.

How to do a mental health check-up

Develop positive relationships

Your classmates are not being very kind to you. True friends will respect, accept and support you. It would be a good idea to enlarge your social circle – which we understand may be difficult during the pandemic. But it would be much better for your mental health to be around people you can trust. Be selective about who gets access to your time and energy.

As always, don’t be afraid to reach out if you need more help. Aside from professionals like a counsellor or psychologist, try Open Up, a 24-hour internet chat room, or 6PM Cyber Youth Support Team.

Hope that helps, Friend of a friend

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